Also titled squared: Am I a runner...?
This week's training run was a "cut back" week. Only 90 minutes. TNT's training schedule sporadically alternates between running set mileages and running for a set time. So for me, today's 90 minutes meant 8 miles and a couple desperate 5-minute walk breaks. Because today, for me, was an Epic Struggle. I say that not in my usual, Oh, it's no big deal, self-deprecating way, but in an honest, this run was forced and ugly, kind of way. I haven't been able to pin down the reason, but I can try and explain what I mean. Perhaps someone can tell me where I went wrong with this...
Usually when I run, my brain turns off. It is my time to totally decompress, to not have to think about or process anything. I zone out in tune to my footfalls and the rhythmic sloshing of my half-full and warm water bottle. Random ideas pop in and out, but nothing sticks, and I literally do not think. Today, however, my brain did not shut down. Thoughts kept popping up; I spent most of my first two miles trying to tell myself to focus on my breathing, clear out the distractions. But two miles in, my legs were leaden, struggling, and my brain was loaded.
Right around 2.5 miles, this thought fired up: "I can't do this." Rarely, very rarely, does that little "c-word" pop up for my consideration. There is not much I can't do, and even less that I am not willing to try. And yet, here I was, 20 minutes into a 90-minute run, thinking I can't do it. Thinking my legs were just going to stop propelling me forward at a mediocre pace. And then I thought, as smiling runner after smiling runner kept passing me, "I am just freaking jogging. Not even running." That thought lasted probably a good 3 or 400 meters before I managed to shut it out and let it go, focusing on the packed gravel trail we were running on.
I did not let myself stop until just over half-way through the run. But stop, I did. Who knows if I would have been able to keep running for another 45 minutes, if I could have forced a way through my mental roadblock... Here is what I think though: this was not entirely mental. As I turned around at about mile 4, I literally felt like I could fall asleep on my feet, right there. My body was completely exhausted, utterly worn down. I had this mental image in my head of my hip joints as rusty, ineffective gears, the type that takes a lot of physical effort to get turning. I think our bodies know what they need, but we have to listen to them. Mine was telling me that as much as my breathing was easy, as much as I mentally wanted to keep running, my legs were just not going to do it. So I adapted to it. I poured some cold Gatorade into me; I walked.
And then I was able to start up running again. Two more miles and another water break, then a mile and a half to finish it off. I think I ultimately ran for about 80 of the 93 total minutes clocked. So, well, it is what it is. To round out this post, my brain successfully quieted down on the second half of my run, thanks in large part to random Grateful Dead lyrics about running and trucking that kept popping up. It was a pretty sweet mash-up actually. But anyway, next week is a "long run," which, apparently, is any run over 10 miles or 90 minutes. I would like to politely disagree with whomever decided that... Pretty sure anything over 3 miles is a long run. Hopefully, though, it will go better than this week. Sleep might help... A better pre-run meal; a better night-before dinner? Sleep will help.
Hope you are staying cool wherever you are this weekend. It is supposed to be 90 degrees with 90% humidity in Chicago today. Movie day, anyone? Thanks again for reading and cheering and laughing at my silliness. Also, I know I am a runner. My brain was just scraping the bottom of the barrel for reasons to get me to stop. It is all good. Pax.