Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Can You Train For a 50k on 25 Miles a Week?

For months I've been working on a post about trying to manage the balance between work, family and finding the time (and will) to run long distances.

I'm now looking back on the unfinished post last touched weeks back. This is how it started...

"I am desperately in need of some inspiration in otherwise uninspiring times."

A bit odd to be quoting myself but looking back it now warrants inspection. The buildup to my recent (first) 50k race was not going well. Over many months, starting in December 2012, I had devised a thorough training plan that then seemed to systematically breakdown week after week. My running had gone from a study in joy to just another reason why I sometimes consider myself a failure.

Any job hunt or "best companies" list search turns up plenty of language around work/life balance. It's what most "young" people add into their "must haves" in determining their reason for selecting one company over another. It is expected that life should truly be a balance between the do what you love and and love what you do-job and all the rest of the world outside of that.

But what about work/life/training balance?

In the past six months, my family and I have gone through a significant move. Not far in distance, but further enough from my job to put me a little more out of pocket each day as I manage my new commute. While this move was underway, we welcomed a new little man into our lives. And while all of this was going on, I was looking to build up my mileage so that I could attempt my first pass at an ultra-distance trail race.

See, I was turning 40 this year and had planned to do something significant. I wanted to do something both as a reward and punishment for getting old. As my running mileage picked up last year I thought to myself that a running challenge would be just the thing to show me that turning 40 could be better than 30... or even 20.

I didn't want the watch or the new shiny, fast car.

Instead, I found a race and put it on the calendar. Life be damned, I was going to make it happen. The problem was that good parts of life kept getting in the way of me developing and building to the point where I could have the confidence to complete this thing. Every week I would have my plan written out and over and over runs would be a little shy of the prescribed distance. Long weekend runs wouldn't pan out. My family life and obligations would take precedence (sometimes happily, sometimes not) over all other things.

I wasn't upset that these things were getting in the way (usually). I was terrified that I was slowly getting steps closer to failure. Each missed check-mark in the plan would send me into a bit of a mental tailspin. I watched Unbreakable. I read blogs and articles on running long. I couldn't get away from the fact that I was signed up for the Wildcat Ridge Romp 50k, a fairly challenging course made up of three 10.7 mile loops through some rocky, rooty New Jersey wilderness. August 10th loomed on the calendar.

My mileage hovered around 25 to 35 miles a week. It just didn't feel long enough to pull it off. As I eased into my "taper", I told myself that I was going to go out and give it a shot. I believed I had the toughness and fortitude to get through the pain of it, and I've always been a proficient and quick hiker. At worst, I would walk it in. I would have 12 hours to go roughly 32 miles. Seemed possible if I could focus on running your own race. So I made a plan to write RYOR on my arm and venture off into the woods.

This was not going to be a race but a run... or possibly a walk. I was going to finish.

Wildcat Ridge Romp 50k race report coming soon...