Running Should Not Be a Source of Stress: Why I’m Pulling the Plug on My Fall Ultra
Posted on September 04 2013
I have a hard time backing out of something I’ve decided to do. As far as I can recall, I’ve only once missed a race that I signed up to run. It was the 2011 Manchester Half Marathon, and I opted to skip it because I strained my back a week or so beforehand while picking something up off of the floor. I was virtually immobilized for a few days, so it was a valid excuse I suppose.
For the past few weeks I’ve been stressed out about my training. I had registered to run the Vermont 50K at the end of this month, and it was the only race on my Fall schedule. My experience training for my Spring marathon this year wasn’t all that great, and I thought that training for another ultra might make for nice change and a different kind of challenge (I’ve completed one 50K previously, but I didn’t really approach it as a race). It hasn’t turned out that way.
The past six months have been crazy for me. Since leaving my old job in May I’ve been traveling around New England almost non-stop. I think there’s only been a single 2-week stretch since May that I haven’t been on a trip of some sort. As a result, my training has been erratic. Very erratic. Some weeks I’ll nail the workouts that Caleb sends and hit 40 miles or more, other weeks I may not even break 10-15.
The month of August was a perfect example of my training life of late. I had a great week of training at the beginning of August, but then had a bit of quad/knee pain followed by a lingering bout with a GI bug. At the same time I was setting up my new office and trying to figure out how to structure my new job. My running momentum was shot. This past weekend I was camping up in the North country of NH with my family, and we’ve been transitioning my youngest son into preschool (it has not been easy!). Now only about 3.5 weeks out from the race I find myself having not run longer than 14 miles in a single run since my May marathon. I’ve managed a max of only 10 miles on trails, and it kicked my butt (road fitness and trail fitness are not the same!).
Needless to say, I’m feeling woefully undertrained to handle a trail 50K. I know that I could run the race and probably complete it, but it would probably wind up being a death-march at the end if I tried to race it (which, knowing me, is what most likely would happen). It would probably also take me a month or so to fully recover (about 4 weeks is my typical post-marathon recovery period). I have a lot of friends who are going to be at the VT50, and it would be great to hang out, but I’m also craving some semblance of stability and routine at home and another weekend away isn’t going to help with that (I turned down a chance to run Reach the Beach this year for the same reason – too many weekends away from home lately).
One of the reasons I decided to leave my old job was to eliminate all of the unnecessary stress that came along with it. With that accomplished, the last thing I want is for running to become a new source of stress. I don’t want to feel like I’ve let myself down by not being able to get a workout in. I don’t want to feel like I should struggle to fit in a long run while away on vacation with my family. I want to run because it helps me to burn off stress, not create it.
I emailed Caleb with my thoughts about dropping the race, and his response was:
“I think you should run what you will have the most fun running. Here’s the thing: Running should be fun, not a chore. Choose what excites you, and we’ll put together the best training possible for it.”
Wise advice, and it’s why I respect Caleb as a coach. My wife had been telling me the same thing for a few weeks, but we all know that advice from a spouse requires independent confirmation.
I want running to be fun, and cramming workouts into an already crazy schedule has not been fun. What’s more, running long has felt like a chore. I don’t get excited about running 15+ miles alone on Sundays (dread is a better word…), and that should tell me something. I need some down time with my family on weekends, and focusing on shorter races for the time being would allow that. I still want to work hard, but I’ll trade hill repeats or a track workout for a 20 mile run any day.
So, I’ve decided to pull the plug and back out of the VT50K. Just writing that last sentence has a calming effect, though I do still feel a bit guilty about it, like I’ve let myself down. Maybe I’ll try again when I know I can do the training required to respect the race, we’ll see.
As a fallback, I may run the Manchester Half Marathon instead – I’m plenty trained for a half on the hills and I might actually be able to pull out a decent race. A few 5K’s might also be in order. But, more than anything I just want to run for fun and for fitness, and to settle comfortably into my new life.