Success! And Thoughts on Failure.

Wow! The big weeks went by fast. I learned so much. First of all, we got all the big days in.

On January 5th, it was 18 miles on Squak Mountain with 5,000′ of gain:


Then, on January 12th, we did 20 miles on Cougar Mountain with 3,000′ of gain:


And finally, a few days ago, we finished off the sequence with a big, gnarly, difficult and technical day on Tiger Mountain. 22 miles, and 6,150′ of gain:


We were supposed to do shorter “long runs” after each of those. Well, there I failed. The first week I did ok, with a 10 mile road run. But it was slow, and painful. The second week, after the 20 miler, I managed a 5 mile flat hike, but no run. And then after the 22 miler, I took a rest day, but then did a 9.5 mile flat-ish trail run on Monday.

I’ve learned I just don’t recover fast enough to do the back-to-back long run training cycle. I might have been able to physically push through it, but it would have been pure pain, and I think I’d have done myself more harm than good. So I’ve decided that I won’t repeat this philosophy on my next long race training cycle. I wish I had the recovery and fitness to just go out and do back-to-back double digit hard mountain runs. But I don’t and I don’t think I ever will.

But I take that as learning, not as a major failure. It’s a minor failure. And I’m OK with failure. It teaches me how to proceed. As an aside, I hate the tendency I see, especially in awesome, supportive communities like the running community, to define everything as a success. If someone DNF’s a race, it’s not a failure! It’s a success because they listened to their body! Come on. It was a failure, but maybe a good and important one. Maybe they didn’t train well enough. Maybe they were injured mid-race. Maybe they got sick or dehydrated or whatever. It was a failure because they didn’t achieve their objective.

And that’s FINE. Failure teaches us where our limits are that day. Sometimes, but training more or differently we can change where our limits are. Sometimes we learn we’re HAPPY with where our limits are, and we don’t want to go further or higher or whatever. And sometimes we just fail and get to learn about how we respond to failure. If I’m not failing regularly, I’m not striving for big enough goals.

I failed at this training plan because it doesn’t work for me, and because I don’t have the time or discipline to do what it would take to make it work. I can’t run mountains during the week. I don’t recover fast enough. I’m overweight and not in quite good enough shape. All of those things are OK with me. Some because I can’t change them, some because I am unwilling to do the work it would take to change them.

So I succeeded at the important bit: I’ve done LONG runs on hard mountains on schedule and at a pace which gets me to the finish line of my intended race prior to the cutoff time. And I failed at some of it too. I couldn’t do the secondary “long” runs. Which means that race day will probably be harder and slower than I’d like. And it plays with my head in that my partner, BB, could absolutely do them. She’s younger, fitter, and a better athlete than I am.

But I think back to why I run. Why I am trying this. What I’m doing here. I’m here to throw myself at the wall until I break. Well, I found the first breaking point. Back-to-back long runs are not for me. But I’m not going to break on race day. Come hell, pain, and sleet, I’ll cross the finish line.