Monday, July 6, 2009

The highs and lows of a running life / Recovery week 6/29-7/5

It's hard to believe, but 2009 is now half over. I just passed 2,000 miles for the year and am on pace for about 4,000 for the year. Last year I came very close to 4,000--not that it matters because, really, it doesn't. What most matters is what you actually do during the year to race at a high level. I won a 100-mile race, but, as legendary ultrarunner Jim Garcia once said, "You are only as good as your last race." You can't look back if you want to move forward. And so I now go forward.

During these past few weeks I've gone through quite a post-race recovery process--a process few runners are willing to talk about and many would deny happens to them. During the first half of the week after the Mohican 100, I was flying high from my win--thanks to the endorphins and a steady stream of congrats from friends, family and folks I've never even met. But then mental and physical fatigue really set in and I struggled for the next several days. I had trouble focusing and just didn't have it going physically, enduring a few days of aches like you'd have during a bout of the flu.

Such post-race effects are to be expected after an all-out effort at Mohican--a race I'd basically focused on winning over a course of 18 months. But what I didn't expect was an even worse second week (the week that just ended). My focus was really off and I wasn't too motivated to run, though I achieved my target of 55 miles for the week. I'm not afraid to admit I was kind of depressed and very irritable. Just ask Anne, who should be made a saint. Again, not many runners would admit this...but I will. And I know not every runner is the same. Some can rebound from an event just fine; others have a hard time, as I have. This I do know; nothing will take it out of you like a race of 100 or more miles. It takes time to come back.

Fortunately, I think I bottomed out and am on the rebound even as I'm fighting a cold. I've counted my blessings and am grateful for each of them (and there are many!). I'm also ready to move on to the next challenge. Now two full weeks removed from Mohican, I'm slowly reintroducing myself to high mileage and the training mindset (while taking advantage of some extra free time to enjoy the Tour de France). This week the goal is 65-70 miles with no speedwork or hills. Speedwork and hills will come gradually when I'm three or four weeks removed from Mohican and my legs hopefully feel strong and the fire in my gut is raging again (it's smoldering right now but the intensity is gradually building).

I was so mentally out of it last week that I actually considered racing in the summer Buckeye Trail 50K on July 18 to give myself something else to focus on. I've since decided not to race the Buckeye, as I have other plans I'm now working toward. I've entered the Tussey Mountainback 50-Mile in State College, Pennsylvania on Oct. 3. The Tussey will once again host the USATF 50-mile national championship. This will be my first 50-miler and USATF championship event. I've also officially joined the USATF and am awaiting my membership number.

I've also decided to run in The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship Gore-Tex 50-Mile Race on Dec. 5 in San Francisco. This race will attract some of the top ultrarunners in the country and is run on a course that The North Face rates 5 out of 5 stars for overall difficulty. Run in the Marin Headlands just north of the city, the course features lots of long, steep climbs of several hundred feet at a time and is very scenic. Last year's race was won ($10,000 first-place prize) by Matt Carpenter, a legendary mountain runner, and featured other huge names in the sport: Karl Meltzer, Uli Steidl, Kyle Skaggs, Michael Wardian, Tsuyoshi Kaburaki, Hal Koerner, Zach Miller, Kami Semick and Nikki Kimball. It will be interesting running in a race with such a deep pool of talent that is so overwhelmingly amazing and better than I am. But with very mild conditions--San Fran in December--this will be a good first dip of my feet in the Western ultrarunning waters. Hopefully my second dip will be the 2010 Western States 100.

To prepare for both 50-milers, I'm going to get up to 80-100 miles per week with a strong emphasis on intervals, hill work and, of course, long runs, along with a continued emphasis on core and upper-body strengthening and nutrition. No question about it--I have to have good leg turnover and legs well-conditioned for up- and down-hills to be a factor in the Tussey Mountainback and to finish with a respectable time at The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship Gore-Tex 50-Mile Race.


In many running blogs I read, the author focuses on what they did during the training week or in a race, without ever really letting the reader into their heart and mind. Blow-by-blows are entertaining enough and I've done it plenty on this blog, but that really doesn't reveal what a life of running is really like. Runners are often looked at like oak trees--strong, dependable and enduring. That's true to a degree, but runners can go through ups and downs just like non-runners, and races can wreak havoc on the psyche. I went through a very difficult week as my mind simply was not clicking on all cylinders and I grew more and more negative, irritable and unfocused. I want to try to understand what was at work in me so I can hopefully prevent it after the next race and help others avoid going through the same.

Onward and upward!


  1. Wyatt, thanks for the insights into what you are going through. No two runners experience the same things in the same way, but it is good to hear your perspective. Also, I am glad you are going to run Tussey in October, then the North Face Challenge in December. That sound about right to give you a 50 miler tune-up with plenty of recovery time.

  2. You do realize that you JUST RACED 100 MILES!!!! I had some depression and exhaustion after running a 3:38 marathon. Don't worry about anyone else but yourself. Don't compare yourself to anyone. I'm learning not to do that and I have so much more energy to spend on myself! Remember why you do this stuff - the ultimate goal is enjoyment.

    I can't wait to see how you do in Dec.!!