Three days away from my first big race of the year and 4 days away from the second one. Take all the emotions, anxiety and excitement you feel leading up to a big race then multiple that by 2 and that's about how I feel. Sunday, April 15th, I will be running the TARC Don't Run Boston 50k then Monday, April 16th, I will be running the Boston Marathon. This is something I've been wanting to do since before I even got a qualifying time. TARC (trail animal running club) has made a huge impact in my running and life. I've met so many friends and great people through the community, and have felt so supported and inspired through this group of people. My first ultra was a TARC race (Fells Winter Ultra 32-miler) and I've run or volunteered at all of their other races. My husband has actually taken over directing the Winter Ultra the last couple of years and this year we are both race directing the TARC'key Trot 6-hour in November! When I first learned about TARC Don't Run Boston 50k/50-miler, my first thought was that it was the only TARC race I NEVER wanted to run. Not only is it a tough race given the location and terrain, that part I actually loved, but there is no course markings, not much aid, and the course map resembles a bowl of spaghetti thrown at a wall. Some of the trails hardly even resemble trails and are not marked at all. Others are clearly marked but there are so many intersections and zero rhyme or reason to which direction to turn. The written description of the course is even more confusing. It's one of those races where you either have to run it with a veteran (but even they get lost) or practice the course a ton leading up to race day. I hate navigating and get extremely Boston when I get lost in the woods, but after finding out that a couple of people had done the "DRB/Boston" double, I was a bit more intrigued. Over the last couple years, I've spent a lot more time running at Blue Hills Reservation (where DRB is held) and thought that running DRB would be a lot more do-able now that I know the area a bit more, and then immediately after getting my qualifier at Chicago 2016, I knew I did not want to spend Spring of 2018 training hard for a road marathon again so doing the double was a done deal. Now somewhere along the line I had a few too many IPA's and decided to sign up for the TARC Wapack 50-Miler in May, less than a month later, as a goal race and use this entire weekend as a "training effort". Yeah, we'll see how that goes...
As far as training, I took 3 weeks of zero running in November after MMTR 50, then did a month or so of easy running, low mileage, and lots of strength training. I started training again in January. The first month was really tough, mentally. I had lost a lot of fitness from a long time off and with Winter weather happening, I had a couple of tough runs not hitting prescribed paces because I had to do my workouts either on a treadmill or running laps around a school parking lot. I always seem to forget how challenging that first month back can be but also how quickly that fitness comes back if you keep working it. Also within that first month, I developed a neuroma in my right foot that caused more stress than pain, but luckily it was quickly remedy'ed by wearing toe separators during the day and toe socks during runs. My fitness came back and I actually started to feel the strongest I've ever felt running. I think increasing strength training paid off quite a bit, but I also think some slow long Winter hikes in the mountains help me build some endurance as well. I had been feeling amazing until a couple weeks ago during my "peak week". I started having some pain in my piriformis (butt) and during my longest run of my training cycle which I ran with a friend, Greg Soutiea, on the DRB course, first time trying to navigate it, the pain made itself known that it wasn't just normal training soreness. Not only was it a long painful trek. but navigating the course that day was nearly impossible without the help of my Greg's fancy watch. Even with the map, the description and both of our watches loaded with the course GPX file, we managed to get completely lost. A foot of snow on the trails didn't help, but I felt so useless that day. I could not for the life of me figure out how to use my watch properly and I hate not being in control of every situation. I felt absolutely defeated after that run and came pretty close to texting coach that I wasn't going to do the double and also maybe not Wapack as well. I was physically and mentally exhausted, and thought there was no way I was going to recover from an injury, figure out the damn course and survive both races. Luckily my stubborness (and again, a couple IPAs) convinced me to head out the next morning and try the course again, but this time solo and after a day of serious rest, stretching, icing, heating, literally everything I read online to try and help the butt situation. Sure enough, though still in some pain, I felt better physically, figured out how to use my watch, and even though I did mess up a part of the course, navigation went a lot smoother. Next weekend I again spent Saturday and Sunday running the course, this time with the snow melted away and zero getting lost. Piriformis was now 100% but I still had some lingering pain. I made the mistake of getting a deep tissue massage, then running a hard workout the next day and that made things worse again. I had a short road race this past Sunday and leading up to the race I told my coach since I still was feeling some pain, I wasn't going to race it, but of course my stubborn self decided (literally as I was walking to the starting line) to hop into the front of the pack and race it. Miraculously, my butt felt the best it had in weeks and I ended up coming 4th in a competitive 5-mile road race with a time of 32:21 and new 5k PR of 19:29. The following day I went to a physical therapist for the first time ever and was extremely relieved to hear that the lingering pain I was feeling was all neural and not muscular, so I was ok to keep running, but was given a second appointment before race day for some more manual therapy and bunch of neural flossing exercises to do at home, which I have been doing religiously.
Today I feel almost 100% physically, but I have also been tapering and not doing any hard workouts, so it's kind of a crap shoot to know exactly how things will feel after 31 miles with 5,000+ of gain on Sunday then 26.2 miles on hard pavement Monday. However, I'm not too nervous about my sciatic nerve as much as I am about everything else. I've never run back to back races, I've never even run races within a couple weeks of each other. It's a little bit more nerve wrecking that Boston is the second day. If something were to go wrong the first day and I couldn't make to the starting line of my second race, it's not just any race, it's Boston which I worked really hard to get a qualifying time for. But I know that I can't think like that and I just need to think about how completely rad it is going to feel when I make it to that second finish line. I think this will be even more challenging than either of my 50-milers. Although I will add that last year I did run 20 miles at Blue Hills Reservation the day before guiding 26.2 miles as part of Kyle Robidoux's double Boston and it was smooth sailing, but I still think this will be a lot more challenging. I put in a ton of work this training cycle, 800+ miles, 75,000+ feet of climbing, and hours and hours of strength training, through hail, snowstorms, freezing cold temperatures, just the worst conditions. My body and mind are totally ready, I just need to be smart about recovery before and after each race, and STAY POSITIVE. I know it's not going to be easy, but I know I can do this and it's going to be a truly epic weekend. I will be smiling ear to ear both days. Can't friggen wait!