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As peak training is about to come to a screeching halt, and the much anticipated (especially by my husband, who is terrified of how I’m going to react to it) taper approaches, I finally feel like I’m starting to dig myself out of the depths of a sweaty pile of laundry and shoes and starting to engage with the outside world once again. The peak weeks of any training program are not just physically rigorous, but mentally taxing, and one giant time suck. Almost everything in my world has taken a back seat to training, and I’m existing in a world where that feels completely normal.
Though I realize it’s not.
So, if you’re one of the many people who I’ve been ignoring for the last month, rest assured it’s nothing personal. Here’s a full list of excuses of why I haven’t called you back:
1. I’m probably training.
excuse answer, right? Let’s get this one out of the way:
This race I’m training for, the Barkley Fall Classic (the “baby” Barkley, if you will) ranks up there as one of the most difficult and ridiculous races I’ve ever attempted. It’s not something as traditional and understood as say, trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon. A BQ (Boston Qualifying time) comes with a pretty standard training protocol. Though not “easy” by any means, the science behind what it takes to achieve such a goal is pretty well understood.
The BFC? It has somewhere around a 30% finishers rate. Tens of thousands of feet of vertical gain and loss, on climbs so steep, you have to use your hands, or your butt…because traversing on feet while ascending or descending just isn’t going to happen. A course so brutal that people who can run circles around me on flat road have DNF’d. A course where you will find no exact map, distance, or elevation change online, because GPS watches are strictly prohibited. A course with strict time cutoffs, but you truly never have any idea how close you are to beating them, because again, you have no idea how far you’ve gone or how far you have left to go without that blasted GPS. (Obviously, the course isn’t marked with mileage markers.)
Extreme events call for extreme training. During a recent conversation with a client, we discussed how there is a bit of a disconnect between the traditional running and run coaching world, and the ultramarathon – especially the more ridiculous races – community. Standard training and coaching philosophies go out the window, because let’s face it: what we do is not…well…standard. By any means.
The “no longer than 3 hours on your feet, or you’ll do damage to your body” philosophy can take a hike (literally, on the treadmill at a 15% incline) when you are training for a race that’s going to last you 24 hours or more (or 13:20:00 or less, as is the case of the BFC). Training in pace zones does little to help when you’re on your hands and knees trying to summit a steep course that goes way off “trail”.
The unknown of this race has left me feeling desperate to grasp for every bit of strength and endurance I can gain, wherever and whenever I can get it. Reward outweighs risk in my case, and I’m definitely pushing that fine line of overtraining, while listening very closely to my body to make sure I don’t actually cross that line. And so, between clients, I’m on the treadmill. Between writing training plans, I’m running away to the trail. I’m gratefully subbing for other peoples group exercise classes, for an excuse to squeeze in more cross training. I see the sun rise and the sun set from wherever I’m training at that given moment, every single day.
2. I’m busy eating.
Back when I was pretending to be a triathlete, I used to marvel over how hungry swimming would make me. I never understood why a measly 200 yard swim (might as well have been 200 miles for this horrible swimming) would leave me feeling so ravenous. But it always did, without fail.
This current peak week has left me feeling the same. Just the other day, I was shoving Fig Newtons (they happened to be in my husbands gym bag, and I wasn’t going to turn them down) into my face while ON the treadmill at the gym, despite the very confused looks of fellow gym goers.
The calorie in vs. calorie out game during peak week feels impossible to keep up with, especially when you work in a gym and never stop moving. In a perfect world, I’d be refueling with wholesome, organic, nutrient dense foods, but let’s be honest: no food is off limits during peak week. You’ll find yourself absolutely too ravenous to care. (Related future article: why I’ll never have visible abs)
If you’re lucky, and you listen closely, you’ll find your body is craving good, wholesome, nutritious foods. If you listen even closer, you’ll also hear a cry for ice cream with extra sprinkles. Just go with it.
- 2A. Addendum to #1: those two bags of frozen corn in the freezer are off limits. Those are for icing whatever feels sore that particular evening.
3. I’m busy creating dirty laundry that I don’t have time to wash.
Laundry feels impossible to keep up with during peak week, so let’s be honest: I don’t even try. But it’s OK, my husband swore off doing my laundry a few years ago, so it doesn’t phase him Multiple workouts per day equals multiple outfit changes, less you keep the sweaty, smelly clothes on all day and lose the remaining friends who haven’t forgotten about you while you’ve signed your life away to training.
4. Every waking hour is spent thinking about training.
…or wondering if I should be training when I know deep down that I should be resting (like at this very moment.) Thoughts like “I wonder how many more miles I could get in the thirty minute break I have between clients” will cross your mind. As will “do the three flights of stairs I have to climb to my third floor apartment count towards my weekly elevation goals?” I’m also wondering how pretty much EVERYTHING else in my life can help my training. Vitamins? Check. Massage? Check.
There’s this fascinating mental threshold athletes have when it comes to training. There are those who treat training like an afterthought, the “oh crap, I have a race in a month, I should probably do a long run or something.” There are those who walk the line perfectly, following their training plan and trusting that they are doing everything they need to. Then there are those who not only cross that threshold, but run an extra few miles away from it, because there is an innate fear that you could do absolutely everything in the world to prepare, and it still won’t be enough.
I’ll let you guess which category I currently fall into.
5. I’m sleeping.
I’ve never, in my entire adult life, been able to nap. My body will scream for rest, but my brain will not shut up it’s incessant thought process. From sun up to sun down, my mind has never been able to quiet itself, thus preventing me from ever napping.
A few weeks ago, however, my amazing husband encouraged me to just give it a try. Reluctantly, I laid down next to him on the couch, and the next thing you know, I was sleeping. SLEEPING! I had successfully accomplished an honest to goodness midday siesta, and I immediately realized it was a game changer.
Therefore, if I’m not :
- not doing laundry, or
- thinking about training
chances are I’m sleeping. Because let’s be honest: I’m f*#king exhausted.
Sixteen more days.