Sustainable Training: Knowing When to Walk Away
I expected this post to be a post-race recap following a great running weekend at the Cayuga Trails 50 Miler in Ithaca, NY this weekend. However, my body had other plans. I went out for a regular mid-afternoon run last Sunday, and the sun was finally out, which was glorious. However, my brain is clearly not in summer mode yet, especially with the persistently overcast and rainy weather we’ve had for the past month. Thus, I excitedly slipped on a sleeveless shirt, but neglected the sunscreen. This was most definitely a running fail!
Three hours later, and I was feeling great after a nice long run and a solid overall weekend of running. I helped the beautiful epicurean with some garden work, and then went inside to shower off and relax for the evening. No sooner had I taken my shirt off then the bright red glow of my shoulders and arms nearly blinded me!
I gingerly showered, although my arms weren’t all that sore yet. The heat, however, was radiating off of them with enough force to power a jet engine. I’ve had sunburns in the past, but have learned my lesson enough to slather on copious amounts of sun screen. The heat and sun simply took my pale, Northern European complexion by surprise.
It took about 2 nights before the full severity of the burns sunk in, and it became clear that these weren’t merely surface burns, but rather solid 2nd degree burns. My shoulders began to blister, which was of course made worse by the fact that I kept my #runstreak alive each day and the sweat simply had nowhere to escape my body. The nausea and flu-like symptoms set in at about the same time, and by Thursday, it became pretty clear that I was not in race shape.
I absolutely hate canceling race plans, and I’ve been looking forward to our camping trip up to Ithaca for the last month. However, I have to honest with myself and listen to my body. The Aikido ninja epicurean referred to this as sustainable training, and that is a very appropriate phrase. Sometimes it’s important to push through the pain, and other times it’s just as important to recognize when to pull back, let your body heal, and live to run another day. There will be other races, I will be running Cayuga next year, and we were able to cancel our reservations with minimal penalty, so all is well on that front.
I might not be able to shake that gross feeling in my stomach (different from the one that led to my vomiting!) when I think about not racing this weekend, but I know it’s the right decision. I was still able get out and find ways to push myself this past weekend, but I also took the time to make sure my body isn’t beat up and fighting itself the entire summer. There is a lot of pride in ultrarunning when it comes to pushing limits. We talk about the pain cave, and digging deep. We post memes that state “A DNF is better than a DNS”. All of these cultural attributes can make it easy to get sucked into ignoring your body, and I certainly admit that I’ve been guilty of that in the past. However, it’s one thing to push through the pain and discomfort that running for long distances can cause, and quite another to ignore actual injuries and risk more permanent damage.
I want to be running for the rest of my life, and I want to be finishing ultras long into my twilight years. That means sustainable training is a must. Of course, not racing this weekend also means I’ll be looking at upcoming races this summer and fall and working on finalizing future plans! Registering for races while ill is like shopping while hungry. Danger, Will Robinson! Wherever the path may take me, I’ll continue #chasing42!