I’m currently somewhere in the 30-40 mileage range. I feel good with that, at the moment. The season is certainly in the full swing of change here in Portland, and I know myself well enough to know when the clouds come in and the rain starts falling, it’s good to take it slow.
This summer was relatively mild in comparison to the last two years of scorchers. It’s usually the heat I worry about. The Wildwood offers plenty of shade, but the humidity in there can make you feel like a moving steam room easily. I’m grateful it’s time to layer up again. There’s something refreshing about running through the afternoon rain at the end of the year. It’s usually the bitter cold of January and February that I dread the most.
I like the cold and I’m embracing autumn. The seasonal change is what I struggle with, and I think it’s a valid thing to discuss.
Our bodies are sensitive things. I tend to avoid using the word delicate because often times we don’t give our bodies credit for how strong and resilient they are. There is strength derived from the foundation of our evolution, but like any complex machine, they need time to adapt to a new environment in which the usual task they perform may have altered in its motions. I don’t want to stray to far down the path here. Let’s just say our bodies need time to adapt to the seasonal shift.
Daylight is limited and temperatures drop, so naturally your body is going to acclimate. That may cause your mind to feel a bit off. I tend to scale back my mileage out of respect for my body’s process during the seasonal shift. Instead of a rigid, 5 day, 45+ mile weeks, I try to do 3-4 days and max out at 40 miles. By adding a day of moderate cycling and an hour of strength training, I give my body a diversity of exercise and recovery to make sure it’s ready when I’m ready to up the mileage again.
In the middle of this summer I planned to train for my first 50-mile run. The run would be self-supported, from one end of the Wildwood to the other, then back. From the day my training was to start (loosely following Krissy Moehl’s excellent training plan) it would land right on January 1, 2017. Seemed like destiny that my calculations landed on that date. Sounded like a pretty good way to start 2017, not to mentionadding a nice cushion of miles to my 2017 Strava mileage. All of the long runs seemed doable between work, family, and recovery/rest days. There was something nagging at me when I started to input this plan into my iCloud calendar.
It wasn’t the miles. It wasn’t the decadent food that often adds a little extra weight for runners to carry around. It was the months of September and October. Those months are always a doozy for me, both emotionally and physically. I’m not myself and everyday feels a little bit off. I’m writing this because I don’t think I’m alone here. Most of the big races have come and gone, and in most every interview I read or hear with elite ultra athletes they discuss their rest and regrouping for next year’s races or adventures. Taking a cue from people I admire, I take it easy on myself so my mind and body can find relative balance during a disorienting time of the year.
Listen to your body. I’m not saying to sit around your house and binge watch Netflix if you feel a little off on a planned running day. If there’s a day you just can’t get it going, try something else. Go for a hike. Ride your bike. Take a long walk around the neighborhood. Do some jumping jacks and core work. All of those things will contribute to your overall health and running. It’s important to stay active during the gloom that 5:00 PM darkness can bring.
Once I’ve slipped comfortably into the cooler mornings and gray afternoons, the mileage can go back up and I can start making a plan to accomplish running goals. I plan to enter my first ultra this summer, so there is a lot to look forward to. That will keep me on track to start working hard once I’ve shaken off the funk of seasonal change. I’d advise you to set some sort of goal for yourself in the spring/summer of 2017. Whatever distance, race, or destination, make it something that gets you nervous and excited. Make it something that will push you out the door, into the cold, and running with a smile on your face.