Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em

Beyond Exhaustion
After my running myself into the ground at the Tahoe 200 Mile in early September, I decided -- or rather my body decided for me -- that I should probably shut things down for the season and focus on resting up for next year. As I described in Tahoe 200 race report, being awake and on my feet for 65 hours (with only a short one hour nap) really took it's toll on my body and my endocrine system.

Although I didn't immediately realize it, I likely suffered from a mild case of post-race adrenal fatigue. Our bodies normally produce hormones and other natural performance-enhancing drugs like adrenaline and cortisol in response to the stress of exercise. But if we exercise too intensely, for too long, our adrenal system can become fatigued and stop producing adrenaline. When that happens, it's light's out! Suddenly we feel very tired and slooooow.

And unfortunately, while we can recover from a pulled muscle or a broken bone in just a few weeks, it usually takes anywhere from 6 to 18 months to fully recover from adrenal fatigue. Or in the case of guys like Geoff Roes, it can even take years. Scary stuff that you probably don't want to mess with.

A bunch of DNFs and crappy performances

Feeling like crap
I originally had a pretty ambitious racing calendar for the last few months of the year that included Firetrails 50 Mile in October, Rio del Lago 100 Mile in November, and The North Face 50 Mile Championship in December. Plus a bunch of the Brazen Racing series trail half marathons.

But when my wife Amy came flying by me at mile 15 during Firetrails 50 Mile, skipping up the hill effortlessly while I struggled just to hike it, I got my first sign that perhaps I was not back at 100% strength yet. I soldiered on for a few miles, but my energy levels continued to plummet. Eventually l I was even walking the easy flat sections.

I finally called it quits at mile 22 where I collapsed and curled myself up into a ball on the ground. Luckily my buddy Shiran was there. He rushed to the scene and saved the day... by pulling out his camera and documenting my agony in an impromptu photo shoot! LOL. The pictures turned out pretty good though!

Looking like crap
A month later I decided to try and run the Mt. Diablo trail 1/2 marathon just to see if perhaps the meltdown at Firetrails was just a fluke. But nope, I was still feeling (and running) like crap. I finished in a distant 12th place well behind the race leaders.

That's when I got on my computer and contacted the race directors of both Rio del Lago 100 and North Face 50 begging them to let me roll my race entries over until next year. I offered to volunteer at the race, wash their cars in my speedo, walk their dogs, or do whatever was necessary. Thankfully we managed to work things out and they now have shiny, freshly-waxed cars.

See you next year

As the white-bearded philosopher Kenny Rogers so eloquently sang, "You got to know when to hold 'em / know when to fold 'em / know when to walk away / know when to run." I'm optimistic that my adrenal fatigue issues were actually relatively mild, and that with a few months off from ultra racing, I will be back in 2015, stronger and maybe even a bit wiser.

Looking forward to new challenges in 2015
Like a farmer who rotates his crops or lets a field lay fallow to restore the fertility of soil, I'm planning to take scale back my ultra racing in 2015 and focus more on easy, short-fast stuff like marathons. Ha. All joking aside, there really is a difference between pushing your body for 3 hours versus pushing yourself for 3 days non-stop.

I'm still planning on doing a few ultras in 2015 including the Fat Dog 120 in British Columbia. But I'm definitely going to sit out the PAUSATF Grand Prix series this year and just focus on one or two key races like Ohlone 50K in the spring and maybe Quad Dipsea in the fall.

But hopefully I will also get a chance to experience a few new challenges in 2015. I've been wanting to try some obstacle-course racing for a few years now. I hear that the Spartan Race World Championships are being held in Tahoe this year!

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