As far as the physical recovery, the soreness only lasted a few days, and I was ready to run 6 days later. The strange thing was that my legs felt fine, but my heart and lungs felt pretty tired. Two weekends after the ultra, I was up to a 90min run on Saturday and a 2-hour hilly trail run the next Sunday. Saturday felt fine, Sunday I felt tired and out of breath. But I kept running, because I did a really stupid thing, breaking one of those cardinal rules--I had already signed up for my 2nd ultramarathon before even finishing my first one! (I always laughed at rookie Ironman people who sign up for their 2nd IM before they even finish their 1st one...you know, races selling out in advance and everything.)
Yeah, it was dumb. It was "only" a 50-miler, and I had joined the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club back in January to get excited and motivated about ultras. They put on the Bull Run Run 50 every year, which is this Saturday, and there was a really unique lottery system to get a slot into the race. I was really excited being around all these crazy ultra people who think 26.2 miles is a "speed workout" and do multiple 100-milers each year. I was worried the BRR 50 was only 5 weeks after my first ultra, ever. They laughed and said it'd be plenty of time to recover, and I remembered my days of racing 2 Ironmans 2 weeks apart (I've done it 3 times), and so...I threw my name into the lottery.
And I got a spot. And I signed up a couple weeks before the 100km. Oops. Although by the time I got to the 100km, I was so sick of running and scared of my body not holding up that I was pretty sure I would withdraw anyway. Then I got the post-race euphoria, and started thinking "what if I actually tried to run this FAST," and then I managed to get on a team with some fast guys...
Then I started trying to ramp up my mileage again before I was really recovered, and still felt tired and unmotivated, and then my body finally rebelled. And that tibial stress fracture I had years and years ago in high school (14 years ago, WHOA) started to complain. And my foot wasn't quite happy--during my 100km build-up, I had struggled with a recurrence of the peroneal tendinitis I hadn't felt since I was a junior in college (over 10 years ago, WHOA).
So I reminded myself why I migrated from running to triathlons in the first place--running injuries. And I did the smart thing, and I FINALLY withdrew. (So, NO, I am not about to do a 50-miler in 4 days.)
As I was "training" for the 50-miler, I had intended to race the Delaware Marathon (May 12), which would've been just another 4 weeks after the 50, and I really wanted to do well. Then seeing how my 100km recovery was going, I thought "hmm, scratch the marathon." I figured I'd do the 50, then take a break, and sign up for the Marine Corps Marathon in late October since it's local and I'd actually have time to follow a marathon training program. (By then I was realizing that I am not really in the shape I used to be.)
But I scratched from the 50, and never signed up for DE, and then when registration opened up for Marine Corps, it was internet madness. It sold out in 2.5 hours just like last year, but there were such awful technical difficulties that Active.com actually apologized and is issuing all its registration surcharges to Wounded Warrior Project and the Semper Fi Fund. So I didn't get into MCM either.
So my "race season" basically got blown wide open, which was a little disappointing, but at the same time made me stop in my tracks and get some thinking done.
I realized several things:
- I have this problem that I keep forgetting that I am not in the same shape as when I was a pro triathlete superstar. This is a constant problem, as I like to sign up for races, not train much, and still expect to do well. Or assume that recovery is as easy as when I didn't have to work a big girl job.
- I also forgot that maybe, just maybe, I wasn't really in shape for the 100km either. Well, there were some awesome weeks where I could run 3+ hours at a sub-9 pace with little effort. BUT...I forgot that between Louisville at the end of August until early January, I kind of sort of did absolutely nothing for 4 months. Then I ran A LOT for about a month, until my foot started hurting, so then I had to taper back down again just to get to the 100km starting line semi-healthy.
- I really need to start all over, and start shorter and easier.
- I still don't have any desire to do triathlons right now, if ever again. I've come to realize that my current job gives me all kinds of fulfillment that triathlon never did (it always felt a bit selfish to me), and that I'm no longer willing to put in the time, energy, emotion and finances to race at the high level I know I am capable of. Last year I experimented with racing triathlons for "fun" on limited training, and my conclusion is that I don't really have as much fun as when I go really fast. And I don't want to put in the effort to go fast any more. And that's okay. If that makes me sound like a spoiled brat or sore loser, I don't really care.
- I still want to get into the best running shape I've never been in. "Break 3 hours in an open marathon" has been a recent addition to the bucket list, as I've always thought I was capable of doing this since my breakthrough season in 2009. But I've never trained specifically for a marathon before. Marathon training is much less time-consuming than triathlon training, so I think this would be feasible for my next sporting goal while working full-time. (Of course I seem to change my mind about every 2 months on what my next sporting goal will be...!)
So I let myself have a couple weeks off running completely, just to figure things out in my head and stop beating up my body. ("I think my body hates me," had been a recurring thought.) And now we suddenly have summertime weather in the DC area, ridiculous as I was just walking to work in my sleeping bag jacket less than a week ago.
I'm not signing up for anything yet as I've realized I need to start from scratch, and scale down goals step by step so they are more realistic and not overwhelming. I haven't even broken 90mins in a half marathon ever, so I figured I should do that before I sign up for any marathons. So I will actually train for half marathons to begin with. And before I even start doing THAT, I scaled back even more and decided that for the next 6 weeks leading up to Memorial Day (the official start of bikini season, obviously), I will focus more on eating better (told you I was sick of eating like a fat kid), improve my body composition for the beach (teehee), and get into a more consistent training schedule.
When I trained for the 100km, I was only running about 4x per week--Saturday and Sunday back-to-back long runs, and a couple weekday runs--and not much else, other than walking to and from work every day (about 5km round-trip). I would write myself out these epic training plans, where I'd run an hour of hills, an hour on the treadmill, a longer 90-min midweek run, along with an hour recovery spins on White Tiger...but never quite executed all I had planned to do. I guess I underestimated moving to a new town and starting a new job. So I'm scaling back even more.
The current plan is to get in a 30-45min training session on weekdays, and run a little more on the weekends (but nothing longer than 90mins). Weekday training will include some strength stuff (push-ups and pull-ups, huzzah!) and some fun interval training. The main goal is CONSISTENCY. It used to be second nature (well, my JOB) to work out every day, and these days I find myself copping out of it way too easily. The 30-45min workout duration is short enough that I can't say I don't have time to work out. Walking or biking to work doesn't count, as it's just a normal part of my new life. ;)
Anyway, I will think of this as my pre-half marathon training program prep phase. I'm looking at the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon in September and the Army 10-miler in October. The 10-mile distance seems pretty popular in these parts, and I think I will run 10's and 13.1's until I get under the 90-minute mark, which realistically may not be this year (I'm pretty out of shape and my previous PR was about 1:35...from the amateur days).
That's the scoop for now. I'm learning to take some steps back in order to move forward! Stay tuned, I may even master the 5am workout *GASP*.