…a favorite saying of my KS trail running friends, comes to mind, along with "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." And so on. I knew it was going to be hard moving to our home in CO, where the rolling hills turned to mountain ranges and the air pressure was 25% lower, but somehow I thought it would be something I could overcome in a couple months.
In truth, it has been much more challenging, which probably explains why I've been so uninspired to write about running for the past few months. I write about things like, making big improvements! Or maybe I'm at a low point but ready to fight back out. But the past two or three months have seemed uninspiring. I didn't feel like I was getting worse but I also didn't feel amazing. Like when I lived in KS, after two or three months of hard work, I'd be ready for a hundred miler. Or whatever I wanted to do!
But what is exciting about doing a 13-mi training run at a 14:30 pace?? Not much, seemingly. I keep wishing that the snow, though there is apparently much less than usual so far, will go away, so it will be easier to work on hills. But if I stop to put the pieces together, I realize that slowly things are coming together. And the hard things, even the snow and sometimes frigid air, are only helping me.
For instance, on the rare occasion that I run at lower altitudes (Denver or KC), I can run a sub 8-min training pace without barfing. The other week while I was running with Leila on the easy trail in town, she commented that I was not only holding a "good pace" but that is was also "not easy". Now when LDG tells you you're keeping a good pace it means something. Her first two 100's were Leadville, both times finishing under 25 hours.
And today I decided to run around the neighborhood, which might sound pleasant, if not for the 1300 ft of elevation gain in 3 miles. In the past I've always had to take SEVERAL walk breaks on the way up. And the higher I got, the more frequently they'd occur. But today was magical, or perhaps just a result of 5 months of high altitude training. I took two short breaks to stop, breathe, and hack up a bunch of mucus. But my legs felt strong the whole time. I never got to that point where I felt like I just couldn't run another step. And all of a sudden I found myself thinking, why has this always been so hard??
Well probably because it was hard. I learned that some things just don't come easily. And sometimes you don't see big improvements instantly. But every time you drag your ass off the couch and do something that is hard, that you feel you suck at, or is going to KILL you (if you're overly dramatic like me), even if you have to take a walk break or a breathing break or whatever, you ARE improving. Even if your run the next day sucks. In materials science, it's called strain hardening. When you make a material stronger by stretching it to (and beyond) its normal limits.