After two years of being active I am very familiar with running and triathlon races and the one thing I live by with races is that the unknown is likely to happen. Every race and day of running and racing seems different, often without discernible differences. Knowing that running races will always have some form of chaos and uncertainty I try to prepare and eliminate as many factors that I have control over.
Ragnar is less than two weeks away and this month my training has focused on eliminating a few of the potential uncertainties, namely running trails in the dark and running with little rest between legs. My hope is preparations will give me control over some uncontrollable aspects of the race so I have fewer new issues to deal with on race day. Every week for the past month I have spent more time running on rough bike trails by headlamp in the predawn dark morning hours, and I have mixed in running two running workouts hours apart at least once a week. The remaining real challenge for me exists in the form of running three time in a day with only four to six hours rest between runs.
Over the past few weeks my body has adapted to the demands of running, resting four to five hours then running again. I have grown stronger in the process and often my second run ended up being faster. So the logical last step before starting my reduced mileage taper is putting three runs into one day. Since I do not have easy access to trails throughout the day I had to settle for road running. I decided to set up my runs where they were closely matched to my relay leg.
The three Ragnar trails that each participant has to run entails:
- Easy trail (Green) – 3.8 miles
- Intermediate (Yellow)- 4.6 miles
- Hard (Red)- 6.7 miles
Because this is a relay each person goes out on a trail then comes back and the next person departs. This continues til all eight runners have run all three courses. Each person has a specific order of trails they have to run based on their position in the relay. My spot was number five so I get to run the yellow/Green/Red leg. This means my last leg will be the longest and hardest of my running legs..
With my order in mind, Wednesday morning’s run focused on a nice hilly five mile stretch of road near work. Nothing special to this run, just stuck with a nice even 1:30/:30 run/walk ratio and enjoyed another nice cold morning. Usually when I had done back to back runs with four hours in between I just ran the same four mile stretch, but I wanted to try to simulate my running legs. After the run I tried to snack on nuts and fruits and other low fat yet carb rich foods. The goal was to get my body re nourished and ready for the next run.
Five hours later and I was out for my second run, a quick 3.8 mile run on my normal two a day course. Because I ran a little more distance in the morning my legs were a little bit slower and heavier than they usually are on the second run. I used the same walk run ratio and tried to push the hills. Knowing I would have to do my longest run a few hours later I tried to also hold back a bit. After the run I stretched and grabbed a meal. By this point my hunger started to push through and I snacked on fruits, vegetables and nuts the remainder of the day as well as drink tons of water.
After the second run my legs were really starting to get tired and sore. I continued to push some stretching and walking around on them to keep them loose, but as the hours went on I knew this last run would be difficult. With five hours between runs the muscles had started to tighten up and get sore. I was not in pain and could still walk, I just was more aware of the quads and related muscles moving when I walked. I knew this last run would possibly be a struggle.
Five and a half hours after my last run I headed out the door for a last time for the day. Unlike earlier I was now running from my house which would have bigger hills. The original idea was to run a seven mile course, but I did not get out for my last run til 8:30PM and would not finish til after 10PM. So I chose a five and a half mile course that would have me done close to ten. Armed with my headlight I took to the street and started my usual run/walk scheme in the pitch black of night. Overhead I could make out Orion and other constellations and I even saw a few shooting stars. My muscles were sore and in some ways I was tired of running. I was ready for dinner and bed and a day of normal training. As I pushed on I enjoyed the stillness of the dark night and just focused on running forward. The small muscles and tendons, the weaker ones, began to whine and complain. By the time I got up my last major hill and I started the slow climb up the last hill that would bring me to my running day conclusion I was tired. More than that though I now knew I could run more even when my legs felt dead and my spirit waned a bit. I knew what it would take to finish my relay legs on Ragnar race day.
At the end of the run I returned home, showered and commenced eating. I knew I hit a high exhaustion rate when I felt so hungry but I really was not interested in food. For me, when I get really exhausted, food no longer tastes appealing and it becomes a forced feeding to get some energy back. I stretched and rehabbed for a bit but as bed time neared I was hit with an inescapable exhaustion. I had ran 14.7 miles total, broken up into three separate runs and now my body was done, I ached deeply. My back and abs were sore from the night before’s Pilates session, my arms, chest and shoulders ached from the night before’s weights session and now my legs did not want to move. On top of that I was deeply tired, bone tired… exhausted. After my evening duties I lied down and passed out, getting one of my deepest sleeps ever. When I woke up this morning I felt better, a bit stiff and achy and my muscles were really sore, but good. As I worked to move my legs out of bed all I could think of was going back out and running some more. Then I took my first steps and decided maybe tomorrow .
Til next time.