Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Limit

I remember slowing to a trot after a logy eight miler, the third in as many days. I had racked up 24 miles for the week at that point and the thought of sweating through another eight miles in 24 hours hit me all at once. I stopped walking back to my house for a second and went hands to knees. Put simply, I was exhausted.

That was June 6, meaning just day 6 of base building. Three days earlier, I’d run the North Face Endurance Half Marathon, and while I would normally take a day off following a race like that, I figured an easy “recovery” jog couldn’t hurt. Plus, I didn’t want to start taking days off already and fall behind on the mileage.

That’s how I found myself bent over at the waist. Tired. Sore. Sweat running into my eyes. And the overwhelming desire to curl up right there and go to bed.

There’s a scene in Once a Runner that describes this feeling pretty well. Cassidy narrates what it’s like for someone to train with famed Olympian Bruce Denton, someone looking for "The Secret.” The pace is always moderate. If someone picks it up, that’s where it stays. The days "go well enough, but [you] notice something peculiar. There was no let-up....[and your] outlook began to darken. For one thing, [you were] getting very tired. No particular day wore [you] out, but the accumulation of steady mileage began to take its toll. [You] never quite recovered fully between workouts and soon found [yourself] walking around in a more or less constant state of fatigue."

This was the part of base building I’d forgotten about. I’ve lived in shades of exhaustion since June 1. Some days, I wake up alert only to have the tiredness seep in during the afternoon. Other days, I have a sudden burst of energy, the pace drops, and my confidence soars.

I knew though, that if I could make it through that week, if I could just make it through my long run on Saturday, I could get to that recovery day and tackle the next week. And I did. I went in and out of sleep poolside, then grabbed 11 hours of sleep Saturday night. When I didn’t lace up on Sunday, I almost felt giddy with energy as my legs knit themselves back together.

Then, as the days and weeks wore on, I found that the tiredness relaxed some. The soreness evaporated. And I woke up refreshed in the morning, groggy maybe, but with a zip in my legs. I remembered this feeling, but I didn’t have it last year until late July.

Last year, I thought I’d found the limit. Now, it was time to see what I could really do. My original mileage plan had been to do 40-50-50-40 for June and then ratchet things up to 50-60-60-50 as I did last year. Instead, I added in an extra day of running and took the mileage up to 50 right away. When I clicked stop on my watch last Saturday, the last day of June, I forced a smile through the humidity induced fog that clouded my head. That capped off a 220.3 mile month. Just 179.7 miles from my goal of 400, from Base Camp and four weeks to get there.

But while I continue to wail away on my quads and build the foundation, the sword, I started thinking about just how far I could take this. My thoughts drifted to running as they often do during work last week. I pulled out a post-it, stricken by the sudden urge to do some math…a rarity for this writer.

I jotted down 60, 65, 70. And went to work breaking each of those numbers down into six days worth of running. I’ve never run more than 63 miles in a week before but I’m flirting with the limit or what Adam Goucher would call “The Edge.”

And it’s time for the journey to continue on….


  1. Go you! I love this post! I've been hitting something similar with my kayaking... albeit with much lower mileage. Last week I was just dragging myself to the water and pushing to reach meager goals. Then on Thursday, I paddled to this dam and it was such a perfect experience and I cut my average time in HALF. On Sunday I pushed to ten miles (over seven the day before)when I'd normally been doing four. At the ten mile point I felt ready to keep going and would have if it hadn't been for the extreme heat!

    1. Thanks! And congrats to you, sounds like great progress. It's funny how you can slog through and feel like you've plateaued, but when that breakthrough comes, it feels amazing.


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