I've had about 10 days to process the experience of Rocky, the good and the not-so-good.
Recovery continues to go well as I rest, eat, and enjoy the easy-going training schedule. I continue to have pain in my right knee, but it isn't unbearable and actually felt pretty good today on my longest run since the race.
I have started scouting out a few races to consider for this year and should be deciding fairly soon on which ones I will commit to.
After each race I complete, I try to come away with lessons learned for next time. This post will be boring to most everyone as it really only pertains to what worked and what didn't specific to my experience.
What went well -
I know without a shadow of a doubt that the 8/2 method of run/walking was the best advice and best way for me to train for this race. I will continue to train this way for all ultra events. I understand that I will most probably never "win" a race with this method, but honestly, that is not why I run. Being able to return to running shortly after participating in these races is a possibility because this run/walk method allows for a quicker recovery.
I became quite accustomed to the back-to-back runs this past year. I enjoy them most of the time and I think that they go a long way in securing the kind of endurance that one needs to run the longer distances.
Hills. The minimal hills that are available to us here in this area were hills that I tried to run most every single training run. At first, they gave me reason to walk, but now, they are easy to navigate and don't pose much of a difficulty for me. Admittedly, these "hills" are laughable if you aren't from this flatlander paradise, but it is all we have around here. Maybe one day I will have a treadmill and can work on some inclines.
What can be improved upon-
I would love to find a place to train that could incorporate more of a rocky terrain. I DNF'd two races this year due to the rocks that I had no practice running on. If I decide to run these again this year, I will have to be able to find the time to train on similar terrain or I will not register for them.
Core and Upper Extremity strength. I worked fairly hard on these areas over the summer, but once the holidays hit and the mileage was much higher, I let these things go. I am stronger than I have ever been, but I am still not satisfied with these areas. I need to balance my schedule a bit more so that I can be sure to not skip the workouts needed.
Cross Training, Stretching, Yoga. Again, earlier in the training season, I was doing more of this, but as the summer came to a close, I seemed to pull away from biking and swimming and focused mostly on getting the mileage in. Then the Yoga and Stretching went out the window. It seemed to take too much time away from family to do these things after spending 4 hours running. I believe better scheduling will allow more success in this area.
Through the training season, I tweaked my daily diet and became primarily plant-based. This wasn't too difficult during daily life, but on the run, proved to be quite the challenge. Even more, eating plant-based at races was very difficult. Eating on the road is a nightmare as restaurants in Texas seem to live and die by cheese. It's on everything. Salads are pre-made with cheese and bacon thrown in.
I also discovered that I have been having issues with gluten for years. Taking that out of the diet was worse than giving up butter and cheese. And I never thought I could do that!
By mid-August I was severely anemic and had to readjust everything from training to my diet again.
I agreed to eat some non-plant based foods to help my iron levels, began the iron supplements, and started to feel better.
I am still not 100% plant-based, but I am working my way there again. Mark worries about me if I don't eat some other forms of protein and if it helps him feel better about me training this hard, I will eat a portion off my plan from time to time.
One positive that has come from all of this is that I learned to carry what I need during training runs as well as races. I don't rely on the aid stations to provide what I need, but love it when they have it. I gave up all sports drinks resorting to only water. I drink coconut water as needed on the run. Making sure I take S-caps on a regular basis ensure an adequate supply of electrolytes.
Ultimately, I do need to maintain a clean diet that is primarily plant-based, making sure that I take in enough calories, enough iron, and enough protein to support the hard training that ultras require.
WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT MYSELF
Most of what I discovered is already in my race report, but since writing it, I've discovered a few more things. One thing I've learned is that I really, really, really love running. I knew that I liked it. I knew that it helped me to center myself and gave me time to listen to that innervoice that gets drowned out during daily life. I knew that it gave me time to talk to God and even more importantly, listen to Him.
What I didn't quite get though, is how much I really love what I do. I love how my body feels when I am pushing it to another level. I love the feel of the breath entering and exiting my lungs. I love the way that the cadence of my gait sets my mind into a meditative state that brings about a sense of peace and calm that isn't duplicated anywhere else except in the adoration chapel, before the Blessed Sacrament.
I've also learned that I have been blessed to be running in a community where we all support one another. We may not all see eye to eye on all issues, but we respect one another, we celebrate each other's acheivements, and we do all that we can to help encourage and lift one another up even through the difficult times, whether it's a difficult point in training, or a struggle in life.
I am still trying to define my goals for this running season and as they become more clear, I will take what I've learned from this past training year and put it into practice to become a stronger runner.
As always, my number one goal is to always run happy, run with joy. Because if I am not finding joy in what I am doing, I should not be doing it.