This is the perfect morning for a post. I am enjoying a much needed morning off from cycling, running or strength work. Or I should say that my legs are enjoying it. A hilly trail run following a kick ass spinning class did them in yesterday. I'm hoping that only giving them one day of rest will be enough to come out of tomorrow's 15k race with at the very least, my pride intact.... and by that I mean by finishing before the half marathoners start rolling in.
I cannot possibly explain the appeal of ultra running, but it is tremendous. Two miles into my trail run yesterday I was ready to collapse. I cracked the joke to Sarah about "only 48 more miles to go" as we were both gasping and complaining about our legs being fried from spinning. She knows I want to run an ultra this year and I've talked about them and that many of them require quite a bit of trail running. So here we are, running on a trail for a couple of miles, and I'm thinking how ridiculous I am for thinking I want to do this for MANY miles. Of course part of that has to do with the fact that we were not running an "ultra pace" by any means. We did leave our Garmins at home and decided we were just going to go "easy" and chat. Well hard as we try, Sarah and I might quite possibly never, ever run and easy run together... and here is why I think we won't. We compete with each other even when we run easy. Oh yes, we do! She is faster so her easy pace requires some effort on my part. And knowing that we are sometimes running her "comfortable pace" irritates me when I'm not comfortable and I refuse to slow down. On the contrary, if she is tired or her legs are fried, no way in HELL is she going to allow me to have to slow down to accommodate her. Too much pride involved for both of us. But it works and we really enjoy running together and we usually end with the comment "ok, next time we will go easy..." knowing damn well it ain't gonna happen. Perhaps too is the fact that we don't get to run together very often so there is something to be said about making it count when we do.
I've begun my research of ultra training. I'm not sure I've ever seen so many different approaches to racing than I'm seeing as I dig further and further in the world of ultras. What it boils down to is doing what works best for each runner. Profound, huh? Marathon training by contrast (and any distance less than that) has some key components to training that are standard. However you mix them up during the week is up to you, but to run a successful race, you should make sure every run has a purpose.... speed work (which have many types.. hill repeats, tempo runs, track work), easy runs (or "recovery runs"), pace runs and long runs. Provided one does not overtrain or become injured, mixing this scientifically tested hodgepodge of runs guarantees one's greatest chance of successfully meeting their goal. With ultra running, unless you are out to win it, the name of the game is survival and finishing. I don't mean like surviving for real (although I keep reading about horror stories of critical runners who suffer from severe hypo-natremia... too little sodium), but rather escaping broken bones, ulcerative foot blisters and injury so great that one is out for a looonnggg time. And given my history with things gone wrong, I begin to wonder what the heck I'm doing jumping into double marathon mileage and what makes me think I can possibly do something like this. But at the same time, I feel extremely excited. So much so that I want to go drink flat Coke or Mt. Dew and eat a boiled potato for breakfast.
My goal for my first ultra is a finish. According to not just one source, one can do this on as little as 30 miles a week... basically right around where I am right now. The biggest factor, of course, being the long run. Some have suggested this is very possible without ever running more than 22 miles at a given time. This is encouraging for me as I try to wrap my brain around how I will ever fit in the time to do consistent 30 plus mile long runs. One guy does a lot of mid week cycling to replace running, but makes sure he gets a long run in every single week. He runs his ultras well and recovers quickly. Guess what? He also never gets an over-training injury! However it was stated that this does not work for everyone and that some people do require significantly more mileage to pull this off. Again, depends on the person. So I begin to think about what category I may fall into. If time and family were not a factor, I'd opt to run as many miles as I possibly could because, well, I enjoy it. But I don't have that luxury and I have kind of proven there is a fine line between enough and too much when it comes to what my body will handle. The amount of time I was required to take off to heal my calf did not set me back nearly what it should have, proving that alternative sources of intense cardio (aka cycling) really were a terrific substitute. Very encouraging as I was just thinking how much I'd love to get on my bike more this summer!
So now I hop into the land of planning and experimenting. Just how much running should I do? I'm going to continue cycling twice a week as well as doing my TRX for strength. I don't know if I'll increase my weekly running mileage much at all, but I will start thinking about a strategy for long runs this summer. I'm thinking once a month I will do back to back Saturday and Sunday long runs... one morning being trails at Mt. Airy and one being country roads in Harrison. Still thinking I'll throw a couple of marathons in for good measure :).
The bottom line is this... I want to do this because I love to run distance a lot and there is something so damn appealing about the raw athleticism and mental edge it takes to do something like this. I think I've got it now... correction... I KNOW I've got it now. I'm happy when my toenails are black, when there is salt dried on my face, when my quads hurt going from a sitting to a standing position and when my socks stick to an open blister on my foot. And to think my friends call me a princess!