I’m roughly halfway through my training for the 30K trail run. I began slow training in late January, and official training in February, so I’m counting this first day of spring as the official halfway point. Like anything, there’s been a lot of ups and downs, and life getting in the way, but I’m amazed at how strong I feel and the level of endurance I’ve built up in eight short weeks. Case in point:
Last year, I trained for the 12K version of the same race, having never run more than 3 miles (at once) in my life. Our first long run was at a nearby park, and it was 4 miles. I mentally prepared for the run all week, psyching myself up. It was so brutal. Breathing hurt, my legs were heavy, and my mind was a mess. All I could do was whisper encouragement to myself every step and shuffle along. I made it all four miles without stopping, and afterwards I almost collapsed, half in pain, half in glory. I was so proud of myself – running 4 whole miles seemed like an unthinkable task, even for an experienced hiker like myself.
Today headed to the same nearby park for my long run – 12 miles. The first four miles blew by, as I glided through the forest, taking in all the plants and blue sky. My mind was clear as I called out the names of all my friends as I passed them by – painted buckeye, yucca, moss, lichen, christmas fern, sweet gum, loblolly, muscadine, elm, RIVER CANE! My thoughts were pleasant and breathing felt no different than when walking. I mused about how far away that first 4 mile run seems, yet it was less than one year ago.
I don’t think running is for everyone – truthfully, I don’t even think it’s for me. My knees ache all the time. After the race, I know I won’t run again until fall. And I’m ok with that. The training is about more than the running. It’s about how testing your limits can transform your mind. When I used to run, all I could think about was it being over, how much longer, how much it sucked. Now when I run my mind is open, curious. That’s the attitude I hope to carry through the rest of my training.
For interested parties: here are the more technical ups-and-downs of training so far.
- I experienced a very quick build-up of my endurance. By week three on the chart above, I had no trouble breathing, even when running uphill. Running uphill used to kill me, but now I can easily maintain a steady climb for half a mile or so with no trouble.
- I was feeling completely lethargic before I started training, and I have noticed a boost in my energy despite the fact that I’m doing more in my daily life now than I did all winter.
- With the extended (3+ month) training plan, I’ve eased up a lot on the restrictions I used to set for myself. No more, “I MUST run 8 miles today.” If life was too busy, or I didn’t feel well, I skipped or scaled back. I don’t feel guilty, because in the grand scheme of 16 weeks of training, one run is inconsequential.
- I really haven’t been doing my cross-training for lack of time. I should have been more realistic with myself – I knew I wasn’t going to do hill training and fartleks. I’m happy enough to just show up for my regular runs. I know this kind of training makes you stronger and faster, but I’m not approaching this race competitively, so I’m not concerned about making some specific time. I just want to finish without getting hurt.
- Same with lifting and climbing. I’ve just been too busy, but I do plan to start climbing now that we’re settled into the new apartment and live within biking distance of the climbing gym.
- I have sustained my yoga practice on top of training, practicing strength and core in place of cross-training. I think that counts. The importance of cross-training is not only becoming stronger, but it also decreases your likelihood of getting hurt. I’ve noticed that since I now have a daily yoga practice, I rarely get cramps (used to get them almost every run).
- I am eating ALL THE FOOD. I didn’t anticipate the sheer amount of caloric intake all this running was going to require. Since I eat a low calorie-density diet (mostly veggies, fruits, and legumes), I’ve had to either eat obscene amounts of these foods (i.e. 3 apples or 1 lb of carrots in one sitting) or start eating more carbs. I’ve gone the carb route, although I am grazing on produce all day. I’m eating either five small meals or three large meals/ two substantial snacks a day. I’d guess between 3000-3500 calories. You have to understand – it’s not just the running. I often hike 5 miles during the work day, perform 2 hours of manual labor gardening/ working on home improvement projects after I get home, walk to and from work every day, and ride my bike to run errands.
- The knee pain. I suspect it’s weak hips and shitty road-running shoes. I have classic runner’s knee. I’m getting new road-runners this week, and have added hip stretches and strengthening into my daily yoga. I feel so pathetic though to be 26 years old and have so much knee trouble. During my runs, it’s a dull ache that sets in around mile 5, but then I have pain through the rest of the day. I’m icing.
- The amount of time I spend running is bordering on annoying. I never considered that I’d be dedicating two hours on a couple work nights, plus 3-6 hours on the weekend, to running. Pre-run stretch, run, post-run stretch, ice. On the weekends, I drive up to two hours each way to a trail. All this time is cutting into my homestead chores, and blogging! I blame the running on the lack of blogging!
Overall – first half of training is a success. Today was the first day I actually felt like I could run this 30K.