Friday, December 30, 2011

Changing Things Up A Bit

It's been an interesting month for me. After the North Face 50 I began running again almost right away. I spent a week in Juneau shortly after that race and ran everyday while I was there, including some pretty long runs. I was feeling good and felt like I had recovered amazingly quickly from the race, especially considering how late in the year this race is. I figured the time that I had taken off in September and October made this more like a typical spring time race than an end of the season race.

And then I came back to Colorado. And almost right away I felt exhausted. I did some really easy slow runs and felt even more tired out. Finally I decided that my body and my mind were both in need of some more serious time off. The entire second half of this year I would respond pretty well to down time, but the "good times" would only last for a few weeks, and then I would feel the need for prolonged rest again. In the past I have had this same cycle, but the "good times" would usually last for 8 or 10 months. The second half of this year they have lasted 3 or 4 weeks at best. When I've rested my body has responded very well, but only for a short period of time. When I've rested for a week I've gotten maybe 2 weeks of feeling good in return. When I've rested for a couple weeks I've gotten about a month (at best) of feeling good. This rate of return on rest has been about 15-20% of what I've typically received in the past.

This experience has led me to the decision that I'm going to take the entire winter off from running. My hope is that 3 or 4 months off will reset things and allow me to get back to a place of being able to get more return on my rest.

Initially I thought I would take the winter completely off from much of any physical activity, including giving up on the plan of tackling The Iditarod Trail Invitational in late February. After sitting with this plan for a few days though, I decided instead that I'm going to take the winter off from everyday running, but I will still plan to get out most everyday doing very low intensity nordic skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, winter camping, or the occasional mellow run (when conditions are not suitable for other activities, or when I'm travelling to warmer places that don't offer these "snowsports" options).

As I thought more about this plan I still found myself thinking a lot about the Iditarod Invitational. In the past I approached this event from a running perspective, thinking of it simply as a really long run. Over time I've come to think that this isn't really the best way to approach this event. Really it is much more of an adventure, a journey, and on some levels a pilgrimage. And thus I've decided that I'm still going to take a shot at the ITI, even in the midst of taking the winter "off" from running. My "training" will be focused much more on the mental and logistical aspects of this event than on the physical aspects. Rather than trying to get myself through the 350 miles by being in the best possible physical shape, I will try to get myself through the 350 miles by being comfortable with my gear, comfortable with the immensity of the journey, and prepared to best be able to deal with any challenge that will arise while out there. Previously I tackled this event with a plan to try to move quickly. I never had time goals in mind, but the mindset that I went into this event with was very much a racing mindset. Once we started my primary goal was to get to McGrath as quickly as possible. This time around my mindset is going to be very much to have the most satisfying journey possible, even if this ends up being several days slower than I feel like I could do this route.

Perhaps this is a crazy approach. I'm not sure there is a whole lot of logic in tackling one of the most difficult physical challenges in my life at somewhere well below my best physical shape. Then again this could all very well be a blessing in disguise. This could be just the dynamic I need to have the journey that I'm hoping to have out there.


Unknown said...

sounds like a great adventure geoff! enjoy your winter "off"

oh, and please take your camera

Joe Grant said...

The nice thing with the ITI is that you'll still end up running somewhere around 400 miles for the month of February just a little more concentrated than usual...look forward to seeing you guys off. I just hope my goldilocks don't freeze and fall off the week before at the JV race.
Btw, like the new blog banner.

luke said...

Geoff, I wish you the best with your new focus. I've been following your blog for quite some time now and I wanted you to know that you've been a real inspiration to me. I started running to lose weight a couple of years ago. I used your awesome example to challenge myself and find new limits. I figured if you could blow apart 100s like you did, surely I could walk in a marathon or longer. I finished my first 50mi and 100k this year and attribute at least some of my motivation to guys like you who are raising the bar. Anyway, I know that was unsolicited, but I want you to know that you are appreciated and there are people out there rooting for you even if you never meet them or hear from them.

Unknown said...

ITI? That's a little-known (but extremely rigorous) challenge. Good luck as you prep and execute.

On an unrelated note, watched "Unbreakable" last night with my wife. She - only a recreational runner who would never consider an ultramarathon sane - was really caught up in the drama. After the movie was over, she said (referring to you), "I can believe the character of the man who worked so hard to come back and win." Nuff said.

Michael Alfred said...

Even superstars need to rest sometime. Thanks for keeping it real.

Anonymous said...

Geoff, have you ever had your blood tested for iron deficiency? Your fatigue sounds like it could be basic running-induced anemia. It would feel even more pronounced at altitude.

Meghan said...

Geoff, holycrap I love the header photo! So much pretty.

trailrutger said...

Dear Geoff,

My question is similar to that of sb, but then in a more general sense.
Do you as a pro athlete have your blood tested for any kind of deficiencies (vitamins, minerals, enzymes) on a regular basis.
I think this is part of your problem.
Look forward to your reply, and insights in this matter.

Regards Rutger,
The Netherlands

runswithheart said...

I don't think you could bbe more spot on about your approach to the ITI Geoff. I know how peersonal this event is to you and by thinking of it more in terms of an "event","happening",or "pilgrimage" is the best way to experience it. You don't have to "race" every race.

mindful mule said...

I like this idea of pilgrimage. It reminds me of something Gary Snyder said: “The point is to make intimate contact with the real world, real self. Sacred refers to that which helps takes us (not only human beings) out of our little selves into the whole mountains-and-rivers universe.” Peaceful journeying in the new year. Jonah.

Wyatt Hornsby said...

Just my two cents: When we moved to Denver in the spring of 2010 I dealt with fatigue issues during my Leadville 100 training. After a long run I was exhausted--way more than usual--and was actually lightheaded at times (still get lightheaded at times after a long or intense run). The altitude has a way of doing this, especially when you live at 6,000+ feet. Folks who don't live at altitude could never possibly understand how hard it is to live up this high--and yet it does afford many advantages. My suspicion is that the altitude has gotten to Geoff a bit--quite understandable and normal. Iron is critical. I eat way more steaks and red meat here in Denver than when we lived out East. And guess what? After eating a steak I feel a hell of a lot better. Maybe a placebo effort, but I doubt it.


Martin Philip said...

I agree with many of the comments-especially those who have been inspired by your character and performance. In addition to examining the physical differences in your environments maybe some insight could be gained from a look at the mental landscape. Pressure and stress can be incredible limiters and, while I'm not suggesting going on a long head trip, I wouldn't ignore that element as part of the equation.
In any event, stay strong and know that many, many people are pulling for you.
Martin in VT

32 degrees said...

you'd kick butt in the Arrowhead 135 - Alaska type conditions in the cold of Minnesota - and you might even beat some of the bikers that do it. Very few runners have ever even finished it. If you are taking time off running maybe you could be the second skier to ever finish it - only one person has done it!!!

32 degrees said...

oops, fix that - EIGHT skiers have finished the 135 miles!!

here's the article.

Unknown said...

Great blog Geoff, very refreshing outlook on life.

mshchemelinin said...

Heya Geoff, can you kindly post updates on the ITI adventure, with details on logistics, training, and gear. I'm planning on giving Tuscobia a try almost a year from now.

Also, can I invite you for a 50k in my hometown of bozeman, MT?

fBm said...

What altitude do you live at in CO? I'm sure you're aware of the old adage "train high, sleep low". But the comment about feeling sluggish (which has been a recurring theme on your blog since you've moved to CO) made me want to ask. My sources are a bit dated, possibly, but the last I read, trying to train hard and recover, while living (i.e. sleeping) above 5k or 6k is a recipe for a general, slow demise.

Anyways, good luck in the new season! I enjoy your blog.