Call it burnout. Blame the heat in July. Or chalk it up to trying to do too many things with too little time.
None of that changes the fact that the Vermont 50-miler is less than four weeks away. And I’m signed up to run it.
I’ve written before that when I fail to train, I alone am responsible. And failing to train is exactly what I’ve done this summer.
How did I get so far behind?
After the North Face 50-miler, I took a little break from running. It wasn’t really planned; I just didn’t feel like running. We all need a break once in a while, right?
This should have been no problem. After about a month, I woke up one morning and realized my next 50-miler was only nine or ten weeks away, and that I had to start training. So I started training.
Only it didn’t go very well.
Coming back was way harder than I expected. I picked the middle of July to start running again, when every day was hot. And for whatever reason, I didn’t adjust to running in the heat at all.
I managed to run 14 miles during one of my long runs. But even my “easy” seven milers were anything but.
Done in by one awful run
Again, it was hot. I made it 3.5 miles before I felt like walking.
Usually, when I feel like walking, I keep on running. But not this time. I’m not sure what happened, but I stopped running, turned around, alternated walking and running until I got home.
That day I decided I was not going to run 50 miles in Vermont, and I didn’t think about running for three weeks.
Which brings me to last Friday. After procrastinating for a bit, I called my friend and sheepishly told him I wouldn’t be running the race we had signed up for together. I would still be coming to crew for him, but sure as hell not running. He said it was no problem, but that if I hadn’t run a 50 already, he’d be making fun of me.
And then, in a matter of minutes, I woke up from this funk.
Why on Earth, if I were going to be in Vermont on the morning of an ultramarathon I had signed up for, when I am so grateful to even have the health to be able to run at all, would I not be running in it? I’ve never quit on a race in my life for any reason other than injury, yet here I was, ready to skip this one for no identifiable reason whatsoever other than “It was hot and I was lazy”?
And I saw the truth in one of the most cliched statements of all time, something we all believe on an intellectual level but perhaps not when it actually comes down to how we live our lives:
It’s better to try and to fail than not to try at all.
Was I afraid of being slapped with my first “Did Not Finish”? Of having to walk some of the race and finish in a slower time than I did my first 50, even though the conditions in Vermont in September will surely be more favorable than they were in D.C. in June? Or was it just the physical pain I was afraid of, that pain of feeling completely out of gas after a marathon, knowing you still have another one to go?
So the music was cued, a beam of sunlight shone on my face, and there I stood, shirtless and bronzed, as doves fluttered up into the sky.
And then I realized I had only four weeks. And that I hadn’t run more than 14 miles at once since my last 50.
You might say I’m in a pickle. I’m going to try to run 50 miles less than a month from now and I need to get in shape for it, fast. So here’s how I plan to do it.
Step 1: Start running again.
Done. I ran 12 hilly miles on Saturday afternoon, then 7 more Sunday morning.
Step 2: Write a blog post about this whole thing so that I’ll feel like an ass if I quit again.
Doing it right now.
Step 3: Run a 20-miler and a longer run, maybe 30, in the next week and a half.
I’m going to do these at a slow pace on relatively flat ground, with the focus on just getting the miles in and not doing anything to risk getting hurt. Don’t worry; I’ll be smart. If anything’s wrong, I’ll scrap this crazy plan and just crew in Vermont.
But I have confidence I can do this. I’ve done four runs this year of 30 miles or more, including the 50 in June, and I get the feeling that the ability to run long and slow doesn’t disappear nearly as quickly as the ability to run fast for short distances does. (If that’s wrong, please let me know AFTER the race.)
Step 4: Taper, kind of.
I don’t have the luxury of leaving a month to recover from my longest run before the race. I only have a month to begin with.
But I can still get a 25 or a 30 in by the middle of next week, which will leave close to three full weeks before the race. After that, I won’t do any more long runs, but I think I can still put the time to good use. With where I am right now, I don’t need to do super-intense workouts to get stronger. Just running every day will be a big improvement, and that’s something I think I can do without tiring myself out too much in the days leading up to the race.
Step 5: Do it.
I’ll go out slow, walk the big hills, and see what happens. Mostly, I’ll do what I did last time I wasn’t in shape for an ultra, at the HAT 50K: Do everything in my power to enjoy the day.
I welcome your ideas, feedback, criticisms, and cautions. Like I said, I’m kind of in a bind here.
Robert Cheeke Interview
Last week I talked to Robert Cheeke, vegan bodybuilder and quite possibly the most enthusiastic, positive, inspiring guy I’ve ever talked to. We talked for about an hour and I recorded the whole thing digitally, so barring any technical difficulties I’ll post the interview tomorrow.
Even if you don’t give a damn about bodybuilding, it’s worth listening to what Robert has to say. He’ll make you want to be a better vegetarian, vegan, or athlete, and to me, that feeling is invaluable. (Maybe talking to Robert is to blame for this second wind I have to run the 50-miler!) So look for that one tomorrow.
And of course, on Wednesday I start my one-month vegan experiment, along with several NMA readers. There’s still time to join us if that sounds like the dietary kick in the pants you need!
That’s all for today. Go ahead and do something special this week.