This past Saturday, I ran around a 3.17 mile sidewalk loop. For 39 miles. Boring? Mindless? Awful? Nothing could be further from the truth . . .
Just ask Scott Traer. While most people would think my 39 mile around this loop was impressive, consider this: Scott ran 101.5 miles more than me on this loop. That's 140.5 miles. Without stopping. That's why this run was so incredible.
Scott was competing in the 24 Hours Around the Lake race. He had competed in this race last year (when I was competing in the measly 12 hour version) and had some unfinished business. I have been fortunate enough to run with Scott throughout this past year, and was looking forward to joining him for as long as I could (five weeks out, I am still combatting a post-Western funk, and only had two "long" runs of 14 miles since that point). I joined Scott around mile 83 or 86 for him. He was cruising. As we started out, it became clear that he was having a solid day, easily running 7:30ish pace. For the next six and half hours we just ran around in circles, stopping at his all-vegan, self-service aid station at the start/finish, where I discovered the incredible power of dates, with sliced almonds and agave nectar. Simply amazing fuel. Conversation and energy ebbed and flowed, but still we ran the circle.
Suffice it to say that Scott ran hard, stopping only because a two-hour downpour near the end left him hypothermic. Watching him for a more than 6 hours got me thinking: his training and diet are pretty intense, and to continue to try to compete in this sport, I've got to revamp my own training. Leading up to Western I had 11+ weeks in a row over 100 miles and about 15 weeks in a row in the 90+ range. But those miles were mostly junk. Just casually running to and from school, exhausted physically and mentally, because, well, I was exhausted (I wasn't confident to take a bit of a break when my body was telling me to and I believe that is now why I still feel a bit haggard). It was with this new thinking that I found myself three days after pacing Scott, again, running 'round in circles, this time at the Arlington High School Track.
10x200. It may not seem like much, and, considering I ended the day with a mere 5 miles, I usually wouldn't think of this as much of a workout, but to me it was a start. I had just finished assembling the boys' new swingset/fort (not an easy 8 hours of work, especially since I missed lunch and drank nothing all day). I was beat and I smelled. My back was sore from leaning over to tighten screws and level the fort. My legs were still sore from the shock the received pacing Scott. But I laced up, and jogged the ~1.25 miles to the high school track. I planned on running 5 - 7 200m repeats. Then I started running hard. 200 meters. Online I had read to give myself 2 - 3 minutes recovery. That seemed too easy, so after the second repeat, it became a 200 meter recovery. I kept the pace consistent (and fast, for me). I got to the fifth repeat feeling pretty good. I decided to go for 8 (1 mile of hard running). I got to 8 and went for 10. I felt like I could have kept this up, but am trying to ease into this whole speedwork thing. Trying to be patient.
And that is what I am taking away from running around in circles the last few days - patience. Think of things as a part of a cycle. Be patient with this cycle of recovery for my body, even if it seems to be interminable. Be patient listening to what my body is telling me. Be patient as I try to rebuild myself into a stronger runner.