It's easy to forget that rest is as important as our training. On Sunday I did just that. After racing the Squamish Days 10km in a time only 23 seconds off my 39:51 PB (set in 2008) and cooling down with an easy 7km to bring the week's volume to 93km, I could have easily spent some time on the couch or in the hammock.
But the big job of painting the exterior of the house doesn't get done from the hammock, unfortunately. So after a shower, a quick brunch of a cheese omelet on bread, I got out the paint brush and spent a couple of hours changing another section of the siding from the current soft grey to the dramatically chique poppyseed (dark blue/purple).
Next comes the painting with two layers of Behr's Premium Plus (poppyseed for the house and an offwhite for the trims). It's not gruelling work, but it's tiring - especially with all the marathon training.
After two hours of that, it was time to walk the dog for the second time that day before getting in the car to drive to Vancouver, where I had a lovely dinner with my sister, then went for another walk with both our dogs. By 8pm I drove to Vancouver airport to pick up Tim who'd been on a 12-day visit to his brother, who lives in NYC, and to cheer him on in his first Ironman at Lake Placid a weekend earlier. (John had a superb Ironman debut, finishing in 12:32.)
Then we drove back to Squamish where I realized just how tired I was. Thankfully Monday was a rest day in terms of running, but there was painting and work of course. Tuesday (yesterday) my program had a 10km recovery run in the morning (I did 11km and felt tired) and was supposed to do a 6km recovery run at night.
Joining the Squamish Titans for their weekly summer trail sessions, I ended up running about 13km - a gorgeous 12km on some of my favourite trails, and another kilometre jogging to and from the meeting point. Hm, I hoped I wouldn't have to pay for it too much on my long run the next day.
The schedule called for a 24km medium-long run today, but with Tim racing the Sooke half Ironman on Vancouver Island this Sunday, and of course Luka and I there to cheer him on, I had decided to do Sunday's 35km run today instead. (This swap doesn't upset the hard/easy rhythm of this week as tomorrow only has a 10km recovery jog).
Having said that, I did feel the result of the lack of rest following Sunday's effort and my greediness yesterday, running a total of 24km instead of the 16km I was supposed to. Also, I felt mentally more challenged because of a new focus in training. In the previous six years I've always done my long runs based on time, i.e. a 3-hour run meant simply that, running for 3 hours. There were no pace or distance requirements.
Now, my training calls for a certain pace and a certain distance, which brings an extra layer of performance measurement. The pace for my long runs is between 4:50/km and 5:15/km (based on my marathon goal race pace). I hoped my tired body would be OK with the 35km today, I wasn't sure how it would feel about sticking to the required pace.
I allowed myself to ease into the workout, and tried to suspend any thoughts of doubt and concern. While tired, I was glad to notice a spring in my step once I warmed up so I decided to completely trust my body and let it do its thing, trying to keep my mind - judgement - out of it as much as possible.
It felt good, in a tiring way of course, as only long runs can do. Listening to my iPod, I had found a rhythm that had me moving at a speed perhaps best described as slightly ahead of the tiredness. I've found the recovery jogs, done at the slowest pace of all the workouts, really bring out the sense of fatigue in my body, while the faster-paced workouts (those at 5km, half marathon or marathon pace) have so far released surprising strength.
And today, I also often found myself surprised at the pace my Garmin showed, positively surprised that is. That didn't mean it was an easy session, absolutely not. But at about 15km into today's run I thought of an analogy: when you're dancing with a partner, it only works if there's one who leads while the other follows, so I thought today my body had the lead, while my mind followed. During my run, this analogy made perfect sense:-).
I drank more than usual, finishing my 500ml water bottle by about 18km. Thanks to the Red Bench Diner where a woman refilled my empty bottle with deliciously cool water. After that refreshment, I came across a three-time Ironman world champion, and thinking about his incredible accomplishments helped me steel myself for the homestretch.
I ended up hitting 35km in 3:02, which I was very pleased with, for an overall average pace of 5:12. It showed that the mind can often worry while the body is much more capable than we expect it to be. So it's good to let it take the lead, even if it does take two to tango. The best thing the mind can do sometimes is to not do too much of anything, other than be.
Needless to say, I am of course tired after running 59km in two days and am very much looking forward to the recovery day, with only an easy 10km tomorrow.