Training never seems to go exactly how you have it planned.  The miles might end up where they’re supposed to be, but the effort/ease/pace can be vastly different.  Maybe it’s all about the expectations, which I’m still working on being able to manage appropriately.  I was borderline dreading this weekend’s two runs – 25 miles on Saturday followed by 20 on Sunday.  It wasn’t really because of the mileage as I’ve been handling the 20+ milers well this training cycle.  And it wasn’t weather related as the temps were going to be in the mid-20s to high 30s for both runs, which I am very comfortable running in.

The issue was going to be lack of sleep.  Normally, I don’t do anything the night before my long runs so I can get a solid 9-10 hours of shuteye, but I had signed up for a charity poker game.  Depending on how long it lasted, I was looking at maybe only 4-5 hours of sleep.  And then I was likely to get less than 8 hours of sleep Saturday night since I had to get up at 4:15am the following morning to get my run in before church.  I may seem to be a little nonchalant about these ridiculously long runs, but just because I do them regularly doesn’t mean I don’t stress about them.  Especially, if I’m doing them in a sleep deprived state.

The good news (well, bad news as far as my wallet was concerned) was that I got bounced from the tournament fairly early so was able to get in a semi-respectable 7 hours of sleep Friday night.  This translated into a better than expected run.  Why?  Because my expectations were low! (seriously, at some point I’m going to learn this lesson)  I ran the exact same route as the prior week and my pace was only a couple seconds slower (9:52 vs. 9:47), which can largely be accounted for by the snow covered trails/meadows.  I was definitely stronger at the end of the run than the prior week as hills I had walked I was now running up.  I’m doing a little strength work during the week (100 ups, lunges) so maybe this is starting to pay dividends.

I went to bed early Saturday night and was able to get almost 8 hours of sleep.  Based on how Saturday’s run went and my last 20/20 weekend, I was expecting (can you guess where this is going?) a nice solid run maybe only a little slower than the previous day.  Well, my first mile was 30 seconds slower than yesterday and the next several were 15-20 seconds slower.  My legs weren’t really all that sore besides slightly tight hamstrings which came and went over the course of the run.  They just seemed tired.  I had no oomph.  I’ve noticed before that my physical and mental states are very closely tied together.  It’s almost impossible for me to be “happy” if I’m a physical wreck.  And the converse is equally true in that it’s hard not to smile from ear to ear during an effortless run.  So you can guess what kind of mental state I was in when I had already started counting down the miles before I even reached 4.  But I grinded.  And persevered.  And eventually after three-and-a-half hours I finished.

Care to take a guess which of the two was the better training run?  I’m not exactly sure why today’s run was so rough.  Yesterday’s 25 may have been harder than I thought.  The lack of sleep (read: less recovery) may have been a factor.  And thinking back, I didn’t have nearly enough to eat yesterday (pizza, some pasta, couple beers).  Most likely is was some combination of the three that “did me in”.  But this is what I wanted.  The rationale behind running back-to-back long runs is to run on tired legs to simulate the end of ultras.  Now it’s impossible to really do this in training, but today was about as good as you can hope for.  Physically and mentally I was spent starting out.  I was dragging when I hit the halfway point.  And I was still slogging along when I finally finished.  Training isn’t supposed to always be fun.  Sometimes it’s hard.  And as counterintuitive as this may sound, that’s a good thing.

Hope you’re enjoying this unseasonably mild weather as much as I am.