So it seems that my 2017 is at a crossroads.
To say, I'm completely surprised by this is me trying to fool even myself. The reality is, I'm not entirely shocked to have reached this point. Over the past couple of years, I'd like to think I've gotten a little more reflective about where my running performance/ability stands.
For those keeping score at home 2015 was a pretty rough year for me from an ultra standpoint. I also viewed that start of the year as a weaker out the gate. Through this point in 2015, I had 2 DNF's, 1-2nd, 1-3rd, 1-4th and 3-1st. However, I did manage to rebound and win Umstead around this time as well but I struggled the rest of the year on a number of levels. Basically, I was forcing things and feeling if I DNF'd that I could just find another race to push myself with.
2016 was a much better year (5 wins in 5 races) and not the point of comparison for this piece like 2015 is.
Right now through 2017, I have 2-DNF's, 2-1st's and 1-2nd. Not horrible but those DNF's are not exactly what I want to be compiling. Also, only one of those results is a 5K. Normally, I have at least one more. Plus, the one I do have was more of a cross country run in the snow than a road course I was hoping it to be. So really, relatively speaking, it is a mixed bag with only my 50K back in Jan being a really solid result that I felt good about. Now there are a few reasons for this. Part of it is that some of the races did not take place this year or I opted for other choices.
My latest choice was to not run Two Rivers Marathon and see if I could do HAT instead. My choice was made because I have been increasingly feeling exhausted from stress (and anxiety as for me the two have a link). The thought of getting up to leave the house at 5am for a 2 1/2 hour drive for a road marathon felt too much to handle. And considering my standard would be the demanding road marathon mindset, I just did not have it. So I felt maybe if I race on the trails instead I would be in a better place. (In addition, I opted to not travel to VA for an ultra next weekend.) Thankfully, I was able to get into the field and toe the line.
However, the best part of my HAT Run was my pre-race ritual on site. Not much else went well. I had surprisingly poor sleep and was incredibly loud in the morning. Then my sunglasses managed to get broken. All this before we started. Yet, while, I went to the front in a modest pace, once we hit a minor uphill and I mean minor, my legs were flat. I thought it might have been just not being loose and that running some more would get me going smoother. NOPE. I was never comfortable. My legs felt heavy and incapable of a fluid feeling stride. I was hardly into the race but I knew I was done. I kept going to see if it would change but the reality was my body was telling me that today was not the day. Still, I managed to get through 17.5 miles before calling it a day. While the day's result is not what I wanted, it provided me with some great information, namely, that I need to rest. That means no running right now. So, I'm taking it light for a few days possibly a couple of weeks.
Yet, the bigger piece of information is that, I need to rethink my priorities at the moment. (And I don't think if I had done the marathon, I would have gotten the same insight.) Back in 2015, my DNF would have likely had me running a race this weekend of comparable distance. Let's not forget I would have gone in with lofty goals as well not thinking the previous effort had any effect on me. This time around, I know that would be a knuckleheaded thing to repeat. It has me rethinking my attempt at a sub 7hr 100K. In fact, it has me rethinking even doing that race altogether. Right now, my main objective from a running standpoint is to get my legs back to feeling springy and being energized. Part of that requires recharging my own batteries too. As a result of that, I will be taking a small getaway to a more remote Western part of PA for a few nights in a cabin in the woods. Theodore Roosevelt typically used his trips to nature to do something similar. I'd never thought I would need the calm of the 'wilderness' like I do periodically. I'm seriously hoping it makes a big impact.
During this woodsy-time, I'll do some hiking and running but those activities will partially be to break up the day that I aim to spend good amounts of time reading. Objective: RELAXATION
Once I come back to civilization, I'll re-evaluate my running goals including the 100K and whether I should race it or not. I will say that on Saturday, my response was not to. But I've relaxed my stance because I've considered going to just set a PR under 8hrs. It seems a more reasonable goal but that is dependent on how I feel. And the reality is that I don't have to decide right when I come back or even get back up to the same running speed. I can take the time to rest and prioritize that. And the reality is that I need to. I understand, I'm pretty fragile, in a manner of speaking, beyond just running. Yes, an aspect of what I am trying to say is that this is bigger than just running. Seriously, I do not want to feel overwhelmed with stress and suffer a paralyzing 'fight or flight' episode. (While I can type words, I'm not entirely sure that these are the best words to describe things but I hope you as a reader get a sense of understanding.)
The biggest part of all this is that not only do I have to make sure my legs feel good to run BUT that my mind and body can handle doing it. This means thinking about whether it will stress me out to the point that I will undo everything I am trying to do to improve at the moment. If the answer is no, than that race is out. Aside from that, I will get back to some shorter local distance focus. I will be staying away from adding any ultra that I have not already signed up for or considered in express discussion with others. (Not all of them have been made public and really they are in the fall.)
I've got time to right this running ship but it does require me to really address my stress and anxiety first. Hopefully the wilderness will do that for me.
What I do know is that I seriously feel like I learned a big lesson from 2015 and that is not to push it. I'm more observant and conscious enough to recognize the potential for doing damage to myself. 2016 was a year to regain a lot, so I will be damned if I lose it again.