Training to Race or Racing to Train

Ea-sy Pea-sy. Nice and Chee-sy. Ea-sy Pea-sy. Nice and Chee-sy. This was my mantra today. After doing two tough 15 milers in the mountains (with a total elevation gain of about 6,000 ft between the two) within 3 days of each other this past week, I was expecting to be pretty sore.  Surprisingly, I feel fairly spry!  I do have a little soreness in my quads and hamstrings, but not too much.  I think the biggest lesson I learned about doing two 5 hour, long climbs so close together, is that by keeping my heart rate fairly low on each of them, fueling good and not overdoing it, I have recovered very quickly.  That was the goal! Well, one of them.  With Big Horn 50 miler only 7 weeks away, I’m trying to accomplish a great deal in training in a short time, without overtaxing my body or pushing myself into an injury.  I think this current method is exactly what I need right now — gentle pace, long distances, lots of time on my feet and plenty of practice on the climbs and descents.

Today was the first chance I had to get in a recovery run. The marathon and half that I’m directing is happening this Saturday, so my husband and I have been in “GO” mode the past few days as we finalize details of the race. It’s pretty thrilling to see an idea that I had come to life (and a little scary, too!)  The medals and shirts are ordered, the race bibs are getting their timing chips applied today, we’re finalizing the menu for the after-race party and ready to start buying some of the supplies and food and I’m feeling ready to show up at the starting line in my tutu and sing in front of a crowd for the first time in many years when I do the National Anthem. I have jitters! I’m excited! I’m terrified! I can’t wait!

Today, I really wanted to focus on keeping my heart rate in the “easy” zone for full recovery.  That was tough! I always get a heart rate spike when I start running. It’s usually why I run so slow the first mile. I think it’s my body adjusting to movement after not running for a day or so. Whatever it is, today I kept seeing numbers like 174 in the first half mile, despite a very snail-like 13 min pace! (My max, by the way, is some number over 200. Not sure what it is, since I haven’t done any proper testing and just use the numbers the Garmin has actually recorded on workouts thus far. 200 is that number at the moment, though I didn’t feel I’d given my all and probably had another gear or two left when I did that. I’d imagine my top is about 210.) Anyways… seeing 174 when I was aiming for something closer to 140-145 wasn’t good, so I forced myself to slow down and then slow down again until I was practically running in slow-motion.  Even, then my numbers weren’t making sense, so I walked. That’s when they quickly returned to about 120-130 and I was able to pick things up gently again until I reached the target zone.

I felt pretty good. The sun was shining, there were beautiful tulips and daffodils dotting my neighbor’s yards to make me smile. But… it really was a struggle to run at an actual recovery pace. This might sound silly, but I find it much easier to run a mountain, long run or a speedwork session than a recovery run.  I like the challenge of pushing myself and holding back is harder – at least mentally, for me. But.. I know that my body really needs these sessions at times, so I had to repeat to myself, “You are training to race not racing to train.” many times to keep it in check. Turns out, that meant, walking a bunch. I didn’t want to. I felt fine and a little silly walking when I wanted to run faster, but I did it and I’m glad.  Learning to control your impulses and listen to the wisdom inside your head of others who’ve shared good advice is a hard at times but can be the difference between flaming fast and then fading in a race (or along a training path to a bigger goal) or improving gradually, getting stronger, building up the muscles and the mind and the legs until race day, when you’re chomping at the bit and ready to roll – and do what you came to do.

Now, Big Horn 50 is a different kind of beast than I’ve ever ridden.  It’s muddy, the elevation at the start is higher than I’ve ever been in my life (I live at 2500, train up to about 5,000 at times, and the race starts at over 9,000!!), there are creek crossings, steep downhills (almost 11,000 of elevation loss in the race and only 6,000 + of climb) and – I did mention it’s 50 miles, right?!! FIFTY MILES! Have I lost my mind?! Mmmm… I’ll take a raincheck on that question and let you know when I get back from the race. 😉  The longest run I’ve ever done is the Orcas Island 50k, which turned out to be a total distance of 32.67 miles with 8,000 of climb and loss.  That took me 9 hours and 40 minutes.  I have a 15 hour cut off for Big Horn to run 52.65 miles.  That cut off scares me more than the distance!

So, I’ve got a couple of big challenges in front of me right now: Directing my first race at the Lake Lowell Marathon and Half Marathon this upcoming Saturday and running my first 50 mile trail race at Big Horn on June 18th!  Time to think positive and give it all I’ve got for both!

Stats: 4.52 miles. 13:09 pace. 59:28 total time. 31 ft elevation gain ( ha ha ha – super flat). Average HR: 144. Recovery Run. Felt: Eager to go faster and further!!!!!

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