Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mommy - I wan' to say "wheee"

It was one of those runs where the hardest part was actually turning around at the halfway point to go back to my car.

Misty mountains in Santa Monica

When I first noticed it was time to turn around (so that I might actually get to work on time), I told myself I'd just go up to the tree on the ridge and see what things look like from there... but by the time I got to that ridge, well, by then I'd spotted the next ridge, which looked like the new highest point, so of course I had to climb that one next...

You know how it goes.

Rocky and lovely
Having then climbed to that ridge and then not seeing a nearby higher point to which I could climb next, I started the run back to my car. By that time, naturally, I had to haul ass, having gone further away than initially planned for, but it was mostly downhill and I knew the distance could be covered quickly.

As my legs turned over faster and faster in an effort to stay in control of the descent on a winding and rocky single-track, giggles came bubbling up from within until I was barely able to contain my shrieks of glee. 

At one point, I hit a turn wrong and nearly went over with a twist of the ankle, but I caught it in time and began running again with renewed focus on the path. I reached the bottom of the hill in a matter of minutes, sweaty, tired, and happy, then ran back to my car.

It had been exactly the type of run that I had come looking for.

The weeks prior: Building up to the AC100

In the week and a half prior to that morning run, I've been feeling the stress of my recent increase in mileage. The AC100 loomed large on the horizon, and I wanted to do my best, especially after feeling like I'd let up somewhat in my effort during the later stages of the Santa Barbara Endurance Race

To prepare, I'd been training hard on every day that I could, and on the days that I couldn't... I'd just berate myself over why I wasn't getting in more training.

It was becoming a little exhausting, really.

Thankfully, for the most part, my months of training had been extremely enjoyable - I do love to run, after all - but as the weeks continued and I pushed myself further to add in more miles, well... it became something of a slog. Not helping was the fact that I'd been shorting myself on sleep to provide the extra hours I needed for increased mileage (4-5 hours of sleep per night had become the norm, not the exception), so it was no surprise, really, that I'd been feeling the strain.

But strained I was, and it was showing not only in the way I was feeling physically, but in the attitude with which I was beginning to regard my running. That week, it had felt like a total drag. I no longer looked forward to getting up and getting out there. Hitting the streets in the morning was a chore, and left me exhausted. My lunch-time workout break had turned into just another box to be checked, with increasing reluctance. Worst of all, I found myself irritated, sore, and sleepy in the hours that I wasn't training... and for all the mileage, I was feeling no better about my upcoming race. Instead, I just felt tired.

I knew it was due to over-training.... but with the race and the beginning of my taper getting closer and closer, I told myself I just needed to persevere and push through. I had it covered, I told myself, if I could only hang in there...

But as the dread towards both my running and the impending race itself continued, I found I didn't have it covered. What's more, I was too tired to even care about how to make it right again... I just wanted the race to be over with so I could rest.

Fortunately, all it took was an afternoon of my son to remind me of what I had forgotten - I had forgotten the "wheee".

Remembering the "wheeee"

In the park a few days later, I was walking hand-in-hand with our two-year-old, Caden, as we headed for the swings. As we passed a grassy slope, I felt him hesitate, then stop.

I looked down to see him eying the slope. Then, he looked up at me with a serious expression on his face and said "Mommy - I wan' to say 'wheeee.'"

By now, I've lived with Caden long enough to know what this means, so I smiled and said, "Go ahead."

With permission granted, he dropped my hand and took off for the top of the slope. When he reached that spot, he turned to face me at the bottom, paused for a second (I can only imagine this was to either savor the anticipation or heighten the dramatic effect; both reasons are equally plausible), then began his run toward the bottom of the slope.

And as he ran, he shouted: "WHEEEEEEE!"

Grinning ear to ear by the time he reached the bottom, he then turned to me as he always does and said "Mommy, I wan' to say 'wheee' again."

And again, I nodded. "Go ahead."

So he did - and again, and again, and again. And I let him do it, and I watched his face, because I knew what he was teaching me. Yet again, it had taken one of my kids to remind me of something I had been missing - I had been missing the "wheeeeee".

Caden never forgets to say "wheeeee"

I had been spending so much time getting wrapped up in all the details of the upcoming race I had allowed that to distract me, undermine my confidence, and take away the one thing I knew best and had learned in the past - that if I prepared to the best of my ability and then relaxed to see where the day and my own two legs would take me, then the day would ultimately be a success... or at the least, a very memorable adventure.

But I had forgotten all that.

I had forgotten the joy, the anticipation, the excitement of a new course and of traveling over trails and through mountains under stars and sky for 100 miles. I could only remembered worry and stress, and the many things that could possibly go wrong.

I was headed into the race with completely the wrong mindset... and now to top it all off, I was going to be exhausted by the time race day arrived.

Except, of course, that I still had time to change.

I started with my run the next morning. While I still had to get up early, I got out of bed feeling lighthearted for a change and took to the trails in a spot that I knew for it's challenging climbs, but also for it's fun and technical single-track that would be a blast to charge back down on the return (this is the run that I described above).

Following that, it was time to start dropping the hammer when it came to my sleeping patterns. I had to allow my body to rest - there was just no way around that one. And with less than two weeks to go, it was taper time, baby, and immediately I could feel my body thanking me for it.

For my workouts, I've started mixing in some swimming so both my body and mind can take a break from running for a change. Finally, I've stopped questioning myself at every step in my race preparation and fretting over taking a wrong turn on the trails, and accepted that I'll be just fine out there... or at least, that I've prepared enough, and don't need to continue to worry further.

All that has been going on for less than a full week now, yet I can already feel the difference, body and soul... and I'm looking forward to the race. Anticipation swells... and I know it will be an awesome day.

And as I tear down those hills, I'm going to do my best to remember, because I know that he'd want me to, to throw my hands in the air and let out one for Caden: "WHEEEEEEEE!" 

Happy and exhausted... a good combination.