Getting Through It

So my last post was fairly grim, but it was meant to be. Running a lot in the heat is lousy. I talk to other runner friends who tell me that they have gone out and trained in the afternoons during the summer for long stretches like it’s no big deal, and all I can think is that they’re either way, way tougher than me or that they’re better liars.

I did it and I got through it, but I hated it. It wasn’t so much that I hated it while I was out there doing it (because my brain just shifts into “get it done” mode once I’ve started—this is the real reason why you train, folks), but I dreaded going out. I mentioned in the last post that I was skipping most second-day runs, and that just continued. I never did get much better at dragging myself out early for a Sunday morning run after a long, hot Saturday.

But this is the thing I want to talk about.I didn’t just keep doing the same thing. I took a break from that, and it made the rest bearable.

I got out of town. Got lucky and had our regularly in-town San Tan group run take a field trip up to the Mogollon Rim near Pine, where we spent several hours in much cooler weather on tough trails and had a blast. That by itself went a long way toward fixing my head.

I was also really fortunate to have a friend out there among the group who had done JJ100K the previous year and gone through some crummy stretches of summer training herself. I talked to her about how lousy I was feeling, and how afraid I was of my inadequate training. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to recover from it and get back into the training mode I needed to be in, and I didn’t know if I was going to be able to make it through the race.

She listened to it all and then told me I was doing fine, and that I could do it.

It was such a simple, simple thing to say. But it was something that I needed to hear so much from someone who had been through it. That conversation by itself may have done as much for me as all the rest of the running combined.

I found some awesome new trail buddies that were running at night, and I spent a couple of weekends with them doing loops out at Pemberton in the dark. It was still warm because McDowell Mountain Park is still basically in town, but there’s such a world of difference between a warm night in the moonlight and a hot day in the sun. It was some of the best night wildlife viewing I’ve ever had. Tarantulas, scorpions, desert mice, rabbits, and of course the snakes. We saw three rattlers in one night out there. The last one was sprawled out lengthwise down the trail and didn’t seem to care in the least that we were there and carefully maneuvering around him.

And then for my grand finale, I did a full overnight trip. Drove up to a campground outside of Prescott after work on Friday night, set up camp (I got really lucky and found what I’m pretty sure was the last open campsite), and slept. Got up early(-ish) the next morning, packed up, and spent 8 hours running in the pines, passing back and forth beside Goldwater Lake. I had planned on doing a full 50K, but I had to call it done before I hit that distance because of the time. I needed to head back home.

It wasn’t a complete success, but I got solid time on feet, a lot of climbing, and had a nice little adventure to break up what had become a really monotonous, miserable slog of a training stretch.

And by the time I got through all of that, I was ready to come back and suffer in the heat some more. I had never planned on quitting the hot runs completely—JJ’s always a hot race, after all, so trying to avoid training in the heat would just be dumb—but I needed a break, and I got one while still managing to get some good training miles in after all.

So the things to take away from my experience are: mix up your training, and talk to someone about it when you’re feeling low. If you’re tired of the training grind, look for some way you can break up the routine and find something to do that’s a little more fun. If you are beat mentally and on the verge of despair, find a friend who has already done what you are going through, go for a run with them, and tell them how you’re feeling. We all just need to unload sometimes, and have someone else tell us that it’s going to be okay.

The thing I’m going to (try to) take away from it is to work on avoiding the near-burnout earlier. Mix up the training runs earlier, and plan on doing at least one run (if not two) per month that’s somewhere different. Add a little more variety in.

And I’m going to plan on at least one run late in the training block where I go out with a friend who I’ll believe when they tell me that I will be okay.

Next up, my JJ100K race report. How well did this all work out for me? You’ll find out!