Any athlete will tell you there are on days and every once in a while there are off days.
Today was a huge off day for me at the Tallahassee Ultra Distance Classic.
I was in a really good place starting the race. I knew I could have put in more milage but overall I was happy with my training. I was more comfortable as I had an idea of what was to come after attempting the race two years before. I wasn’t so much looking forward to the next 50 miles, but I was excited to get them over with and check it off my list. I was ready.
The first several miles I went with what was easy.. but 30 seconds slower. It was chilly and dark at the start and didn’t get better as it got later. The sun never really popped out to say hello and I was kind of certain that my butt would fall of from being so chilly.
Around mile three the side of my right knee started hurting. It wasn’t the kind of hurt that you stretch out or shake out. It was the kind of hurt that says, “I’m only going to get worse. You’re screwed.” I ran with it, trying to take deep breaths and send it some love (yes, I just said that. I imagined my yoga teachers), but it didn’t get better. I kept moving and maintained a consistent pace mixed in with stretching and walking it out.
I averaged a 9:50 pace for the first 12 miles.
My legs were cold. I’ve been training in south Florida heat and the chill in the air made all my muscles stiff and, well, cold. After my second lap all the muscles in my legs locked up. That’s the best way to describe it. Sheer pain and tightness.
In the past several weeks I’ve done plenty of endurance races and my body didn’t respond this way in any of them. This was not a normal day.
I kept pushing and added in some walking until mile 16 when I realized my legs were not going to do this today. It wasn’t that I was tired; it was a different kind of pain. My legs felt like they had already run 50 miles even though I had only covered a distance that I’ve exceeded just about every weekend this past year. My legs said no. Based on the fact that they kept getting worse, I knew 50 was out of the question.
Around that time I decided to drop down to the 50k. But after walking most of the next lap, I decided I had nothing to prove to get to 50k and just ‘making it’ there wasn’t worth it. I grabbed a cookie at the next stop and made my way to the finish line to let them know I was quitting.
I ran 24 miles (walking the end) in 4:41. Sadly, it just wasn’t my day.
I think Richard was worried about how I’d feel later about dropping out after the Great Failure of 2010, dropping out of the same race at 36.4 miles. Sure, I feel silly dropping down from the same race twice. But I know that they were totally different situations. In 2010 I had let my training slip and it showed. Today I simply had a bad day.
I run right up to every race, hardly ever having anything resembling a true taper. It keeps my legs fresh and my mind sane. This past week was finals week so instead of keeping active, I ran 6 miles at the beginning of the week and sat flat on my butt studying the rest of the time. No runs. No yoga. Also, my diet was mostly carbs, caffeine and sugar. It was abnormal.
It could have been the 4.5 hour drive to Tallahassee and the fact that we didn’t get to the hotel until 10:00pm and get to bed until after midnight.
My week was odd but I don’t doubt my training. I did weekly long runs including two marathons followed by a run the next day. I worked on core and stretched my body in yoga. Next time I’d want to make my back-to-back runs longer, but other than that I am confident in my training. I set myself up for 50.
Unlike in 2010, I trust myself as an athlete. This year I’ve applied myself and set some PRs I’m really proud of. This helps me believe that today was really an off day and it helps me walk away without any regret.
Today wasn’t my day to run 50 miles, but I’m also not eager to sign up for another 50. Up to earlier this year, the idea of spending an entire day running was ideal. Now I appreciate running, enjoying a refreshing shower, eating some food and getting on with the rest of my life. I blame CrossFit. I’m not ruling out another 50 in my future, but for now I want to CrossFit, yoga and get a sub-4 marathon.
Also, as much as I appreciate the people behind the Tallahassee Ultra Distance Classic, running 8 out and back laps on a boring road will never be appealing. There’s nothing to take your mind off the mileage and crossing the finish line eight times is less than fun.
So, that’s the story. Other than being bummed with how my legs reacted, I’m sad to let down so many people who were cheering me on the past several weeks and today and even running this morning and thinking of me. I really appreciate you.
Since leaving the race I’ve had ice cream and Dunkin’ Donuts. Also, finishing hours earlier than expected also means we get to make Richard’s work Christmas party! Goodness all around.
Have you ever had an off day during a race? How did you handle it?