This has been a week of running on tired legs. At some point in the marathon training cycle the legs get beat down due to the pounding. Being a trail runner, I’ve learned what to do to combat the fatigue… I get on the trail and spend some quality time high-stepping over rocks and plowing through single track.
I reached out to my buddy Jerry; he was game for a run on the Mesa Trail Wednesday morning and promised to bring his video camera. Jerry has mad video skills (check out his latest Race Report and video of the Rocking 50-mile in Kansas last weekend) and we thought it would be fun to document a little run-around on the trail, Saturday Morning Zen- style.
We met at Chautauqua and headed up the brutal incline. Jerry’s an experienced Ultra Runner and trains in these hills with the Colorado Ninjas. As soon as we took off he turned on the camera but immediately started to lag behind. “Start out slower, this is serious tempo!”
I would have laughed except I needed the breath. The heart-pounding exertion of hitting a 25% incline from Zero is intense. This is always my slowest mile, but I have hopes that it’ll get faster one day, as long as my heart doesn’t explode.
My sore glutes loosened up immediately. It’s hard to focus on aches and pains when you’re concentrating on each breath. The intense rise and fall of the chest, the rhythmic sounds of air whooshing through parted lips, and the warmth of my limbs as freshly oxygenated blood pushed through my veins was all-consuming. My body was present and alive, and the familiar feeling of crossing the threshold from rest to intense exercise was the drug I craved.
Clouds hugged the mountains but promised to hold back the rain as long as we stayed on the trail. Jerry darted around, doing intervals on tired legs as I cruised along. He’s incredibly visual and can picture in his mind what a film will look like; all he has to do is get in the right position to record the image. Several times he sprinted ahead or fell behind as I continued my solitary journey, only to rejoin me a few minutes later. This was never jarring though; his peaceful, steady, intuitive energy matches the mountain.
He let me set the pace for a while, though he commented that this was a tempo run for him, not a training or recovery run. It took another mile for my brain to process this comment and realize he meant I was going too fast.
As we looped behind NCAR and headed down the stair steps he saw a fellow runner friend. I said hello and continued on my way, deep in my own thoughts and warm in the safety of my body. These stairs can be treacherous in various seasons; icy in winter and slippery in the heat of the summer when the ground is parched. Today, they were manageable and I slowed to an easy downhill glide.
As we headed out of the ravine I dialed into the pace I’m used to keeping. Jerry caught up to me again and we talked about Ultra training and heart rate zones. I told him about being a “flaky racer”, in that I usually show up at races dehydrated, sleep deprived, with cramps or headache, lacking sunscreen, or whatever, pulling whatever run/pace out of my butt as I go. He’s a fabulous racer that has all the I’s dotted and T’s crossed at all times and trains in his heart rate zone, and mentioned that I would do well to slow down and get more endurance under my belt for upcoming Ultras.
I thought about how much my running has improved this training cycle, due in large part to running with Team Alpaca. They are, without exception, stronger and faster runners than me; I’ve built muscle, speed and stamina trying to keep up with them. After the Colorado Marathon, it’s wild to think about shifting gears and training with someone else’s expertise to make me a better Ultra Runner. I have so much to learn, and adore the fact that there are people out there who willingly share their wisdom and experience with those of us who want to learn.
Jerry and I covered a lot of verbal ground in addition to running almost two hours yesterday morning. He followed me out on my tempo pace, cracked jokes and told stories as we ran. I listened to his words and hung out with my body, letting tired muscles reinvigorate on my darling single track, breathing the rich mountain air and enjoying the easy feel of legs that are at home in trail shoes, dancing through the rock fields.
I need one more trail recovery run before heading to Fruita next week. I know my body is ready to race, but I need to cover a little more single track to get my wits about me and settle the energy. Racing is 90% mental; in 48 hours, my mind will be ready too.