The blank slate that is a finished race

Good news, I think my ankle is mostly healed. It had a lot of bruises and was tender for a while, but they are subsiding and I should be able to stop using my ankle sleeve soon. Good riddance to that because it’s starting to get gross and I haven’t done laundry since the race.

As my last race gets closer, I’ve tried to stop myself from thinking what’s next. I’m favoring road running right now, with trails sprinkled in. It feels right and I feel happy, that’s what matters to me. I do want to reflect on what this summer and the triad has been for me. It’s been a long training and racing cycle. It’s been fun and I’ve learned a lot but it’s been long. I am tempted to think about what’s next, but also I want to have that mysterious “whatever” period after the race too.

Mentally, thinking about what may be next, but not committing helps relieve myself of the pressure of racing. It helps to know that even though I’ve trained hard for my races, there will be others. Other races, other runs, more times spent running with cool people and in cool places. That is exciting. Finishing a race is always great, but having an open book to what is next is also quite fun.

I’ve been running getting back to consistency while not really pushing anything. I don’t see the point in anything other than a few tune up workouts before races day. A few hills, strides or 400s. To rev the engine without putting myself further into debt.

My crew (my friends Danielle and Jeff) are beginning to plan how to best help me at Twisted. I really don’t know what I am doing, so it will be a learning experience for all involved.

Until then, pancakes, easy runs and enjoying the end of the training cycle.

Race recovery and pancakes

The week after a race usually starts off pretty rough. I don’t sleep well, I’m tired, I feel sick. The euphoric feeling of finishing a race wears off as soon as reality sets in.

My friend and fellow runner (who won the race on Saturday) said it well here:

I do enjoy the races, the long runs, the finishes, the good and bad times where I get to test myself. However, when the race is done, the metals put away and the money in the bank, life moves on.

I have been resting a lot this week, like one does after a big event. Even though it was not my A race of the summer, it took a lot out of me mentally and physically. I enjoy breaks after races. I go on walks, I take my time cooking, reading, getting from place to place. I just try to relax. The only thing that I maintain from training is my short pre-work nap. I keep doing that, because sleep is hard when my cortisol is high and my body is jittery.

I’ve been making pancakes (I got zucchini from a customer and stirred that in!). I’ve been reading and I caught up on the only show I watch, the 100. Life has gone on.

Today, I ran for the first time. My twisted ankle is healing, my body felt alright. Good signs.

Onward from here.

Cayuga Trails, preventing the burnout

I’ll be honest, the weeks heading into this race were not the best for me. I was tired. Tired of all the emotions I was dealing with. Tired of trails. Tired of what I was training for.

I wanted to run on the roads.

I wanted to stop falling.

I wanted mindless, easy runs.

So I took them. I needed a trail break. To get back to what I love, not who I think I should want to be.

I do enjoy trail running, but I know I also enjoy running the roads as a part of my training.

So for the past three weeks, as I became emotionally more tired, I used road running to help me process and feel. At that point, trail running reminded me of things I was trying to let go. I needed a break.

On the Monday of race week, I didn’t think there was a chance in Heaven I’d be rested for this race. I felt like Many on the Genny was yesterday. I could feel burnout coming.

A few days before the race, my pep started to come back. I took a day off, I ran with my good friend Bailey a few times, I let go of any goals I had for the race.

Show up, try hard, finish. Have fun if I can.

On the start line, I bargained with God asking Him to see me to the finish because my dad was coming. That’s all I wanted. To finish in one piece so my dad could see it.

The first 20 miles

I ran with a few other ladies, Kelsey from MA and Cassie from Canada. Scott Parr, my good buddy from #TrailsRoc was also in and out, usually ahead of us. These miles were actually the hardest physically for me, which isn’t a good sign in a 50 mile race. To put it bluntly, I had the shits. Every few miles. I also rolled my ankle really badly on the decent into Buttermilk Falls. It’s still swollen, but walking on it doesn’t hurt. Quite quickly I thought my race could be over. I’m not stupid, I heard the crunch. It was rough. Talking with the women I ran with got me through the first half of the race. Thank you ladies.

Halfway

At the halfway aid station, I actually grabbed my iPod. I knew I’d be running alone either behind the girls or in my own world (talking uses energy). I simply didn’t want to be alone with my own thoughts. I also grabbed a bunch on salt potatoes and cold brew at this point. I started to come back. Not just in terms of the race, but in terms of trail running in general.

The back end

Sabrina and Sarah, the two front runners were pretty far ahead of me, but I started to move fluidly and well, so I didn’t really think about it. I enjoyed myself! Imagine that! To be honest, the second half was much better mentally. I listened to my iPod, the Rich Roll podcast to be specific and it was nice to have a companion I didn’t have to talk back to. I made a wrong turn before the last aid station which set me back probably 10 minutes, but that really isn’t horrible in my opinion. If anything, I ran faster and proved I still had my legs. The shits basically stopped (I had nothing left at that point) and I decided to bring it home.

Papa Bear was waiting after all.

It was quite a fun day. I must highlight my friend Sabrina’s race. This is her third attempt at this race, not having such a great time the past two years. Well, she came back this year, broke the course record and came in 6th overall. If that isn’t persistence and belief in herself, I don’t know what is.

The second place woman, Sarah Keyes is a fellow Beast Coaster and had a very strong showing as well. I was proud to be at the same race with these ladies.

The fourth place woman was a masters athlete! I truly hope I am as badass as she is in a few years. She also had fabulous long blonde hair, which I adored.

For a men’s recap, check out Jason Mintz’s blog, as he obviously experienced that first hand.

I needed this race to happen like it did. It was either make or break. A bad race, I’d probably pull out of Twisted. No sense training when I’m burned out and not excited for it. However, I came out of this ready to try again. Ready to eat some trails. Ready to recover and then get Twisted for 100k. I have some belief again.

A note of gratitude to Ian Golden and my Red Newt Racing team who has supported me for a few good years now. Thank you to FLRTC for all the help, gear and community (Zoe where were you?!?! 😉 Thank you to my favorite aid station at Buttermilk Falls, #Trailsroc (Eric I still have not received my MOTG tee shirt, please and thank you).

Thank you to my parents, siblings and coworkers for their love and support. I know you all have my back.

Next up: I’m sleeping till Twisted Branch so see ya

Readjusting

So much to think about and do before next Saturday. Cayuga Trails came up so fast this year. I feel like I just ran MOTG and here we are.

Granted, there isn’t that much time between the races, and normally I’d never sign up for races so close…but that’s part of the challenge of the Triad this summer. After Cayuga it’s a few weeks to Twisted Branch, my main focus of the summer.

After the events of this past weekend, I took a look internally at what I think I am capable of. Sitting here now, tired, a bit sore and emotionally fatigued, I have readjusted my goals. At Cayuga, I want to have a good time. At Twisted, I want to finish.

I was talking to a friend the other day and I wish I’d not heard stories about how tough Twisted is. I think it is preventing me from giving myself a chance. I have never signed up for a race before without believing I could do it. At Twisted, I was unsure but confident I would make it out alive. Right now, I’m on the edge of doubt. I really wish I hadn’t listened to people share their experience. How the race changes people. I don’t normally get psyched out, but I can see myself headed in that direction.

Therefore, I have adjusted my goals to help me enjoy the rest of the training and the race. I will try hard, but my goal is first to finish. To enjoy the 60 or so miles mostly, and just be happy getting out there. I have some friends crewing and pacing, which I am thankful for. Seeing their faces will be a huge boost. However, the bad experience I had on the trail last weekend, although nothing to do with the course, weighs on my mind.

I have done what I can to stop thinking about it, but it’s proved difficult. I don’t want to get into that mental space on the trail. I am confident these feelings will pass, as they’ve already started to fade and I feel lighter and happier. However, they still come up at the most random times. All I can do is keep working on me, enjoy the training and help myself out.

To be honest, I’ve taken this as an opportunity to try workouts or things I haven’t had the chance to try in the past. I am taking initiative to get myself where I need to be. Might I fail? Sure, but I don’t do this to win or be perfect, I do it because it’s hard, I enjoy it most times and the suffering makes me feel alive.

Next weekend at Cayuga some pretty great girls are coming to play. Sabrina Little and Sarah Keyes, both fantastic runners are showing up and I plan to learn from them. I am going to school next Saturday. These opportunities do not happen often on the East Coast, so I am taking advantage of their knowledge and experience. I can’t wait to get out there and have my ass handed to me.

I’ll be so much smarter the next go around.

Yesterday I ran with a new friend I actually met at FLRTC the day before. I felt some soreness in my foot, so I knew I needed a new supportive shoe. Nothing fancy. I got the Brooks Ghosts and Brooks Revel off the men’s sale rack. While I was there, a dude came in and I remembered I saw him earlier that week on the bike path. We got to talking, found out we run at the same time, so we met up yesterday. I didn’t plan to do 14 miles, but it felt right. I’m happy to have found a new training partner.

Today I ran a really easy 7 miles at six mile creek. My legs were tired, I have some outer shin discomfort on the right side, so it wasn’t that hard to go super easy. It’s funny how the night before a super easy day, I am ready for some “blissfully easy” miles…and I end up sore, humbled and well, it’s just not what I expected. Workout days sometimes feel easier you know?

Speaking of workouts, I did my first solo workout on Wednesday. I did 8 half mile uphills with the downhill recovery in between. My legs and butt were burning by the end. Hill work is one of my favorites when I am relearning how to judge speed, simply because they are completely effort based. I also remembered to use my lap band, so if I do another set before Twisted, I can judge how I am improving (or recovering).

Since there is so little time between Cayuga and Twisted, I really think most of my training will be recovery focused. I will only do workouts if I feel up to it. Cayuga will be the last true workout.

Food has been really good lately. Really good. I have made a lot of rice, was blessed with pesto and hummus from my work, and have been trying to get a bit creative. I tried a pineapple turmeric hummus which I really enjoyed. I made pesto roasted potatoes in my air fryer. I finally bought corn nuts, so of course I’ve been putting them on my bowls as a crunch.

Breakfast cycles between yogurt bowls and pancakes. I’ve been using a vanilla protein powder in the bowls, which I think has been helpful in my recovery from workouts and races. I do feel lighter lately and eating more produce has definitely been good for the digestive system if you know what I mean.

My struggles in my diet basically involve hydration. I’m trying, it’s just a struggle. What I have implemented is drinking half a bottle of water before my run each morning. Some days I just get up and run. However drinking the water during the night and before I leave is proving beneficial. Whoa who knew right?

Today I have a complete day off, so errands and laundry will get done. My sister is working for my mom today, so I’ll go see her this afternoon. We’ve got a lot to talk about.

Happy. Fine.

“How are you?” is a question I get asked a lot. I ask it a lot myself. That’s part of customer service. The overwhelming answer I hear, and one I give myself, is “I’m fine”.

Usually I think that’s true. In this moment, I am not in present danger, I am working a job I like, I have a pretty good life. Fine is a perfectly acceptable and true answer.

When I ask how someone is, and a I truly care, I’ve started to reframe how I do that. I’ve started asking “How is your life?” Or “Are you happy?”

Those questions probe deeper and I actually care on a deeper level about the answers.

This past weekend and few days, I asked myself those questions.

Am I happy? How is my life?

I had a rougher weekend on some fronts, which made me sad. Actually, I numbed out for a while. I just wasn’t ready to cope with what I knew it meant. What I wanted it to me. Not because it would make my life harder or worse, but how it might affect other people.

Of course, this might all be projection and all parties will end up better off and happy. However, hard decisions were made, and it was unsettling for a while. During my numbing out process, what ultimately helped me make a decision was asking, Am I happy? How is my life?

Yes. I am happy. My life is good.

Can I move on from this in a direction that will still make me happy? Will the decision I make improve my life?

Yes and yes.

Answering those two questions made it obviously clear what the next step is and my path forward.

My life is not changing in a significant way. I will still be happy regardless, I’ve learned I am more than this one facet of my life.

I am happy. I am fine. Life is good.