Thursday, February 19, 2015

Shake it UP

Pre-dawn start, Holiday Lake 50k
Last weekend, I finished my 3rd 50k trail race at Holiday Lake State Park. Admittedly, it wasn't the most fun day I've ever had out on the trails. The night before the race, my usual excited pre-race jitters were strangely MIA. I wasn't nervous about the distance, just slightly dreading the 6:30AM start time. Although I was stoked to head out to Holiday Lake (its BEAUTIFUL!), I wasn't crazy pumped to actually run the race. Weird. At the start line, I got a little excited, mostly because it was my first pre-dawn race start and I knew an amazing sunrise was just around the corner.

I just felt off, and I knew it was going to be a tough day.

Beautiful sunrise over Holiday Lake, Appomattox VA

The race began and I settled in for what would be over 6 hours of trail running over some of the prettiest trails around. This is the stuff I love. But on that day, I didn't love it.

The course at Holiday Lake is long, topping out around 33 miles (hence the race title, Holiday Lake++), and it felt long. The lake is gorgeous, boasting sweet single-track, nice views and tons of wildlife. I knew I should be having a ball. But I found myself doing what I rarely do...counting down the miles until the finish. Waiting for the end. Not the excitement of the finish line, but the part when its over.
What's wrong with me today?!

The Holiday Lake 50k++ is an awesome event. Its beautiful, well organized, very well-marked and packed with wonderful volunteers and awesome aid stations (grilled cheese, YES!). It has a great reputation and is a staple in the VA Ultra-trail running scene. My bad day had nothing to do with the race itself and everything to do with my own mind and body. That 6:30AM start time may have contributed a little to my funk, but that's just because I was already sorta cranky.

One of the nice little hill-climbs @ Holiday Lake
I finished the race in one piece, coming in at 6hours, 11 minutes. I got to shake hands with race director David Horton, who has been organizing this annual event for 2 decades. I was honored to participate in this great race and bummed that I hadn't had a stronger day. I snagged my sweet finishers shirt and a snack and called it a day.

Logically, I know that this burnt-out feeling is probably self-inflicted. Signing up for my first 50k last December (Seashore 50k), then following it so closely by not one (Willis River 50k), but two more consecutive ultra-marathons was maybe a bad call. I'm sure plenty of seasoned ultra-runners pack in 3 races in 3 months; seasoned ultra-runner I am NOT. Maybe I should have entered the ultra-scene feet first instead of diving straight into the deep end. But, when tempted with just one more 50k, I was still having fun and surprisingly not injured, so I thought, "What the heck, I'm in." I didn't allow myself any recovery time between races, jumping back into my normal weekly mileage after each race. Rookie.

Surprisingly, I've avoided major bodily injury (which is really lucky, considering I'm a total klutz); my only injury seems to be in my brain. Suddenly, running ridiculously long distances isn't super appealing to me. Huh?! I'm sure I'll get the ultra-itch again soon, but for now, I need a new focus. So, I've decided to scale back my mileage, focus on cross-training, strength training and improving my performance at shorter distances. Running fast on single-track is my favorite, so I'm hanging up my Camelbak for a little while to focus more on speed, strength, having fun and looking good in my swimsuit. 

I'll be out at Pocahontas State Park for this year's Instant Classic Trail Races, but opting for the half-marathon distance instead of the full 26.2. My longer training runs are going to be slashed to around 10miles; short enough to go fast and not need to carry tons of fuel, but long enough to get a good sweat on and not feel like a total lard-ass.

My experience at Holiday Lake made it clear just how cozy I've gotten in my little trail-running comfort zone. Too cozy. A year ago, the marathon was the ultimate challenge. After one full marathon and 3 ultra-marathons, the next step up as far as ultra-running goes is a 50-miler. No friggin way. Let's just say that for now, I've conquered the longest running distance that I'm interested in.


What's next?Plunging myself out of my comfort zone again, I've set my sights on a Sprint Triathalon in June, NAYLOR'S BEACH. in Warsaw, which is about an hour east of Richmond. I'm not much of a cyclist (does Spin class count?), and my only swim training was when I was about 7, but how hard could it be?

Once I figure out how, exactly, one trains to complete 3 sports in the same day (the wardrobe changes alone are intimidating), I'll write about my training adventures here. Luckily, I've got a cousin and a brother who are both experienced triathletes, along with a hubby who happens to be a great road cyclist. The three of them can look forward giving out lots of free advice and holding my hand as I inevitably stumble along, trying to learn the ropes of two new sports. Of course, I'll still be hitting the trails around RVA and stirring up a little mischief along the way.
Time to go shopping for some sweet new goggles and a cheap bike. This is gonna be super easy.  

Happy Trails!