Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Recap & What's been happening

It been almost 1 month since the end of the SLAM and I am back in the full swing of regular life. On my way back to our place after just finishing Wasatch in my deep fatigue when asked what's next I said, "I am retired". For the first time after the conclusion of a big event I couldn't think of anything I wanted to do with running, I was content with retirement. However I knew within 4 short days of being home in Portland I would be boarding another plane with Stacey and crew for her race, AC100M. My duties for her event were to be main crew person and if I was up for it I would also pace her from mile 55 to 62. She didn't have a pacer from 62-75 which are much more critical miles so I said I would give it a try and the worst thing that could happen is she would leave me in the dust. Thinking that would be a great mental boost for her to say she had dropped her pacer I was eager to help her out. For the first 7 miles of my pacing duties I felt great but for the last 8 I could feel my legs and was thinking about all the Last Great Racers who where out on the challenging AC100 course just one week after the gruelling Wasatch, WOW. I honestly don't know if I could have done it, a big congratulations to all that did. Darin paced Stacey for the last 25 miles and he wrote about it on his blog.

For finishing the SLAM we received this really neat eagle trophy, a shirt and a small pin. There were 11 people who made it through all four races but only two woman. I was pretty pumped to be done and the memories I have are so cool. For the last month I have been reminiscing about the entire process and all the good laughs we all had. It was a ton of work but really wasn't that hard. I think once I had made the commitment to see it through in the best form I could it was a done deal. I went into the SLAM with a very specific plan on how I would approach all the races and for the most part I executed it exactly. There were things that came up along the way that changed but all for the better and I think I gave it my best effort. I learned a ton along the way about myself, my friends and just basic life stuff. Nothing earth shattering and not everything I learned was new; some of the things just affirmed what I had already thought but I took away some new lessons.

My SLAM plan was to train like crazy for WS100M as if it was the only race I was going to run all year and run that race as hard as I could. Once WS100M was over I planned to recover nicely and putz through Vermont 100M, using all the allowed time if necessary in order to save myself for Leadville. I wanted to go under 25 hours at Leadville because I knew I had a shot and I was planning on acclimating as much as I could. I know I don't do well at altitude and I knew I couldn't run well there without spending the time acclimating. I also knew I wouldn't be doing this every summer so I wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity. After Leadville I planned to just get through Wasatch. I knew the Wasatch course well and I also knew I would have 3 100M races on my legs so if I needed the 36 hours I was going to take it.

Everything was in place, I trained very hard for WS100M and I thought I had a really good chance of going under 23 hours there. Unfortunately the day did not go well from mile 30-72 and I battled stomach issues like never before. I did not take enough salt, in fact I took none, not unusual for me but with the increased intensity I was running and the fact that I don't like raspberry G2O cost me. I was lucky enough to get sick at mile 72 and release the beach ball in my stomach. From 72-100 I ran well enough to get under 24. My SLAM plan was not on course but since my WS100M performance was weak I recovered very fast. As Vermont approached I felt a ton of apprehension since I have never run a 100M race back to back and it was a fast course. I knew I could get under 30 hours but I felt the uneasiness of the unknowing. I had no big plans for Vermont except to soak up the environment and enjoy the day which meant my crew got a break from my normal craziness. The day turned out to be amazing and I slowed myself down all day wondering when the big truck was going to hit me. Walking on purpose to save myself from the unknown doom that I was sure was just around the corner was a very new move for me. I talked to the horseback riders, I goofed around in the aid stations and to top it off I refused to run for last 5 miles! I told Stacey I was saving myself for Leadville :). I was just thrilled to be under 24 hours and to do 21:36 was unbelievable. More perplexing was how good I felt as if I hadn't run any races before Vermont, even better was how fast I bounced back.

I was so stoked about Leadville and now that Vermont was over and I survived it eased my apprehension. I had more confidence about my 25 hour goal. Leadville went just as planned and I got under 25 hours but felt like I was running against the clock all day! With only 2 weeks at 10,000 feet the race I had was the best I could have done, I don't feel like I left anything on the trail. The lessons of the prior two hundreds were so valuable and all of the highs and lows of WS100M and Vermont100M were felt during Leadville. Since I ran Leadville with so much focus and effort I thought my recovery would be very slow and with Wasatch only 3 weeks away I was concerned about how hard race day might be. Fortunately I recovered even fast after Leadville than I did after WS and Vermont, all very surprising but welcomed.

Since Wasatch was the last one I had nothing to loose....leave it all on the trail. I chose to run the race without my heart rate monitor to police my effort. I figured the worst thing that could happen is I have to slow down and take more time. As the race unfolded I felt better and better. Again the lessons learned from the prior races came in to play from solving poor digestion to dealing with fatigued muscles.

I think the strategy I had going into the SLAM was a good one. The plan to run hard at two events and get through the other two gave me focus but also a release. Focus for two big events and just fun and easiness for the others. I believe there was an unconscious aspect that held me back on all the races that did not exist at Wasatch. Being in the moment at each event I would not have said this but now, after Wasatch I know there was always a little voice in my head saying, "your not done yet, don't blow it". Would I have done it differently, NO! The plan gave me better results than I could have ever dreamed up.

As I mentioned above I learned a few things this summer. First and foremost my family and friends gave and gave unselfishly all summer with nothing but huge smiles and lots of warmth. They were so amazing, pacing, traveling, laminating pace charts, preparing race foods, cleaning up after me, taking care of Alex, getting directions, bringing me things I forgot, checking on me while I was away, motivating me....the list just goes on and on. All summer I felt very lucky and blessed to be friends with such great people. I learned that these people are unique and special and I hope I am just as good to them.

Many people do the SLAM and everyone does it differently but for me to attempt this was a big deal. I have worked hard in the last 3 years to improve my running times and learn how to run a 100 race well but in reality I am just an average person and running 4 100 races in 12 weeks was huge for me and my family. Planning was a big deal figuring out how to continue to function as a family and still do this. I was reminded how communicating and planning can make or break a goal when it involves so many other people. Bill and I sat down months before WS to map out the whole SLAM and that was so valuable. When the time came calendars with trips and plans were guiding us to the next stop with no hiccups or surprises. All of this in turn gave me the opportunity to visualize what the summer would be like. Since I had no idea how my body would respond I prepared for the worst. I had time to think about recovery and what that would like, what would I eat and what things could I do to speed my recovery. I was lucky that Stacey is LMT so she would massage my legs right after my runs and then again the next day which made a huge difference. I took lots of immune booster vitamins, drank a ton of water, took a few ice baths, got 3 pedicures and tried to get a ton of sleep. Planning gave me the freedom to focus and enjoy the adventure...there is nothing like it :).

I felt like I got stronger with each race and who knows if I was getting physically stronger or simply mentally tougher. I definitely think I am physically stronger but the mental aspect of my races got much more of a workout. I have always considered myself somewhat mentally tough but I have my moments and can be very much a wimp. After WS100M I learned more about fueling than I could have imagined but more than that I learned the power of being in the moment. Taking stock in what is going on in my race at that very moment, not thinking so far ahead. Being mindful of how my body was responding to what I was putting in and the subsequent energy high and lows. I got to practice what it was like to run in pain. I thought I knew how to deal with discomfort but now I really know...Wasatch taught me that but because of my other races I had better coping skills. I learned how to shut out the noise in my head that is not useful and focus more internally on what's happening. With races being so close together I got to practice everything I did poorly in the prior races while it was still fresh in my mind. I can honestly say I don't think I repeated any of my mistakes because they were so fresh and I was mindful of them. In the past I think I have been pretty good at learning from my mistakes but this was rapid fire learning and generally when things are really fresh you don't forget :).

The biggest lesson I learned from the SLAM was the value of recovery. I have recovery runs and days off planned during training but not enough. I obviously perform better with more recovery because that's all I did this summer.....race & recover. I had no idea how fatigued I really was during training but with so much forced recovery I was itching to run. I couldn't wait to get back out there and milked all the running I was able to do in between events. There was no dragging my behind out the door and no lack luster workouts because I was so rested. Now the challenge will be to remember this lesson when it comes time to train again and I have to say this will be very hard for me.:).

For the last month I have been doing just a bit of running and a lot of weight training. With 8 weeks out of the weight room I was feeling nervous about getting back into it, sort of starting from scratch. I have lost a lot of muscle mass in my upper body but that might have been a good thing for my running. I think I lost a total of 4 pounds over the summer and I suspect half of it was muscle mass. Since I have been back the biggest weakness I noticed was my lower abdominals and back! They are really weak but the funny thing is I thought they were weak before....well now they are really weak! I have been running about 5 days a week but nothing very taxing, lots of runs with friends just chatting and getting caught up. I am going to the gorge on Monday's and it's nice to be back. Trisha and I went for a 2 hour run up Angels Rest and around. I have also been doing 1 hour on the treadmill on a random hill setting and that has been fun.

Next year.......I sent in my application for WS100M and Micheal told me I have a problem :). He means this in a good way. I can't seem to let that race go and move on :). I think it's because I don't feel like I have never run it very well and once I get the feeling I had a good day there I will move on. As all of you know the chances of getting in are slim so I have lots of other things looming in my brain.


olga said...

This was great recap, and I am glad I clicked on it this morning. Hopefully, I'll be thinking about it in the next couple of days, on unmarked cow paths and through the snow:) I'd like to begin at least mental rest soon too!
Thanks again for taking us long the way. See you at the Gorge some day this winter, and good luck with the lottery - I have a problem too:)

Jon said...

I salute the Rooster! Your race strategy seems almost golden for any future hopeful of a Grand Slam finish (or at the very least, learning the value of recovery between tough races in a short time).

Good luck with the WS2008 lottery!