On February 4th I ran my sixth Algonquin 50k after weeks of exhaustion and burnout. My mileage in the weeks leading up to race day hovered around 8-12 miles per week (extremely low for ultra training) as I attempted to find the delicate balance between healthy training and listening to what my body was asking for, which was rest.
Because ALQ is my absolute favorite race, skipping it was a last resort, so I decided just to go out easy, have fun and aim for making the 8 hour cutoff. To that end, I literally walked across the starting line and didn’t allow myself even a slow jog until 10 minutes had passed. It took tremendous patience to watch the other 250ish runners all disappear from sight ahead of me, but I had made a commitment to myself and I intended to honor it.
But something interesting happened on race day. In spite of my low mileage in recent training, I finished with my second fastest time out of 6 years of running ALQ! I credit many things for this, including frozen mud on the course, but two things I believe made the biggest difference were:
1. Listening to my body and giving it the care it was screaming for rather than pushing myself further into exhaustion, and
2. 10 years of consistent training, most of which has been easy base building miles.
Yes, pushing past our comfort zones is vital to growth in running and in life as well, but when life’s stressors pile up and training begins to add to the stress instead of helping relieve it, it’s ok - no it’s CRITICAL - to honor what we need on every level.
Secondly – patience. PATIENCE in training for the LONG haul. Just like life, running has its seasons - it's ups and downs, good times and bad... But if you put in the work, pull back when necessary, and TRUST the process, you WILL get stronger over time. TIME is the key.
So whatever you're working toward, keep putting in the hard work, but know that it’s ok to pull back when necessary. Listen to your body and trust the long, consistent process and the strength you are building over time. Take the pressure off when it feels too heavy and just get out there and do what feels good.
Feeling strong rather than beat down and burned out on race day and in life in general, you just might surprise yourself with what you can do.
Disclaimer: I'm not encouraging anyone to run a 50K with 12 mile training weeks. This was only possible because I took the race very easy and have built my base and consistency in long distance running over time. In 2022 alone, I ran three 50k's and a 50 miler, so I went into ALQ2023 with a very deep base.