I have spent yet another otherwise-excellent weekend dreading the Sunday trail run and force-talking myself into committing to do it. This morning as I was lying in bed, listening to the alarm and thinking how much I don't want to run a trail this morning, I realized something: I don't HAVE to do this 50-mile race! At all! The logical afterthought was: I'm not going to do it, then! Immediately followed by a tidal wave of relief that made me realize how much I've been stressing over this for the last few weeks.
Here's the main mistake I made: I assumed that all I had to do was maintain readiness for a 50-mile race over a period of another couple of months, but I underestimated how much covering 50 miles -- even at the excruciatingly slow pace I did it -- would take out of me, physically but especially mentally. I didn't enjoy my training leading up to it -- I hate running that high mileage! -- and I acquired such negative feelings toward trail running while doing that training that those feelings are now entrenched in my psyche and I don't know what the cure is other than giving myself a break from trails for a while. It's a horrible feeling to be out there and be unable to make myself pick up my feet or stop telling myself how miserable I am.
After the OP-50, I took two weeks off of training and didn't do one single thing other than my daily abs workout and one 30-mile bike ride for that entire two weeks. I gained about five pounds, which put me at my heaviest weight in years -- 159! -- and apparently lost a lot of conditioning too, because no matter what workout I do now I feel fat, sluggish, and slow. On top of that, I got the new puppy, and puppies take so much time. I leave her alone in her crate so much during the week that I feel unbearably guilty for leaving her alone in her crate for 7 or 8 hours on the weekend days too. The older dogs are back in obedience class once a week, plus their daily training time, and all of those things, plus the other mental things I already mentioned, leave me pretty much uninterested in training for another 50.
That doesn't mean I'm not interested in working out. I am actually eager to go back to tri training. Now that it's warm again, the pool and the bike are a lot more appealing. I've never thought that running by itself put me in the best shape I could be in. I've always been at the top of my fitness game when I was swimming and biking in addition to minimal (35 miles or less per week) running. Just as I always knew it would, that high running mileage from OP-50 training left me sore and tired, not to mention cranky, all the time. In the last 2 weeks, when I've gotten back to tri training, I've had more energy and been in a much better mood. (Except for the days when I force myself to run trails, when I feel lousy.)
I am tired of being fat, so I'm going to lose weight. I went back to counting every single calorie that goes into my mouth and every single calorie I burn. I'm using the same formula I used when I got skinny before my Boston qualifying marathon -- eat less than 1000 net calories per day; burn at least 1000 calories per day. So, for example, if I burn 1000 calories on a 10-mile run, then I can eat 2000 calories total. If I burn 2000 calories, I can eat 3000, et cetera. I am trying to watch the amount of processed sugar I eat, but if I burn enough calories, I'm going to go ahead and have that donut and not feel bad about it. Technology has made this whole process a lot less painful than it was last time! I have this great iPhone app called My Fitness Pal. It has a gigantic database of nutrition information, so long gone are the days when I had to keep my notebook and write all the information in it myself. (I still have to write in some things myself -- for example, the other day I bought a naughty-shaped sucker from Fascinations and that wasn't in the database, so I had to enter it myself -- 98 calories -- but nearly everything else is in there, even GU!) Of course it's not exactly right -- a tablespoon of peanut butter to me is the maximum amount of peanut butter that can cling to the surface of a tablespoon, and I don't list any of the walking I do on the job, which can be a couple miles a day -- but I am satisfied with ballpark. I know that 1000 calories a day is more restrictive than I need to be, but that leaves me room to fudge on things like piling a tablespoon higher with peanut butter than I should. So far, after 2 weeks of sticking to this formula religiously, I'm down to 151, which is 8 lbs in 2 weeks and, I know, I know, an unhealthy rate of weight loss so I may just skip that 11-mile run I had planned for tonight. You know, just to make sure I don't lose too much weight.
I also think I want to try P90X, just out of curiosity, to do something different and see how ripped I can get to look. I would love to see my 6-pack; wouldn't that be awesome? And I can do that workout at home, so I don't have to drive anywhere or leave the dogs alone. It's 90 days; I can get through 90 days of anything, surely. I figure I can do that workout and still get in enough training for Pikes Peak. Pikes Peak is still 4 1/2 months away, and, unlike the 50-mile race, I am extremely excited about Pikes Peak and really want to better my last year's time. I think with enough cross-training, weight loss, treadmill workouts to simulate the grade, and just enough trail running to stay agile when boulder- and root-hopping, that should be totally doable.
One more sign that this was the right choice (besides the obvious one -- the huge wave of relief that came over me when I decided not to do this race this morning) is that I checked the race website and found to my shock that this race actually... refunds your money if you withdraw. I don't know that I've ever heard of such a thing. I emailed the race director just to thank her for being so awesome, and she emailed me back and said that she didn't start spending money until May 1 so there was no reason not to give refunds. Ah, how simple! Now find me another race that does that, seriously.