I had one of my best runs in quite some time today. I ran five miles in approximately 50 minutes with about 1,000' of climbing in howling winds.
What's so great about that? Not much in and of itself. In fact, I'd probably have been better off not running at all, but five easy was the internal compromise. You see, my running brain is in a state of confusion right now. It knows full well that I am in need of rest, yet it also knows that I need to run and it has become fixated on 100-mile weeks and an annoying running streak.
Anyway, I'll tell you what was so great about today's run.
Firstly, there was very little fatigue in my legs (something I have been dealing with - and running through - for a few weeks now). Secondly, and more importantly, I didn't take that as a green light to go out and hammer a bunch of miles or rocket to the top of Horsetooth at record pace. Instead, I stuck to my plan of trying to re-find some training and racing mojo by going easy and accepting the fact that I'm teetering on the brink of burnout. There, I said it.
Honestly, I can't believe how tortured my legs felt on Sunday at the Crazy Legs 10k. Right from the get go, I had as close to nothing in my legs as I've felt in a while. I still competed, and actually managed to muscle out a decent run, but I felt like crap and didn't enjoy a second of it. And that's a problem.
Anyone who reads this blog with any degree of regularity probably realizes that I have a competitive personality - annoyingly so at times. It's that competitive nature that gets me out the door twice a day to go run a bunch of miles. I respond well to running twice a day, however that second run is often a chore rather than a pleasure. And that's a problem.
The minute this running gig becomes too much like hard work is the minute I need to give it up. But I can't let that happen. I enjoy running and being in the mountains too much to let that happen. Besides, I want to pass on to my children and to others around me the joy of being in the mountains, and I won't be able to do that if I'm hating every second of it. So obviously I need to refocus here and get back to enjoying the training process and away from grinding my way through it.
I know that to be competitive at, say, Western States in June I'm going to have to grind out some miles, but when I'm running aimlessly around Dixon Reservoir at 4:30 in the afternoon, padding my weekly mileage before picking up my son from daycare, my thoughts are typically zeroed in on either race strategy or they are off day dreaming about an epic run that strings together six or seven peaks. I find more distraction from the mundane nature of my reality in the latter, yet the competitive side of my personality ensures that I keep moving forward in search of the racing goals that I otherwise find myself thinking about.
Numbers are important to runners, but they can also be incredibly dangerous. In recent weeks, I've been heading out the door on nearly every run with a watch strapped to my wrist, and I've found that the correlation between wearing a watch and enjoyment has been a negative one. Through the months of January and February I didn't wear a watch on any of my training runs - only at races - and I felt an amazing sense of liberation in that. As the trails have cleared and the running has become more predictable, I have for some reason been strapping the digits to my wrist more frequently, which in turn has caused me to want to run my training runs at a harder pace and, not surprisingly, has resulted in a greater sense of accumulated fatigue.
Therefore, other than for specific workouts, I have decided to ditch the watch for the remainder of this training cycle as it provides little in terms of feedback. I simply don't need a watch to tell me that I completed a run faster or slower than I did yesterday; that's all there in perceived effort.
And so I have to find compromise, which is why today's run was such a good one. I kept my stupid running streak alive, but I allowed myself to run at a pace that wasn't far removed from a hike and I didn't even remotely feel like taking a turn that would have added two, five or ten miles to my outing. No, I stuck to the plan, embraced the wind and enjoyed my run. Half way around a hiker was quite clearly enjoying his day too.
"Carpe Diem," he exclaimed as I sauntered past him. "Carpe Diem indeed," I responded.
There's not much to learn on this blog about training for endurance races - I make it up as I go along - but this I do know: it has to be fun or it just ain't worth it.