I was going to blog last week about how difficult it was to take an easy week after nationals, but somehow I found ways to occupy myself (namely, playing absurd amounts of Dragon Age and reading Harry Potter). Now here I am, beginning my gradual build-up to a satisfactory weekly mileage total. What is satisfactory, you ask? 100 miles, minimum. I won’t be back at that level of mileage for another few weeks, but it helps to dream of triple digits, doesn’t it?
I was going absolutely insane during the week after nationals. To go from running 100 miles per week (aside from the taper) to a week of “scheduled rest” was quite the shock. I took a couple of days off and limited myself to a couple of forty minute runs for the rest of the time. It was a struggle to control my pace during these little “sanity runs.” I was still fit coming off of nationals, and I was fresh from my taper and rest, so I felt a strong urge to hammer these runs in an expression of frustration and defiance. Rest week? I’ll show them a rest week! I’ll pound out six minute mile pace on every run until I get to ramp up the volume again! Fortunately, I realized the absurdity of this strategy about ten minutes into a run and slowed the pace accordingly. But to all who would judge me, I swear my crazy yet short-lived rest week pacing didn’t happen on purpose; I just ran really fast and didn’t realize it until I checked my watch.
Complete rest, of course, was out of the question. I’ve tried that before, and I ended up spending a week living like a drug addict going through withdrawal. I couldn’t sleep at night, so I was constantly tired and out of it and I developed one of those permanent headaches you get from lack of sleep for the entire week. I lost my appetite completely and generally spent my week being irritated, miserable, and not much fun to be around. Blessed relief only came when I began to run again. Draw your own conclusions. (So-called exercise addiction can’t be that bad, can it? I think it might be one of those silly myths like “overtraining,” or “too much mileage,” or the idea that a yoga session is time well spent. Ridiculous!)
Fortunately, I was in a much better state this year with my sanity runs during my rest week. But a new problem came up at the end of the week: I got weak and complacent. I became accustomed to a sedentary lifestyle and when it was time to start training again, it was a struggle to get out the door each day. The honeymoon was over, and the fire was gone. And the lack of routine throughout the previous week meant that I didn’t have force of habit to fall back on; I had to force myself to get outside and fight through every minute of each run that I would have given anything not to have been doing at the time. What had happened to me? Did I suddenly prefer the lifestyle of a non-runner (or a “civilian” or “muggle,” whatever you like to call them) after my week-long taste of this way of life? Was I to be yet another name added to the long list of women who ran well for a time and proceeded to quit the sport after high school or university? Am I being entirely too overdramatic here?
Well, my dear readers, the answers to the above questions are no, absolutely not, and definitely. You see, I’ve discovered that in situations such as these, the best solution is to suck it up and keep running and suffering through it until things get better (because eventually they do). If one pounds out enough miles, something will click, both mentally in terms of motivation and physically in terms of fitness. In addition, there were several external factors that pulled me out of my brief slump.
The first was Dylan Wykes’ win at the California International Marathon in a time of 2:12:39, a three-minute personal best. This is certainly old news by now, but you should read his race report if you have not done so already. I was in need of inspiration, and I didn’t need to look any further than that awesome picture of Dylan breaking the tape (though you should still read the entire race report). Well, that was more than enough to get me out the door. Dylan’s race stands as one of several breakthrough performances for Canadian marathoners this year. It is amazing how much can change in a few months; prior to September 26th, Canada didn’t have any runners under 2:15. Over the course of only a few months, Eric Gillis and Dylan have run 2:12s and Reid Coolsaet has run a 2:11. Props to these guys for working hard and showing the rest of us what is possible.
Another source of inspiration is today’s Recommended Blog (another not-so-regular feature? Who knows?) This guy is running a sub-five minute mile every day for twenty-six days (or longer, no one is sure). Now, normally one might think, “hey, big deal, I could do that.” Well kids, this guy is maintaining his normal training and continuing to run over 100 miles a week. The mile at the end of the run is supplemental training; if he does a two-hour long run, he heads out for the hard mile after the important mileage is done for the day. I respect this brave soul not only for his regime of a fast mile at the end of each run, but also for his willingness to train hard and consistently as a post-collegiate athlete. He has grasped the incredibly difficult concept that to be a good distance runner, one must run. A lot. Canada could use a few more guys like him. So Mr. Joe Mac, I salute you. Good luck in your quest and enjoy your fame on LetsRun. (And no, that was not a condescending comment. I would love to be famous on the LetsRun message boards.) Oh, and you should probably read this blog entry, too.
So, my motivation is restored and the adventure continues. There is still much work to be done, so perhaps I ought to focus on my own running instead of wasting time writing rambling and purposeless blogs or arguing with high school kids on message boards. But I stand by my comments! I’m telling them these things for their own good, you know!