Race Season Is Here.

I’ve been really bad at updating this lately. Part of that is because I created this blog as a way of tracking the progress of my return to fitness. It’s hard to write posts about that journey when you’re not doing anything. Most of the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018 didn’t have a lot going on. Over the past few weeks, I’ve finally started getting my act together and I’ve been working out semi-regularly. I’m still not quite where I want to be in terms of consistency, but it’s definitely getting there. Since I’ve let myself go a little bit various body parts are hurting more than normal and I’m feeling sorer than I’m used to. It’s hard to convince yourself to get out of bed to do another workout when it hurts to move! But, those feelings are fading with each workout and it’s getting easier to get up and move more often.

Anyone who’s read any of my posts knows I have some trouble with my left knee. As expected, once I started running again it reminded me that it’s imperfect. It hasn’t been that bad though, and for that I’m grateful. I think I’ve learned how to avoid injuring it and when it does hurt I’ve learned how to care for it better. As of now, it feels a little loose and weak, but there is no pain, and I can perform pretty much any activity I want. I’m going to keep working on strengthing the joint so that I can feel more confident when I’m pushing it. In addition to the knee, my left hip has started demanding some attention. This started during the 15k I did untrained in January. I did a lot of research on it and I am pretty sure that I haven’t hurt myself, that it’s just irritation from my IT band being too tight. This could be, and likely is, contributing to some of my knee problems as well. I got the pain to go away shortly after the race and it’s been gone since. But, I did a 10k a week ago and my hip started hurting around mile 4. It’s fine now, so the time to heal is minimal if I’m tending to it. I don’t think it’s something I’m going to have to be concerned with much going forward, I just need to make sure I don’t take my attention off of it while I keep increasing my activity.

Speaking of the 10k, I know I normally write a whole post about my races, but I don’t feel inspired to do that this go around. The race went just fine. The weather was good and the race went smoothly. I didn’t run as well as I would have liked to and finished almost 12 minutes slower than I did last year. That being said, I have been working a little on my breathing while I’m running and trying to control my pace and I was very successful during the race in these categories. Also, I felt like I was doing better with my running form for most of the race. Some of the photos near the end showed my fatigued-self was suffering a little but overall I still consider it a success. I am finding that it’s very important to find something positive in everything, even if you have plenty of reasons to be negative. I can easily rationalize that I didn’t perform as well because I haven’t been taking care of myself, but if I had been taking care of myself I would have run at a faster pace. And I have been working on improving other aspects of my running, not just finishing time, and in those I was successful. I’m going to say this race was a win!

Hopefully, as my knee starts getting stronger I can start putting in some more miles. My ability to run long distances has diminished significantly. By the end of the race season last year I could actually go out on a decently long run and enjoy the whole thing and I miss that. I’ve tightened up on my diet as well, so hopefully dropping a few of these extra pounds I put back on will help my knee and my endurance. I’m a little sad I wasn’t able to keep up my training over the winter, but it is what it is, and I’m not going to dwell on it. I am where I am right now and all I can do is keep working to get it back. The good news there is that I’m in a much better place physically now than I was when I first started this blog. It’s easy to be disappointed by a setback, but it makes its a lot easier to be encouraged when you can look back and see how far you’ve come.

My first OCR event of the year is coming up this weekend. I’ll be racing the BONEFROG event in Virginia Beach. I initially had decided to try the endurance event, but I had to make the decision to step it back when I realized my offseason wasn’t going to put me in a good place to handle that. I’ll be doing the Tier-1 Challenge, which should come out to around 9 miles. Then it’s time to go into hardcore recovery mode as I have the Maryland Savage Race the following weekend. I’m going to play it by ear, and I won’t do anything to hurt myself, but I’ve already paid for two races that day. I was disappointed last year that I wasn’t able to get into the Savage Syndicate (Running two races in one year). So, when I was planning my schedule this year I tried to figure out a way I could do it. Sadly, there was only one option: Run the race twice in one day. At the time I figured I would have been training all winter so it shouldn’t be a big deal and I went ahead and signed up. Well, I’m not as fit as I wanted to be so I’m going to have to be careful. I think the first race I’ll actually try to ‘race’ it and the second lap I’ll just take my time and enjoy it. Running two of them will put me at around 18 miles. That’s a lot, but I should be ok. I’ve done Spartan Beasts with less training, and those have gone as long as 15-16 miles. If I’m smart and don’t push too hard I should make it to the finish line of both races just fine. Then, I have the Spartan Nationals Stadium race the weekend after that! Hopefully beating myself up for two weekends in a row, with plenty of recovery time will set me up to do well there. I really want to redeem myself after I was dissatisfied with my performance last year. After that race, I’ll have a bit of a break until the Tough Mudder in June.

The next few weeks should be interesting! I’ll be busy, but I’m going to try to make some time to make blog entries for those races. Even though I’m not feeling as strong as I’d like to going into this race season I am still very excited for it. Since I’m not racing as frequently this year it’ll give me more time to train and recover from the events and I really think that by the end of the summer I’ll be even better than I was at the end of last season. I’ve definitely got some work to do, but for the first time in a few months, I’m actually looking forward to doing that work.

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Consistency

Consistency
“You’re still caught somewhere between your plans and your dreams so that neither end up turning out right.” – Dawes
I hate to admit it, but I’ve been having a hard time lately. I’ve been in one of those moods where you question every thing; you question its validity and purpose in your life. You question if your hard work is worth it or if it will even make any difference. I’ve been sort of stuck lately, kind of in limbo between who I was and who I want to be.
I’ve had some success recently in a few of my races, but overall I’m not even close to where I want to be. I’m not even on track with the conservative schedule I had laid out for myself; I’m rapidly falling behind. When I get to go for a run it brings down my spirits that I have a hard time with it when just a few weeks ago I could do the same run faster and more effortlessly. I’m still having some issues with my old recurring injuries. My weight loss has pretty much stalled. The few workouts I’ve managed have been a struggle to finish when they were recently much easier. I haven’t been getting great sleep and the sleep I’m getting isn’t enough. I’m starting to wear out at work and my motivation to be productive is hanging on by a thread.
These are the times where someone’s life can fall apart. These are the moments that ruin even the best laid plans. When all of life’s stressors come bearing down on you at once some days it’s hard to even get out of bed. When you are in this situation how could you expect yourself to say no to that donut? How can you expect to give it your all in a high intensity workout?  Well, the answer is that you can’t. No matter how hard you’ve worked to get to where you are it can all fall apart in an instant. The alcoholic tells himself that it’s just one little drink; you quit before you’re strong enough to do it again, right? The gambler sits down for just a couple of hands at the card table, just a little distraction from everything that’s been going on, “I’ve earned this”, she thinks. This is where you have that one little cheat meal, or you skip that extra-hard workout. But it doesn’t stay as ‘just one cheat meal’, does it? One cheat meal turns into an extra snack the next day, which turns into another cheat meal and before you know it you’re not cheating anymore, you’re just right back where you started. Skipping the workouts results in the only reps you do that day are pressing the snooze button.
Even the strongest of us have days where no matter how hard you want something or how hard you try, you just won’t have the strength to make it through. That’s a discouraging thought for many people. Feelings of regrets begin to seep in. You feel disappointed in yourself. These feelings of self-loathing can lead to more cracks, until there are so many cracks that everything you’ve built comes tumbling down. Will power is a muscle. You can work it out by pushing yourself, and it’ll get stronger. So strong that you can feel invincible. But just like any other muscle a workout wears it down. If you keep pushing your physical muscles eventually they are going to start hurting. Your body is letting you know you’ve gone too far; it needs time to recover. But your mind tells you that you have to keep going, you can’t lose all that progress. You keep pushing until one day something breaks. You tear your muscle or connective tissue. Now your working out days are over for a long time. Your will power is no different. And when it crashes it crashes hard.
That’s where I am finding myself these days. I thought I could just keep hammering away, full steam, and I’d break through any walls that got in my way. Well, I was proven completely wrong. I’ve barely been managing a workout a week. Maybe one short, slow run. I’m eating all kinds of things I shouldn’t. I’m eating later and earlier than I should. Nothing seems to be going right lately. And here’s the important part: it’s all my fault. If I had spent a little more time taking care of myself and really giving myself the attention I deserved none of this would have happened. Rather than beat myself up about it I think it’s more important to use this lesson to better myself. And I think this is an important lesson to learn: You have to take care of your self. And when I say that, I mean your ‘self’ not yourself. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, if not more so. Take your time. Slow down once in awhile. Give yourself the break you deserve from all of that hard work.
So how can you do it? How can you survive getting in shape while eating right and balancing your work and family life? How can you go all out in life to get the most out of it without crashing and burning? If you take it too easy you fall off the wagon, too hard and you won’t be able to sustain it. Where is the middle-ground? The middle-ground is consistency. The key to making all of this work is being consistent. It sounds easier than it is, but if you can build consistency into your life then it is no longer a chore to meet your goals. Be consistent with your workouts. For me, that’s getting out of bed on time so that I can get my workout in before I start my day. Be consistent with your diet. For me, that would be staying in ketosis so I will have to pass on the free bagels in the break room. If you can be consistent it’s not a ‘diet’ anymore, It’s a way of life. You don’t question that you have to get dressed before you leave the house, do you? That’s just something you have to do. We are used to it, so it is what it is. You get dressed and you don’t spend any time fretting over the fact that you have to get dressed.
How does one become consistent without burning out? This is the part where you have to listen to yourself and know what’s right and what’s wrong for you at that moment. In the example above, some days you might feel great and you spend an hour in the mirror getting ready, and you look fabulous. Some days you just don’t have the energy and you throw on an old hoodie and some sweatpants (and you still look fabulous by the way!). The fact of the matter is you still got dressed. Some days will be better than others, but you still did it. The same mindset can be applied to anything. Not feeling like you can smash your marathon PR today? Don’t! Go for a nice slow jog around the neighborhood or even a long walk with a friend or loved one. Really having a hard day with food cravings? Get online and look up healthier alternatives to the foods you crave. Or better yet go out and get a healthy treat from the store or a restaurant. Just because it’s a hard day for you doesn’t give you an excuse to give up. Just like you have to get dressed you have to stay on track with what you want in life. You must be consistent.
You don’t have to be perfect everyday. You don’t have to be perfect any day. Just be your best and do your best. The fact of the matter is you are strong enough to overcome whatever it is you are fighting in your life. But it doesn’t have to be an uphill battle. Level the battlefield and take the ‘work’ part out. Make your healthy, happy life a habit. Make it so that it’s second nature. Make it your life. It’ll take some time and energy to get there, but once you do you will be free to take on whatever the world tries to throw at you. It was a hard lesson learned for me recently, but it’s an invaluable one. Today is a great day to start. Tomorrow is a great day to keep going. Hold your head up, you’ve got this!!