Sunday, September 2, 2012

What The Hell Happened To My Running Game?

I have been what I would like to call a "serious runner" for about 8 years.  I started off small, with short group runs with friends, which led to 5Ks, which led to 10Ks, which led to 15Ks, which led to Half Marathons, which led to Marathons, which led to Ultra-Marathons from 50K to 100 Miles.  Some would say I am obsessed.  I like to think I am motivated;  which brings me to the point of this blog.

I have never been short on self motivation.  I enjoy running tremendously and although I have indulged in the occasional group run in the past, I am primarily a solo runner.  Not because I am trying to be anti-social, and not because I don't enjoy group running.  I just like the flexability of running on my terms, at my time, and at my pace.  Although I am not what you'd call an elite runner, I do tend to run ahead of the average recreational runner.  Which is why I tend to go solo alot.  My philosphy is, "Why show up to a group run, only to run by myself because no one runs at my pace?"  This is something that has plagued me for a while, so year by year, I have found myself less involved in the group run and more involved with my solo efforts.

There is a certain sense of pride that comes with finishing a big race after putting in many training miles on your own.  It is your victory, and yours alone.  You got this achievement by putting in your own blood, sweat and tears, and the victory is all yours. It is an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment.  In the past, this has never been a problem for me.  I was happy to run alone, most of the time, and my motivation has remained high during this time.

When 2012 rolled around, I was brimming with confidence as I set a new marathon PR at the end of 2011, only to set yet another marathon PR in early 2012; only 6 weeks later.  I had the feeling that nothing could stop me.  So next I decided to go back to ultra-marathoning.  I ran the Mississippi 50 in March 2012.  It was a tough run.  In fact I finished in 10:43:10, the worst time I had ever logged in a 50 mile race.  I chalked it up to the very poor and wet trail conditions and shook it off.  I then set my sights on doing the Cactus Rose 100 in October 2012, and a solo attempt of the Rouge Orleans 126.2 in February 2013.  I began training at the end of April.  During this time I also completed the Big Butts 50K in Clinton, MS.  Although the course was relatively flat, the extreme heat slowed my time tremendously, and I finished in 6:13:35. 

After the beating I took from the heat at Big Butts, my game seemed to have changed.  The summer heat was in full force  and my training runs were beginning to get long;  over 20 miles.  (If you've never run in summer weather in Louisiana, just imagine 90 - 100+ temps and 100% humidity, all the time.)  I began running with great difficulty on my long runs, completing most, but cutting some short on account of the heat, exhaustion and lack of motivation. 

That is what has concerned me lately.  I have never had a problem keeping my spirits high, but my summer running has taken me to a place I haven't gone before.  My running was becoming a chore, as opposed to an activity of recreation and enjoyment.  I maintained my mileage according to my plan, but make no mistake, the miles and heat have taken their toll on my body and mind.  I am always amazed when I have a great long run, and then the next week, run the same distance and totally tank.  I have definitely had more bad long runs than good this summer.  Although, there are many marathoners and iron men in the Alexandria/Pineville, LA area, ultra-runners are in short supply.  I am the only one.  Which is another reason I've been running solo for so long.  There is no one I can call up in this area to knock out a 25 trail run on the weekend.  As a result, I have all but removed myself from the local running scene.  I have not participated in one 5K or sprint triathlon all year.  Which is something I always did in the past. It just seemed pointless to waste a Saturday morning running a 5K, when my plan calls for a 20 - 25 mile run.  My only reprieve has been the occasional run with my fellow ultra runners from Lafayette.  They are my only avenue of running with other ultra athletes.  But, those runs are few and far between, and recent events have caused a rift in their group, which has made things even more difficult.

If you add all these little issues up, it equals to the most difficult running season I have ever had.  I am still training, but to say the runs are less difficult would be a lie.  I keep praying for the cooler weather to arrive, in the hopes it will jump start my game.  With only 7 weeks until Cactus Rose, better days can't get here soon enough.  How will my race go at Cactus Rose?  It is difficult to say.  Although I have never DNF'd a race, between the very difficult terrain and my current mental state...who knows?  I have no intention of DNFing, but does anyone ever enter a race with that intent?  All I know is that Cactus Rose is the light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel, and I need to get way or another.  I only hope I can get myself together by race day.  

As for Rouge Orleans..............right now it is a judgement call.  I will not even consider registering until Cactus Rose is over.  I have to see where my head is before I can commit to another race.  I know this blog is really depressing, but I needed to get this crap off my chest, and the only people who actually understand this is other runners.  

So, hopefully, I will come out of my funk before it is too late and knock Cactus Rose out of the park.  All I know right now is that I need to find my love for running again, and I need to do it soon.

Run on friends,