Monday, January 26, 2015

A Not-Forgotten TNF50 2014 Explanation in 2015

We can start with what happened in San Francisco.

Anyone who knows me, knows that the Bay area (more specifically, the Marin Headlands) is my favorite spot in the world. If you know me and you feel like you didn't know that, scroll down to my race report from TNF50 last year. This year was a world of difference.

My training for that race this year was very course-specific, because I was so familiar with it. I thought this would be a great advantage to me, and it was, until I didn't care anymore. It's the hardest thing to describe and I feel bad saying or even typing the words, but I stopped caring about that race about three hours in. And I don't know why. I loved where I was, but I hated what I was doing. I started to slip off my goal time and I just stopped. I actually, quite literally, stopped. I remember staring at the sky with my eyes so furiously burning with frustration that I think a few hot tears actually escaped. The only reason I kept making it from aid station to aid station was because I had to find Jesse, so I could finally drop. There were a few course changes this year, and one involved over two miles of road running; a nail in the coffin, to say the least. It has to be said that I felt fine, physically. I wasn't bonking or low on water or even tired. My muscles didn't hurt and my feet felt fine, my breath was steady and my heart rate only spiking when it should. The downhill to Stinson Beach is the best part of the course, in my opinion, and I charged it just as hard as I did last year. The difference was that last year it was out of joy, and this year it was out of desperation to be at the bottom, and to be done. Once I saw Jesse just before the aid station I stopped and said I was done. He did his crewing duties and attempted to change my mind but I believe he could tell that was not happening. Every time I went to explain why, a lump rose in my throat and my eyes filled with tears. I knew there was no way in hell I was going to continue, but admitting defeat isn't always easy. I didn't want to finish 'just to finish'. I've finished enough 50milers that just a finish doesn't feel like an accomplishment anymore. I used to think it was humbling, and now it is just confusing. I've dropped from ultras before, smiling and laughing while doing so, but this race is different. This race is always different for so many reasons. It will continue to be different for every reason.

So after 20 minutes of standing there, watching people come in and leave the Stinson Beach aid station, I finally spoke without almost crying, and officially dropped. We then walked across the road to the ocean, and I stood there, rinsing my shoes from the mud (God, the mud, it was so wet this year), and letting the salt water burn my blisters and wash away with a blood tint. And standing there was amazing. Looking over my shoulder at Mount Tamalpais I clenched my jaw with frustration, disappointment, confusion and happiness.

After talking with Jesse about it, we collectively decided that I just have to do something different. I cannot keep doing this 50mile dance right now. I decided to do the Antelope Canyon 50k, and attempt to do it somewhat fast. A shorter distance with a different kind of effort actually lead to me thinking about an 'off season'. I've never really had an 'off season' before.

We had that talk with this view. The whole weekend we had this view. I get lost in my own mind thinking about this view.

The next day we went on a recovery run on the Coastal Trail. This is the best trail in the entire world. I'll do my best to describe with pictures.

So Jesse taught me to swim (One of my favorite things in my life is that my significant other is also my coach in many sports, and knows when I seriously need his advice). NAU has an amazing aquatic center, and it's pretty fun. I grew up on a lake, living in the water all summer and often times well into October (only my brother understands), but I never really learned how to appropriately swim. What I've been doing for 26 years is an awkward hybrid of a doggy paddle and a breast stroke.

I swam a mile last week and I was so proud of myself it took everything I had not to squeal. It felt like when I ran my first 5k, except Katie wasn't there to hug me. I just smiled and quietly skipped away from the pool. (But, of course, I spilled my victory to Jesse as soon as I saw him.)

So now I'm going to run a half marathon next weekend. Jesse is doing the full (in Sedona), so I figured I'd do the half while I wait. My longest run since TNF (which was December 6th) has been 9 miles, and that happened just now. Besides that I've only been swimming, weight training and in the past week, approximately 5 speed workouts. I also occasionally snowshoe at Snowbowl in the morning, up 1,000+ ft, and then run down (while Jesse skis). I'm well aware that I'm likely setting myself up for failure here, but I've never been to Sedona and I'd like to just have a good run. At the very least, I know I can still gut out 13 miles.

But it's incredible how ridiculous my behavior was to just do a 'long run'. A 'long run' of (what I wanted to be) 10 miles. I had four cups of coffee, changed into my standard running attire and stepped outside. I didn't even open the door all of the way, but just stuck my head out. Fuck it's kind of cold. Stop, just go. So I stepped onto the patio. But seriously I should take water because I"m dehydrated already. So I filled a water bottle, and stepped back outside. But this probably isn't going to be enough because I've had so much coffee. Maybe I should take my pack. So I filled my pack. A liter of water. Third time is a charm. But it's not that sunny so I should probably dress a little warmer. I chose my cozy Salomon headband and thin gloves. I sat on the couch and stared at the ceiling. I thought about going to the gym instead. I thought about asking Jesse if my 35 mile run in the beginning of December was good enough to count as a long run for a half marathon at the end of January. If there's anyone I can count on to rationalize absurd training ideas, it's Jesse. I actually sighed loudly and shouted a word that was a cross/blending of "UGH.", "Fuuuck" and "Goooooo". So I went. And I was too hot. And I only took two sips of water.

And I had fun. I did a few pick-up miles in the middle where my legs started to fill with cement, my breath was some sort of rigid three-part instead of having a steadiness, I could feel my hip bones rubbing on the top of my shorts and I was absolutely sure a rib in my left side was puncturing my skin. But it was worth it. For the first time in a long time, running was hard, and running being hard was actually fun.

It's easier when this is your view.

I'm going to attempt to update this blog much more often. I'm a writer. And it feels good to write again. Even if it was just a race/running update.

*The next update will likely be about Cohen. There's a lot going on there.