It’s just over a month since my marathon PR at the OKC Marathon. And today I am making a direct effort to get my running mojo back. Where did it go? How did I lose it? How do I get it back? These are all questions that I seek to answer.
Where did my mojo go?
I have spend a bit more than the past year in constant training mode. Not that I didn’t have any breaks, but I’ve constantly had a goal that I have been working toward. It started in March, 2016.
One of my favorite YouTube channels is The Ginger Runner. Ethan and Kim Newberry produce great ultra running films that really cater to the mid-pack and back of the pack runners like myself. I highly recommend! March 7, 2016, Episode 106 featured long time ultra-runner and badass Krissy Moehl. Honestly, I had no idea who she was because I had only started following ultra-running. Her career is insanely impressive with tons of races including first in iconic races like the HURT 100, Hardrock 100, along with a 2nd and 5th at Western States.
Krissy seemed very down to earth, and something in that interview convinced me that maybe I could step into the ultra world by doing a 50K. That night I ordered her book, Running Your First Ultra. It was an easy read, and I signed up for my first 50K, the War Eagle Trail Running Festival. Due to an amazing opportunity to travel cross-country running and cycling with The United Relay of America (URA), I wouldn’t end up making it to the start line, but my training was intact. As if the universe was sending me a message, Krissy Moehl signed up to run a few legs of the URA, so I got to meet her and talk to her a bit about her running. This only increased my want to race.
My first 50K ended up being the Angry Bull Sizzling Six Shooter, June, 2016. This was an out and back loop course on a crushed gravel rail trail. Straight and flat, about as easy as you could get for your first 50K. The one issue that day was that the temps got up to around 90 degrees. However, at the end of the day, with tired legs, I felt like I had more. I continued to train myself following Krissy’s book.
September 24th, Flatrock 50K. I had run the 25K in 2015, so I had some idea of what I was getting myself into. Flatrock is a semi-technical run around the bluffs of Elk City Lake near Independence, KS. Between the heat of the day, and making some mistakes, I ended up walking more than I had planned that day. The last half mile is on exposed asphalt road. Surprisingly, I started moving well, and ran a pretty good pace to the finish line. Again, I didn’t feel dead. I could do more.
My next big goal was, and still is, a 50 mile race finish. At this point I thought I could use some guidance and hired an ultra-runner friend, Nathan Sicher, as my coach. We worked on getting my speed and endurance up with a short term goal of reaching 4:15 marathon time. On December 31, I ran 4:35 at Run For The Ranch. I made some really big mistakes and ended up walking about two miles in the race, but still finished with a 17+ minute PR. Not at all bad, but felt horrible at the time.
I immediately committed to training harder and signed up for the OKC Marathon. Through hard work and consistent training, I ended up with a time of 3:57:53!! It’s something I didn’t think possible, and I’m proud of that accomplishment. My running mojo was intact.
How did I lose my mojo?
Arrogance. That’s where it started. Just after my race, I drove out to California to visit family. Seemed a good time especially in light of needing some recovery time. Recovery time….LOL….
My coach spelled out a clear recovery schedule for me. Basically a few days off, just walking. Then some easy, short runs later in the week. Well, that’s not what I did. Not by any measure. The neighborhood where I was staying had great running areas, so my first recovery run, I went out and ran some hills faster than my marathon race pace. I felt great! I even sent my coach an email asking if my “easy” pace should now be faster because my speed had increased. His response, “all your running should be slow, you are in recovery.”
The next morning, my legs were really sore. Way more sore than they should be after an “easy” 5 mile run. Duh. Lesson learned….well, sort of.
On Friday, I drove up to San Francisco to visit some friends. Ok, not just friends, but runner friends. So of course, they wanted to show me their playground, and I was all too eager to join. We spent Saturday morning running nearly 14 miles with around 2,500 feet of gain in the Marin Headlands. It was absolutely beautiful! Sunday, I awoke to a familiar pain in my left heel. It wasn’t horrible, but I should have taken that as a warning. I did not.
Instead, I went running some 7.5 miles through an amazing redwood forest. I followed that by an hour and a half car ride to Sacramento, just to check out the sights. As I got out of the car, I knew I had probably made a big error. Heel pain was in full force. I should have listened to my body. In retrospect, I don’t regret running those trails in northern California. Who know’s when I’ll get another opportunity to do that. However, it might have helped to really weigh the consequences of that action. I should have been prepared for the possibility that those runs might extend my recovery.
I took the next two weeks off of running. I still got in some hiking, and no impact elliptical, but I could feel my mojo slipping away. It’s so easy to give into those negative thoughts that start to creep in. Have I lost all my speed? How far off does this put my next race? I’ll probably never run another sub 4 marathon! Drama, drama, drama……
How do I get it back?
I’ve spent a couple of weeks giving into that self pity. Feeling sorry for myself. Using it as an excuse to eat a lot less healthy. That stops now! For me to reach my big goal of finishing a 50 mile race, I need to supply my body with the fuel that it needs to both heal and grow stronger. Be patient, it will come back.
Make smart choices…
As a fitness instructor for a living, and an aspiring ultra-runner as a hobby, it’s easy for me to overdo exercise. I will do the exercises and stretches that will promote my healing, and modify workouts that could overtax my system. I will make food choices consistent with my goals.
Listen to my coach…
My coach has been an invaluable resource. He’s assigned workouts that I never would have attempted, and gotten me to a place I never thought I would be with my running. I’ll trust that he knows what he’s doing because it’s gotten me to where I am today.
Set new goals…
I’m generally more successful when I have clear goals in place. It didn’t really occur to me until just yesterday that I didn’t have a specific goal after the OKC Marathon. So I’m going to get my next race on the schedule so that I know what I’m training for.
Celebrate the small victories…
My heel is almost back to 100%. I had a training run yesterday with solid speed work. I woke up this morning with a roof over my head, food in the kitchen and a wife who supports me no matter what.
My mojo may be hiding, but I can feel it creeping back.