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From Elephants to Monkeys

The monkey is off my back. Yesterday culminated  months of training and just about a year with a new coach. And we all survived.

Yesterday I ran my longest race and ran my longest duration-ever-despite rolling my ankle three weeks ago in a practice 10 mile trail race. No one can ever say I don’t like to challenge myself. That is an understatement. It’s not that I jump blindly off the bridge and do what everybody else is doing; I think long and hard about what I am committing to because I do not like to give up or give in. Last August after my 10k goal race I was challenged by my new coach (who is a new runner but not a new trainer) to choose an endurance race to train for. It took me several months and eventually I decided that a 25K trail race would be a fun new event to try.

If you have been following my blog you know this year has been all about trying something new. Well, about trying everything new, and it has been filled with ups and downs, but with overall forward progress. My year has been filled with a adapting to a new philosophy about strength and conditioning and endurance training. It was also about a new more positive, independent attitude about my training.

Yesterday pretty much proved the strength and conditioning worked, including working around my 3 week old ankle injury that most people thought would take months for me to get back to running. I had no real expectations going into yesterday’s trail race; it was  new type of race, a new course for me and the longest distance I have ever run-including any practice run I have ever been on. Going into yesterday’s run the longest distance I had run in a  year was the 10 mile trail race 3 weeks prior in which I rolled my ankle. I kept thinking to myself, “I hope this is not a mistake,” but in my heart I knew I could do it and manage the distance, and I knew my ankle was strong enough to attempt it. My plan was to end the run if I felt pain in my ankle that felt sketchy.

I prepared well the week leading up to the race, including nutrition, hydration and staying mobile, but resting enough going into the race. The only thing out of my control was the weather. The day before the race the temps reached the 90’s and I was wiped out doing nothing. My ankle swelled up from my workout the day before and the heat, so I decided to rest rather than run.

The running gods smiled down upon all of us when the next day dawned overcast and in the 50’s. THAT was a good sign. I did not eat my ordinary race day breakfast, but I felt good about my nutrition and knew I had time to get in some healthy carbs before the start of the race. The only bump in my plan was a missing sock-which actually worked out for the best. After my coach taped my ankle I had to wear one of my extra socks;I wore my favorite sock on my left foot and by 17K it had started to rub against the bottom of my left foot. My right foot in my alternate sock felt great!

I ran with my Nathan hydration belt and water with Nunn tabs and a few Clif Shot Bloks just in case. Not to worry, the aid stations were perfectly spaced with so many snack options I only needed a couple shots in between stations. Carrying my own hydration saved me. I learned this lesson last year during my half marathon. Maybe it’s psychological, maybe not, but being able to hydrate every kilometer or whenever I wanted kept my muscles from screaming at me until the very end.

My new Topo trail shoes were awesome! After my brutal trail race 3 weeks ago in road shoes I purchased the Topos but had never run further than 4 miles-once on the road-in them. I had no idea what to expect. The biggest difference was the 2mm heel drop-even lower than my road shoes. Most trail shoes have a much higher drop than my Kinvara’s, so I opted to go with the low drop instead of the higher drop. My instinct was correct! One of the training changes I made during the last year was to transition to the flattest shoes possible. My feet were no more than normally tired at the end of the race, and the protection during the race was perfect. My calves and achilles were no more than normally tight at the end of the race and today being barefoot will help speed my recovery without compromising my tendons.

Overall I was in running shape to run a solid 10K. But my conditioning allowed me to complete the 25K with a combination of running and/hiking. This race was not about time. I did not wear a GPS so the kilometer markers were awesome. I knew I had completed 10K in just under 80 minutes because I asked a spectator, so I estimated I would be able to finish in 3:30. I finished in 3 hours and 37 minutes- the longest duration by an hour -that I have ever run. I was happy because I felt no more tired than if I had run 9-10 miles. My ankle and foot felt tired, but I was not in any pain. Waking up this am my ITB on my right side is bothering me and I will probably lose  toenail. But my injured ankle is actually feeling better than yesterday.

For the last 3 weeks Justin at Gain worked with me and my injury day by day to:

  1. Prevent further injury
  2. Maintain conditioning
  3. Maintain strength

For the last 12 months my transition to a new way of looking at strength and conditioning has paid off. From my first week at Gain when I learned about Kelley Starrett’s mobility work, to learning how to breathe properly and run less to run further, to giving meditation serious consideration and to working on developing a more healthy mindset, I am stronger now and more fit than I ever thought I would be in a year.

Yesterday, I knew I could accomplish my goal, because my goal made sense for me based upon all my circumstances. A year ago my goal would have been based on some arbitrary number which I may or may not have reached. Healthier mindset? I would say so. Maybe that is what my former trainer was trying to instill in me a year ago when he gave up trying. Everything happens for a reason.

Learning happens on the edge of understanding, when we push pass the discomfort of the unknown.


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