Monday. Just got back from my Monday night ride and I’m feeling pretty good. I was a little nervous because I was in Florida last weekend for my running camp, and I came home with a whopper of a cold. My first big event of the year is this coming Saturday. This past Saturday, I was bummed that instead of my 20-25 mile run, I only got in 17. My coach says not to worry. Intellectually I know there is nothing I can do the week before to improve my fitness for a 50-mile run*. (*When I say run, I mean walk the uphills, run the downhills and do an “opportunistic”** run/walk on the flats. The first 30 miles of Rock the Ridge are uphill and the last 20 downhill, I think I’ll be hiking for 30 miles and jogging for 20 if I have anything left in me.) Total elevation is approximately 7,000 feet of climbing. **My old coach ‘Shifu’ used to call it opportunistic walking and I’ve kept that in my vocab. Instead of walking by a set time, walk vs. run when it is most advantageous.
The real reason I’m feeling proud of myself is because tonight I made it up the stupid little hill by my house on my bike. I’ve ridden up it a million times in my life but at the beginning of every season I can’t make it up. It pisses me off. I thought for sure after my winter of intense cycling classes I would zip right up, but no. Both weeks I tried to spin, spin, spin, but by the time I got to Dry Bridge Rd I was just too burnt to spin up it. Tonight, however, I zipped right up. Well, zip might be a stretch. I made it up with no problem, and that is going to make me sleep well tonight. It’s my little benchmark. Make it up that hill and I am doing okay. If I have to walk…. zzzttt. I made it up so easily that I suspect there might have been a problem with my bike before (new tires put on today and tightened the hub).
Running camp in Florida. Good as usual. This trip was to my third running camp with Dreamchasers. I’ve been to camps in Arizona and the Grand Tetons and this one in Florida. (Lisa Smith-Batchen hosts them. She is coaching me for Rock the Ridge and possibly another stab at G2G — but first I have to finish Rock the Ridge). As much as I have been feeling really good about myself having lost 25 pounds in the last year, standing next to a bunch of short, thin ultra runners is never good for your ego. I still have a long way to go and was twice the size of most of them. It was an mostly short crowd. But like most ultra runners — super nice, super supportive and though they can run circles around me, never made me feel less than equal.
At lunch, Lisa made us go around the table and tell everyone what ultras we have done and for what event we are training. The resumes were impressive to say the least. Most of the people there were training for the Keys 100 next month (100 mile run in the intense heat of the Flordia Keys). A couple of campers were doing their first 50, but most of them had done several Ultras. (One gal just got finished doing a 6-mile swim followed by a 112-mile run or something crazy like that). One guy is going to run across Cuba (yes the entire country!) to commemorate when he escaped by kayak 20+ years ago). So when it finally got around to me, I was feeling a little less than worthy and said “I’ve only done one ultra.” Then Lisa made me say it, “Marathon des Sables.” As usual everyone oohed and ahhed, and I felt like a big fat fraud. I always feel like I have to qualify it. It was another lifetime ago. I was different then. That’s before cancer — before my parents dying. That’s not me. I don’t even know what to say so I just say nothing. Yeah, yeah, I can hear someone yelling “you can’t take that away from yourself.” Sure I can, 3 DNF’s outweigh one ultra. I couldn’t even pull out my Ironman medal. It seemed everyone at the table had done at least 3.
So now I want to get something on the plus side of my board because I’ve changed again. I’m a different person now than when I had all my not-finishes. I’m feeling so much better than those years — I’m just not the same. I’m not nervous about Saturday. ‘Running’ 50 miles with approx 7,000 ft of elevation — I should be nervous. But I’m not nervous because if I let myself go there, I’ll just puke, and that won’t do me any good. So I’ve just opted to be delusional. I’m not allowing in any negative thoughts. Yep, I’m going to do it, and I’m going to finish. If I have to come crawling in on crutches, that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve done enough of these events to know that worry does nothing to help — though it does make you alert. I have clicked that part of my brain that just says ‘go.’ At this point, it is a mental game. In my fantasy, I finish in 15 hours. Lisa says to make that my A plan and then make a B and C plan. So A=15 hours. B = 17 hours. C=18 hours which would be midnight and blue cheeses if I don’t finish by midnight, we go to plan D, which is to crawl.
Back to camp because I’ll forget about it soon enough. A big focus in the camp was how to train in non-optimal conditions. We talked about how to train for a high altitude race in the flats of Florida, or train for an ultra when you are really short on time. So we did a ton of cross training. Pulling tires up and over a bridge. Pulling tires backward, sideways, inside out (just kidding) and more squats, lunges, cartwheels (yeah, I couldn’t do cartwheels as a kid never mind at 55). All different kinds of drills, tons of drills and more drills. Then when you were nice and tired, you get “tire-ed” and have to pull the Goodyear up and over the bridge one more time.
We did drills on the beach (remember crab crawls?) — humiliating. We did drills on the stairs – a lot of variations on the stairs. We did drills everywhere. A lot of drills I hadn’t done before (and some I’ll never do again! lol). When I got there on Thursday, they had started already, so I jumped in and ran up and down the bridge for my gait analysis. They said I looked good. Then it was more, run here, jump here, lift this, drag that. Now do it again with your arms over your head!
On Friday alone according to one guy’s watch we did 25 miles. I did an extra 3 miles each a.m. because I liked to get up early, and power walk the boardwalk to see the sunrise. (Can you blame me after being stuck in CT for the worst winter in history?) Each afternoon I did a swim in the ocean — heaven. We ate most of our meals together. Saturday night we were hosted by Bob Becker, who is the race director for the Keys 100 and was also a camp participant. What a nice guy and what a lovely evening and dinner party.
By Saturday night, I had lost my voice but I felt fine. I did my final run on Sunday morning and flew back home. I then proceeded to have a cold/flu from hell. It lasted until Friday. So the only workout I got in was an easy ride with a lovely flat tire! And then right into my long run on Saturday which I started too late and as I said — wrapped up at 17. But it was a hard 17 — all trail, all rocks, and the middle 9 miles alone were 2,000 feet of climbing. But then I got a big fat blister and chose to stop.
So that’s where I am. Friday I leave for Rock the Ridge. It starts at 6 a.m. Saturday morning. Hopefully by 9 p.m. I will finish — coherent and standing. I have lots of lists to compile. I can’t forget one of a million items. What if it rains, what if I get a blister, what if I get cold, nauseous, hot… I have to plan for every situation. But I’m going to be good because I made it up that little hill tonight, and if I can make it up that little hill, I can do pretty much anything.