May 11, 2014

The Fatigue of Failure

It's been just over two weeks since UTMF and somehow I don't even feel like I've recovered from the jet lag yet. It's almost unbelievable how much sleep my body has demanded as of late and especially so over the last five to six days. Daily naps are out of my control, nightly sleep is extended and motivation to move is at an all-time low.

I do recall after Linda and I returned from Japan one year ago that we felt it took an inexplicably long time to readjust to our regular Pacific Standard Time Zone, and maybe I've just lost sight of how draining international travel really is. I would also wager to bet that returning from Italy and Salomon's Advanced Week just twelve days prior to flying to Japan added an additional layer to the apparent confusion my body is currently expressing.

On top of these factors though, there is the emotional baggage carried forth with failure. Had I had a successful race around Mt. Fuji I would currently confidently be in the middle of three weeks of down time. That's exactly what I did one year year ago. I was embracing fatigue and an abundance of sleep as a part of the process, yet somewhere in the inability to finish the race the self doubt and the feelings of "I need to train harder, I need to run more and I need to work my way past this" prevail.

In the fifteen days since the race I've been able to do less than four hours of specific training. Initially this was through lack of access to a bike in Japan, but it has since snowballed into feeling completely flattened. Following the race, my foot would not allow me to run, and it was a further four days before I was to fly home. If I'd had access to two wheels I may have attempted to ride them, but alas nothing. I returned home and went straight into a full day of work the following day, which likely the best thing for me as it got me up and going on my local schedule again. I was completely done after spending eleven hours on and off the phone though, working with my coaching clients, and I promptly passed out.

After two nights of relatively decent sleep I was treated to a 2am internal wake up call that wouldn't allow me to get back to sleep. Eventually, around 5am I got up and attempted to embrace the day. I managed some activity for the first time by going to the gym, and I then drove to Seattle to surprise a friend for her birthday and to meet my wife the following day after her successful run at the Miwok 100k (she flew in and out of Seattle).

The following morning, eight days after UTMF, I finally attempted my first run. To put it mildly, it did not go well. My left foot metarsalgia (not anything to do with when I broke me right foot a few years ago) was still aggravated (this originated near the end of the HURT 100 in January).

A seven kilometer run, taking far too long, was all I had in me. Every step left me more frustrated than the last. We picked up my wife at the airport, attended a very fun gathering of friends for our friend's surprise birthday party, and were home in North Vancouver just before midnight.

On the Tuesday, now ten days out from the race I finally got onto a spin bike again. It felt amazing. There was zero pain in my foot, which is exactly what I'd anticipated, and it was my first true workout since the race. It was exactly what I needed, though maybe a bit too much so. Later that day as the sun was setting I was simply dying to attempt another run, so I threw on my shoes and went to the 330 meter dirt track around a soccer pitch that's just a block away. I started running in pain, but the faster I ran the less it seemed to hurt. My run was undoubtedly being fueled by my own anger and frustrations at my race and my subsequent injury and I continued to increase my pace each and every lap until I ran a low five minute mile to close out a low 18 minute five kilometer run. My foot was not entirely happy, but my mind was finally at ease.

The following day, eleven days out now, and I start thinking I'm back in training mode again. Why wait three weeks after a successful race when you can wait less than two after a failed race right? I hit up the gym again, this time for a high paced spin session and an hour later I've had one of the more intense training sessions of my year. I feel amazing. I feel fit. I feel ready to put things behind me and to start working towards my next racing goals, yet I end up struggling to get out of bed for anything but work for the next three full days.

Back to back high intensity workouts within eleven day of running for twelve hours--a twelve hour run that covered over 105 kilometers with nearly 15,000ft / 4500m of gain and loss in which every step from around hour two till ten felt like a near maximal effort just to keep from dropping out. But I didn't finish the race, so how can I be tired, right?

The high intensity workouts likely leveled my glycogen stores and put me horizontal for the back half of this week. It's only today, Sunday and now fifteen days out, that I was able to get moving again.

I'm going about my recovery from UTMF in an emotional state and not a rational one. I am fit and I know this deep down inside, but it's as if I'm trying to prove it to myself for no good reason. I put forth a great effort while running the majority of the way around Mt. Fuji, yet up until I completely spelled it out for myself, all I was seeing was the DNF. Not all DNFs are the same, and the distance I covered in Japan makes it the 9th longest run of my entire life. It's time I start treating it as such.

The fatigue of failure.


Unknown said...

Gary- love your blog. Have you tried using MAP (Master Amino Acid Pattern) during your long races to help with recovery? I am considering using it during 100 mile races and looking for evidence it is working for others.

Zinnecker said...

A friend of mine tweeted out a quote from a local college wrestling coach that I thought of as I read your blog: "You can't let the last disappointment affect the next opportunity." ---James Miller, Wrestling coach, Wartburg College.

Take the time to reflect, learn, and be grateful for all you have gotten and get to do. You'll be back to full speed and crushing it soon!

garobbins said...

Hey Martin, thanks for the comment! I have no experience with MAP so can't comment on it. I'll let you know if I hear of anyone else having used it.

All the best,

garobbins said...

Bradford, thanks for the comment and great quote!

I definitely haven't lost perspective on anything here and was more attempting to make the point that all too often we don't allow ourselves proper recovery from our failed racing efforts.

I'm already looking forward to working past this and focusing on the next one!

All the best,