Sunday, 28 July 2013

Hurts So Good

Shannon, me, Chessa, Nathan

This past Tuesday I did my usual round-trip 20k run up and down Mountain Highway. As it was post-Kneeknacker and pre-White River 50mile, it was a sparse group. We started our run at 5:15am, which is not a ridiculous time to a triathlete. To be exact, there were three of us - myself, Craig, and Shannon. Craig and Shannon are doing Transrockies Run 3, and are both excellent triathletes who have been logging some serious bike mileage, on top of other ridiculous workouts. However, I'd been doing a lot of trail running, and uphills, so I was feeling pretty confident in my ability to run well.

That confidence ended in the first 5 minutes when Craig dropped me decisively going uphill. Alright, well, Shannon was still behind me, still feeling good. Mountain Highway just goes and goes: an endless series or runnable and identical switchbacks. The first 7k is a steeper grade, then it levels out for a bit. At 5k, my head wandered: this was long, I was tired, my breathing was heavy. As my thoughts got less and less focused, Shannon blew by me. I tried to match her pace, but couldn't.

reality check 
As I trudged up the switchbacks, watching her blue shorts get farther and farther ahead, it hit me: this was how I'd been showing up in training the past couple months. Things hurt, I was tired, I felt slow: I thought this meant I needed to slow down more, was concerned something was wrong. The only thing wrong was perhaps my choice of hobby: putting in 100k week after 100k week of climbing and trails isn't exactly a relaxing exercise. My body was telling me I was fine, but it was my head that was trying to convince me that it wasn't. 

my warm up take as long as the second coming and need an equivalent amount of faith
I always take forever to warm up - well, forever to me is 45-60 minutes (redheads are impatient!). I used to be able to trust in my body at this point: it hurt, I kept going, the speed came, and I'd feel better. Somewhere along the way, though, I'd gotten soft. My long runs with friends had walk breaks, had gel breaks, had a lot of rests on the uphills. Which is fine - the runs also had great chats and amazing views. The issue was, the training didn't happen. The issue also was - I like pushing, too. When things get tired, when my breath gets jagged and my lungs ache, it's a choice: to stop, to rest, to feel safe - or to find out what's on the other side.

Mt. Hood 50
I raced a 50miler near Mt. Hood a couple weeks ago. I went down with my best friend Lucy, and my running partner Barry. The first 60km were enchanted: running along cruising, sun-dappled singletrack trail with views of Mt. Hood. I knew the course was flatter, so I ran pretty much every uphill. And then, with about 20km of mostly downhill to go, I started to feel very nauseous. I walked the last uphill – okay, it’s completely legitimate to walk an uphill. Then the trail flattened out, I tried to run. If anything, that made the nausea worse. I walked some more. The trail started on a lovely, gentle downhill. I walked that too. I remembered an article about throwing up – “stomach resetting”. That sounded promising – who doesn’t want a reset? I tried, and tried to make myself throw up in hopes of feeling better. Finally, it worked, kind of. I felt a bit better, and mostly still empty.

I finished the race in 8:20, 3rd place. Any race in a beautiful area where I finish uninjured is a huge blessing, and I am grateful. The final portion, though, was a struggle.

let's be honest
With every race that doesn’t go as planned, there are so many excuses: the heat, trying new gels, the longer climbs. In the end, for me, it was a couple things. I paced it wrong, going out hard and trusting my body to hold on. And, in my training, I had gotten soft. Where before, I had trained hard to have an extra gear in races, this time I didn't have one.

The rest of the weekend was amazing – in Portland with great company, spending hours in vintage record stores, clothing boutiques, and drinking in the lazy sunshine. Lucy took her first family-less trip to come down, and it was a huge honour that she chose to join our adventure! (Plus she was an amazing Portland tour guide and travel buddy).

Lucy and I in record-store heaven

I had some time to think about what I wanted out of training, and myselfIt made me respect that I need to actually take an offseason this year. It made me respect my body, and the strong bones I have. It also forced me to look at some uncomfortable things: I can only race as hard as I train.

I want to feel uncomfortable
Running fast to me can’t be about doing well in races – I want the clean hard hurt, the faint metallic taste and the shake that comes with riding the line of my abilities. I want to keep going when things get tough, and I want to chase faster people uphill, downhill. I want to do this as a way of giving thanks for the gorgeous area I run in and the power in my body. For the amazing people that get out of bed too early to do this with me.

So since the 50miler, I made a choice: on the right days, to find that joyful hurt and commit. And, on Mountain Highway, as I watched Shannon disappear, I reached inside myself. I remembered - I like doing this. I exhaled, I pumped my arms, I said a little prayer for the luxury of being out with friends, surrounded by trees and mountains with the beginnings of sunrise. And I worked, and worked some more, to catch her. And together, both of us finished the 10k uphill.

Power couple - they even colour-coordinated! 
let's do this
This past weekend I did two back-to-back runs. Saturday morning the thought of even one run seemed beyond me. I wanted to bail. Then, I showed up anyways. I turned off my head, and let my body go. We ran / hiked Coliseum on Saturday. The views were amazing, and the downhills were a joy. On Sunday, I ran the Garibaldi traverse (point-to-point, Helm Creek to Rubble Creek trailheads) with my Transrockies teammates Shannon and Chessa. The climb was hard, and
Chessa and our friend Nathan disappeared ahead. I didn’t get discouraged. Shannon and I took turns leading, and after about an hour, caught back up. After that, surrounded my far-off glaciers, a looming Black Tusk, and huge meadows, how my lungs were feeling didn’t really matter. I trusted my body, and my body trusted me back: I warmed up, and had an amazing run chasing two very fast ladies down to Garibaldi Lake, then down the trail to the parking lot. None of us had Garmins, and none of us really knew our time – we just knew the sharp joy that comes from jumping over logs, on top of rocks, and being on the edge of our limits. We finished dusty, sweaty, and excited for the next time. 

And the beauty is - I don't need a race, don't need a medal to feel this way. I need a clear head, some trail friends, and a beautiful place to explore.

1 comment:

  1. Errrrr ... objectively? Forcing yourself to throw up is NEVER a good thing. Perspective is, that's not ok. That's your body telling you it hates you.