Somtimes an "ultra" marathon is quite literal- like literally running 50 miles, but sometimes it has almost nothing to do with miles you cover on your feet but more the taxing on your mind. My trip out to Pittsburgh, PA was an "ultra" race even though I only ran 26.2 miles.
Since my NV expedition and the completion of my first 50 miler ultra I have been "recovering"- running about 35-45 miles/ week, biking 50miles, swimming 3 miles and yoga 4-6 days a week, however I also added in some new weight training to see if I could start to balance out the ridiculous inconsistency between my L and R leg muscles. Although extraordinarily fatigued and dragging a bit through work, and my diet getting tossed to S*%*... I was able to keep training. I'm not quite as dumb as I act however and presumed that running a marathon 2 weeks s/p 50miles wasn't really the most ideal plan for a good recovery. But I had paid already, had a place to sleep there and Megabus could get me there from D.C. in 6 hrs for 44 dollars round trip.
So I prepared as best as I could, slept and ate and what not. It'd be fine... a smooth transition back into long distance, or so I hoped.
So physically I consider myself 85% recovered: the weird pains in my foot/ ankle continue but are NOT getting worse, so as far as I can judge- Im fine to continue. My cardio endurance is stronger than ever, but my quads/ hams hit fatigue around 11 miles. I'd have to throttle back, take this 26.2 easy and just let my body heal... this was the plan anyway.
Mentally, I was all messed up. Running is just running to many, a form of exercise, perhaps a form of torture. A fewer number find the joy in it. An even fewer number persue this joy. And even fewer than that persue this joy at all costs- driven by something, that cannot be explained by psychology as anything less than obsessive or addicted, but I'd like to hope its the drive to explore.... much like any other research on the human body. But when you have this Drive... it seperates you from many of our human 'pleasures.' Suddenly you feel like you're in a class all of your own and you either intimidate or bore others. Or perhaps its a disconnect from lack of understanding. But as runner- you bond with runners or endurance junkies with the same goals and intentions. You get ripped away from the bar scenes, the house parties, the restaurant meals and television shows your friends enjoy and seem to expect you to, at very least know what they are talking about. But slowly, but surely, you have no idea... the TV hasnt been on in a week or two, you're pulled from parties and meals by your need to maintain health and efficiency in order to keep going.
My 50miler was more taxing than I'd imagined- not physically... in fact physically I was less ravaged that I expected... but mentally/ emotionally I was raw. I have "I want my mommy" syndrome (or im calling it such- because that how it feels). I suddenly have this incestant need for hugs and human compassion that I've honestly never dealt with before. The first friday after my run I had the chance to see an enitre group of people I adore and felt safe with all of whom offered up hugs at no cost. Glorious, I thought....yes, I actually believed that this would "cure" my new syndrome. But it only lasted a short period. I had gained a new awareness of my own weaknesses and I want the feelings to go away, because they are unpleasant... but finding I need to feel my way through this or possibly re-evaluate my life to somehow meet this new need atop meeting the others is somewhat overwhelming to me. So naturally- I ignored the issue and continued onward.
Friday- pre PITT... I sort of overbooked my day, nothing out of the usual, except my mentality was ... "weak." "I want my mommy syndrome" was taking over my attitude and my perspective. I even called my mommy (haha) who was too busy to deal with my drama at the time. I drudged through the day hanging somewhere between myself and my 5yr old lonliness. Around 6pm the steady flow of the busy day came to a HALT. I didn't know what to do, and instead of remaining calm... although thinking calmly, I proceeded to cry. Long story short- my syndrome was not cured by this release- another hope/ belief I had.
Sat- pre PITT... Ok cab is here at 4:32am.. perfect... got to BmorePenn at 4:54 for $20... plenty of time to buy my tickets for the 5:23 train.... WRONG... despite my preparing I'd read online incorrectly- the first train out would leave at 6:10 (getting me to D.C. 13 min after my bus would leave). I remained calm, and discussed this with the information guy... who proceeded to pleasantly tell me, "I have no idea what you can do... a taxi but it'd be a lot of money (short pause) dont you have a friend or a boyfriend... you Must have a boyfriend who could drive you..., I mean I would drive you....." I turned toward the door as his somewhat sweet and somehow gut tearing words created a flood of tears.
I had messed up.... I wasn't sure if by not having asked for help sooner and not utilizing the friends I do have, or not having enough friends, or by not having a boyfriend- as stupid as that seemed.... but I was now standing alone in the dark in Baltimore shaking with anger and crying out my frustration figuring since there was NO ONE to hear me/ judge me I might as well. Long story short....a $100 dollar cab ride, gifted to me by a very kind cabbie.... we got me to Union station and onto my bus... where I slept and sobbed like shiftwork until about 10am... arriving in Pittsburgh at 12:00 and hitting up the Health and fitness EXPO - A giant running fair with free food samples and cool stuff I won't pay for :)- most importantly running ppl to talk to!
Then Anthony picked me up and we headed back to his place where we relaxed all day till dinner time @ 7pm a sufficient pub/ restaurant with Bobbie and her family. I was in bed by 9:30... and by now was so emotionally drained and just grateful to have a bed to sleep in. I decided while placing my things for the morning, that despite the internal pull to race and mental pull to rest... I would in fact forget about racing the course and just RUN... go strictly off feeling mile by mile, step by step.
Marathon time! Still on empty emotionally, it seemed everything "touching" made me well up with tears.... I really had no idea what gave me the idea that I could run... but here I was... jogging through the starting line, I even decided to start my watch last minute- as if the time might matter somehow.The crowd was pleasant, thick but mobile at all times clearing plenty by mile 3 to run whereever on the road you'd like. The Cheering squads surrounding the course and music were loud and enthusiatic- all very uplifting. I was warm by mile 3 and removed my long sleeve shirt which would now work as a paper towel/ sweat rag for the remainder of the run. Miles ticked by uneventfully with runs over the various bridges; up and down, up and down, I was having fun, but holding back, I could already feel the fatigue....Miles 10-13 were excrutiating for me, My legs were tired, not painful, just heavy, and my mind was weak. The idea of stopping with the half-marathoners seemed so enticing... and then the back-lash of my own mind , "How could you think like that? You want to be ultra-runner and you can't stomach a lil 26 mi training run? Some runner you are..." <=My mind can be very cruel....
Anyway sometime after mile 14 after talking myself down enough to feel like absolute garbage another female and I took turns running in front of and behind one another. I couldn't tell if she was being competitive.... i purposefully tried not to be... she would surge up the hills that I would hold steady on and I would take the down hills stronger and our flat pace seemed pretty much in check... somewhere around 17 miles... we must have done this about 5 times now, and one time she gained a few hundred yrds on me while i gnawed on a power bar chunk from the volunteers. And then it hit me, that she WAS racing, which of course meant - generally in the psyche of a runner you can only come back after being beaten so many times before you let it rest... and one runner or the other moves on alone. So my competitve nature kicked in- just a little ...and took it a little bit harder, I never saw her again, and even kept looking back. I mean having someone to pace with makes it easier.... and as the miles continue and the Spring sunshine keeps pouring down on the open road... the distraction would have been welcomed, but oh well, it was a nice boost for my ego.
The next few miles were a blur of restablishing myself as a runner- I could feel my gait falling apart and I'd pull it back together. I new I was holding back, but I certainly wasn't having the relaxing run I was "suppose" to... so running with poor form was the key to getting hurt- so I focused harder to maintina alignment and control of my footing and my legs during the ariel phase of my gait ( a common place to lose focus and strain joints and tendons). I kept checking in with my body... my legs were tired, but no pain to be found anywhere... in fact my stride was perfectly rhythmic and cheering ppl on the sideline even commented on it. I felt good, like a training run... but more thirsty :) as I was adjusting the the warmer weather.
Miles 20-26.2 took a bit more coaxing... reminding myself of my longer runs where'd Id felt much much worse.... and then at 22... there is was: the massive downhill I'd been told about... just over 1/2 mi of downhill... which is painful that many miles in, the pounding is jarring and your muscles start screaming... but hell, gravity is doing a lot of the work... and you can turn your 7:50 pace into a 6:20 pace like nothin'... so I did as suggested and took it all the way through the downhill and once it leveled off the pain set in... just over 5K to go. I thought back to the last painful 5K of my 50 miler and decided to run faster.... cuz comparitvely... I felt fresh!
As I presumed the last little bit was uphill... race directors love that... me, i think it's sort of cruel... but whatever... you run the course right? so I surged up and kicked in strong, but certainly not sprinting... after all its a marathon.... whats a few seconds in a training run, but 3:25:16 ticking....even though I knew my chip time was 2min faster I didnt want to see the 3:26 pop up... so I finished sometime before that occurred. Still feeling good.... tighter than I'd expected in my hip flexors... but otherwise good to run more... grabbed my medal and photo, a banana, one bite of a bagel and three bottles of water.\I grabbed my things from bag-check and did my usual post long run yoga routine and got all the kinks out.
I jogged around the city finding a set location Anthony could come get me as he had to dodge all the road blocks... got home rinsed off and grabbed some grub... portabello panini with a side salad and Founder's Pal Ale.... I was Very happy. Finished up there and I was transported back downtown and found my bus stop with 45 min to spare so I stopped into "Sharper Egde" and had beer #2... Paulaner Hefeweizen (my absolute favorite) and had a nice chat with another runner who resides in P-burgh.
LOOONG bus trip back with a V8 and bag of beef jerky (not much real food at the rest stop... so i went for veggies protein and iron- better than the combo's that seemed enticing.
I was so unbelieavbly grateful to have Dave there to pick me up... I wanted to be home so badly. And soon enough I was, the Race was over...amen.
Overall... Strange, gut wrenching mind twisting weekend, with a rather awesome long run and some great friends to help hold the edges together for me. PA is check! some 40 other states to go... haha.
2 weeks till Run Capon 50K<= TRAILS!!!!! SO EXCITED!<3