“Nobody takes an off season out here.” My manager made this off-the-cuff remark to me the other day. And he’s right. Maybe it’s our perfect-for-running, year round, moderate temperatures or our general Type A attitudes, but most athletes I know train consistently throughout the winter (or, I should say, “winter”). We fear losing months of hard earned fitness, but with that we sacrifice the opportunity to rest and heal our bodies.
I raced a lot this year, and hit all my goals in my A races. It was totally successful from a training standpoint, but I could feel the burnout creeping in towards the end of the season. Minor niggles turned into little annoying injuries. I was tired all the time and my appetite was all over the place. Sometimes I was so hungry I could eat my own arm, and other times I just couldn’t be bothered to make food (that’s how I knew something was up. I’m always hungry.) My sleep was inconsistent. My heart rate always seemed high. All signs pointing to overtraining. So now that my 50 mile race is over, I’m taking my first ever dedicated off season. And I am actually enjoying it! I took an entire week off from all exercise, and now I’m going to yoga a few times a week, I’ve gotten back on my bike, and I’m planning some hikes with friends. I’m doing all the stuff that got squeezed out of my life when I was putting in 60-70 mile weeks.
I know the overachiever in you doesn’t believe me that taking time off will benefit you in the long run, so here are a few reasons why your 2015 self will thank you.
The North Face Endurance Challenge: my first fifty mile race. My first ultra. I went through a week of feeling like a ball of stress and anxiety. Drop bags were laid out by Tuesday. Crew and pacer strategy planned out Wednesday. Race outfit decided on by Thursday. The best carb-loady chicken pho from Turtle Tower on Friday. I’ve been obsessing over this for almost 5 months, and race day was finally here. I haven’t had this kind of nervousness before a race in quite a while. It felt good, in a strange way, to be taking on a new challenge. I had no idea how my body would handle anything past 30 miles. My longest training run on the trails, after all, was only 24 miles. I tell my clients all the time to trust in their training, but man, it is hard sometimes.
I popped out of bed at 3:30am wide awake. It’s pouring outside. Shit. Coffee (maybe too much), bagel with sunflower seed butter, water. Let’s hit the road! Pon and I picked up Jesse and headed to the Golden Gate Bridge. Still pouring. Sidenote: the radio plays really awful music at this hour. We made it to the Headlands and the rain finally stops. Drop bags dropped off, porta potties visited, pre-race photos taken, Angela’s nerves calmed down. 5:02am: It’s go time. I take off with the second wave after watching the elites fly out the gate at a blistering pace. “It’s 50 miles! Slow down!”
The first two loops are up Bobcat and back down Rodeo Valley. The first loop felt awful. Pace was okay, but my right foot hurt and my left calf hurt. And my headlamp kept sliding down my face and bonking me in the nose the entire 2 mile downhill. But running under that full moon was just about the most magical thing I’ve ever done. Second loop I started to feel better. The foot pain faded, and by mile 10 the calf pain was gone. Thank goodness, because that would have made for a very long race. It was also at this point I realized I was already 10 miles in and hadn’t taken in any Gu. Whoops. I rolled into the mile 14 Tennessee Valley aid station to find Jack, my crew of one, waiting patiently for me in his neon green shirt. Tailwind resupplied, rice crispy bar eaten. And I’m off again!