EDITOR'S NOTE:

 

Along with Andrew Read and Narisa Wild, Julie Warren will be sharing her training experiences for upcoming endurance challenges. Follow Julie as she prepares for her next adventure - the Great Wall of China Marathon! Julie's journals will be posted on Saturdays.

 

Athlete Journal: Julie Warren, Entry 5 - Taking Baby Steps

 

I talked last week about the importance of goals. This week I focused on my short-term goals and I think it really paid off. And to be honest, without these smaller “low-hanging fruit” type goals, that big audacious goal on the horizon would probably seem impossible. Enter the importance of small goals, the baby-steps on the road to conquering the Great Wall of China.

 

One of my goals is to only run “long” every other weekend. This goes against essentially everything I’ve ever been taught when it comes to distance running. It initially freaked me out little bit when I thought about the concept of running less and potentially performing better. How is that even possible? Well I had an experience this past weekend that really solidified my confidence in this approach I’ve taken. 

 

I had heard about a winter trail racing series taking place here locally in Colorado Springs that’s sponsored by a local running club. It’s a 4-race series, with races increasing mileage from 7.5 miles to 13 miles over the course of the series, and 2 weeks in between each race. In essence, it aligns perfectly with my goal of running “long” every other weekend while gradually increasing mileage. Plus I get a free t-shirt and guaranteed running buddies every other weekend!

 

So this past Saturday morning, on a downright freezing 12-degree morning, I toed the line at my first trail race in the series.  I was really unsure what to expect. I’ve never been on these particular trails, so I knew absolutely nothing about the course other than that it was “challenging” according to the website. I also haven’t been doing much running. Aside from any shorter runs we might do in a CrossFit workout and my weekly incline workout, I was averaging maybe one long run every 10-14 days. Needless to say, I had some doubts as the gun went off, but I decided to just go out hard and see how I felt.

 

About a mile into the race I realized something disturbing. I was steadily passing runner after runner while we were switch-backing up a long climb. I figured I’d blown it. I had clearly gone out too hard and would soon pay for it. I mean, I had been passing old guys wearing those horrendous super-short running shorts. You don’t wear those in 12-degree weather unless you’re a legit runner. I kept waiting for my running pride to be overtaken by reality and that moment when I’d have to slow down or walk. 

It never happened. In fact, at the summit of the climb, I recovered quickly and was able to maintain a strong pace throughout the rest of the very hilly course. To make a long story short, I felt incredible throughout the entire race. I finished strong, even catching a few age-groupers within the final half-mile. My final time for a 7.5-mile trail race was 62 minutes. I was extremely pleased with my performance and I realized I must be doing something right. I’m cautiously optimistic I’m on the right path with my workouts.

 

So yes, my CrossFit workouts and weekly incline workouts definitely paid off during the race, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the other changes I’ve made to my life recently. Most importantly, my nutrition has been a big focal point. My goal each week is to adhere to a paleo diet, Monday through Friday. I’m sure paleo purists will cry foul, but this is manageable for me. And if it’s manageable, I’ll do it. I make my breakfasts and lunches for the entire week on Sunday evening, throw them in the freezer and then just grab and go as I’m leaving the house for work. For example, this past week I made sausage, apple, and sweet potato breakfast patties for my breakfasts and a huge crockpot full of pulled pork for my lunches and dinners. Add some veggies and done. Easy! On the weekends I allow myself some liberties, but honestly I don’t get too crazy. I can tell this approach is working. My clothes fit better (I just bought the smallest jeans I’ve ever purchased as an adult), my energy is awesome, and I’m sleeping really well. So, until I start to see a reason to change this method, I’m continuing with my 5 day-a-week paleo plan.

 

The other big change I’ve made is the goal to gradually incorporate yoga into my workout routine. I actually did a short yoga session before my race on Saturday and I have no doubt that was part of the reason I felt so great during the race. Still, yoga for me is stressful. Ironic, right? Hear me out on this. As a runner, I am of course ridiculously inflexible. I am also, as mentioned in one of previous articles, unabashedly competitive. So, to be in a room with all these twisty bendy people while I’m struggling to get my heels on the ground during downward dog is stressful. It’s something I personally have to overcome and I know this, but that’s my struggle with yoga. I’m really bad at it. That being said, it’s becoming more and more a part of my routine and I know it’s helping my running and my overall flexibility.

 

So that’s my week in a nutshell. I was pleasantly surprised with my training progress and performance during a trail race, I established a very manageable nutrition routine that I can adapt on a weekly basis, and I’ve accepted I have work to do in the yoga department. I hope to report back next week on positive yoga experiences. Namaste.