I was supposed to run 12 this morning. My last “long run” before next Saturday’s marathon. I hadn’t run all week, so I really needed to get this one in. I knew the wind was going to be howling and it was supposed to feel like about 35 degrees at 5am. But I figured one last suffering, painful run might kick my ass out of this funk I’ve been in and make me feel like I’ve earned this marathon. I laid out all my winter running clothes last night, charged up the Garmin, and was bound and determined to tough it out.
When I had to get up at 3:30 to secure all the flower pots shooting around my balcony like air hockey pucks, I decided I’d just run on the treadmill. I realized there was really no reason to do that at 5am. So I reset my alarm for 7. Then I just turned it off.
The Georgia/Florida game doesn’t kick off until 3:30, so I’d have plenty of time to go downstairs to the gym and run, go to the pharmacy and the grocery store, and still make it home in time for the game.
I opened my eyes about 8:30 and watched the clouds blow past outside the living room windows. It felt so good under my blue fuzzy blankets in front of the space heater. I had no desire to go downstairs and pound the treadmill for two hours. But I knew I’d feel guilty and hate myself if I didn’t.
I laid there longer. I let my mind wander. I thought about what would make me happy as opposed to what I felt like I was supposed to do.
Then I got up, fed the cats, made Cookies and Creme Pop Tarts, laid back down on the couch, and watched “The Twilight Zone.”
I didn’t feel guilty. I felt relieved.
I understand completely how it’s come to this. I decided to challenge myself to go from a 20 mile a week runner to a 55 mile a week runner too quickly. I knew better. I was trying so hard to prove myself, I bit off way more that I could chew. I burned out mentally and physically before I ever got to race day. I let my pride make the decision instead of my brain. (The outrageous thing is that I seriously considered training to run a 50 mile race in December.)
I could’ve very well run this marathon on 40 miles a week. That got me through my last marathon. I’ve even run one on 30. Why did I feel like I HAD to hit that 55 mark? (And I did. And I WAS really proud of that.)
But now I don’t know which is worse, or if neither is bad; the fact that I made a stupid decision or that I’ve burned out and quit/failed.
I actually fascinate myself, I can usually identify EXACTLY why I do the crazy things I do. But that doesn’t mean I stop myself. And what I’ve done the past few week prior to this race is set up all my excuses ahead of time for when I fail.
I think I’ve eaten one decent meal in the last couple of weeks. Mostly it’s been Pop-Tarts and tater tots and granola bars and Diet Mountain Dew and Diet Coke. I’ve run once in the last two weeks. I’ve fallen into a depression. I’ve started cutting again.
So see, if I don’t meet my goal time (and how could I now), it’s not because I failed as a runner. I just failed as a person. (I have no idea why that feels like a better thing.)
I was telling Boo earlier this week how scared I am about my trip to the race next week. He suggested that I drop back to the half and just go down there and have a fun, relaxing time. But as much as I’ve quit already, I’d rather die than have to tell people I didn’t run the full. I don’t know why. Nobody cares. But it would haunt me forever. I don’t know why.
I’m struggling SO hard trying to figure out who I am and why I’m here. I’ve always identified myself by external achievements. I was a softball player. I was an uber-Christian. I was a shot putter. I was a brilliant theology student. I was a wife. I could drink with the boys. I’m a runner.
But when those things are gone, who is Deanna really? Who am I without those labels I can wear on the outside? I don’t think I know. Maybe I’ve built up such a strong, protective suit of armor that it’s almost impossible to find me in there anymore.
Every time something has happened to strip me of those external labels, my life has gone into a tailspin of depression and confusion. When those distractions and definitions are gone, I have no idea why I’m even here.
Isn’t life supposed to be more than this? Why do I have to be here all by myself without someone to love me? Will I ever be happy, or will I always have to stuggle through these periods of sadness and depression and hurt and self-doubt?
Lots of times I’ve said to Boo, “I’m crazy.” or “I’m a bad person.” And he usually responds. “No. You’re just D.”
I’ve only recently understood that. For a long time I thought he meant that like a funny, depricating thing like, “Yep. That’s just you.” Sort of like those infuriatingly condescending Nathan Deal for Governor ads right now where he says, “That’s just Jason.”
But it’s only been in the last few days that I’ve realized the depth of what “You’re just D” really means. No matter how much I want to be something else, I can only be Deanna. And that’s supposed to be OK. Now I just have to figure out what that means and HOW to be OK with it.
Total week miles: 0
Compare to Last Week
Weeks to Savannah Rock n’ Roll Marathon: 1
After last week’s demoralizing 20 miler, I didn’t run at all this week. It started out as a couple of extra rest days and turned into a pity party/excuse fest. Even though I had no motivation, I knew I couldn’t skip my Saturday long run, especially only two weeks out from the race. I wasn’t sure how the week off would affect this run. Would I have the endurance to run it all? Would my pace bottom out? Would the rest have helped?
What was my brain going to do today? Would I overthink everything and paralyze myself again? Would I beat myself up? Would I be wracked by self-doubt and anxiety?
So I decided to just run. Run without looking at my watch. Run without thinking about running or racing.
I daydreamed and let my mind wander as my body went on and did its thing. I wrote a couple of blogs in my head: one about the church and politics, the other about softball and sexism. I also picked out my imaginary Halloween costume for an imaginary date to an imaginary Halloween party with a very real person. I spent about three miles through Buckhead fantasizing about how that would play out and what ethical delimmas could arise. Good imaginary times. Good imaginary times.
Those daydreaming miles passed effortlessly. I had moments when I looked around and thought, “How did I get here already?”
That’s what I like best about long runs. They’ve always served as a reboot for my brain. They’ve been two, three, four hours alone with no noisy interruptions when I can think and compose and sightsee and stargaze and daydream.
Sometimes when I get home from a long run, I think back on things that happened and things I thought about during it, and it seems just like waking up in the morning and remembering a dream. I think somehow those things must be stored in the same part of the brain. I suspect that long runs have something in common with REM sleep.
The 16 miles ended. I pushed the stop button on my watch and I had run the 16 miles in 2:52:21. That’s a super pace for me at that distance – 10:46.
As I did my cool down walk, I thought about how I always judge myself as good or bad based on the outcome of the things I do. I never allow for any grey area. That’s ironic, because I give everybody else prodigious grey area – often more than they deserve, and often to my own detriment.
I need to remember that a bad run doesn’t make me a bad person. A bad day doesn’t make me a bad person. Even doing a bad thing doesn’t make me a bad person.
And I need to remember that I’m the only one who cares if I break 5 hours in this marathon. My family will still love me. My church won’t burn down. The Earth’s spin will not screech to a halt. They even won’t stop producing Diet Mountain Dew or Pop Tarts.
Even Jesus had a bad day, got pissed at a fig tree and dried that bitch right up. Last I read, he was still a pretty stand up guy.
156 avg heart rate
10:46 avg pace
Total weekly miles: 16
Compare to Last Week
Weeks to Savannah Rock n’ Roll Marathon: 2
I think I can. I think I can. I think I can…
C’mon, Meat! Throw it! You know you’re not gonna hit me, cause you’ve already started to think about it, eh?! Thinkin’ about how embarrassing it would be to miss in front of all these people, how somebody might laugh?! Come on, meat, show us that million-dollar arm, ‘Cause I got a good idea about that five-cent head of yours!”
– Crash Davis to Nuke LaLoosh, “Bull Durham”
I gave up. I’m so ashamed of myself.
When the Garmin finally beeped 20 miles and I pushed the stop button, I took off my cap, put my hands on my knees and said out loud, “Fuck! Fuck this fucking run!”
That about sums it up.
The first half of the run was fine. I turned around north of Oglethorpe at about 10.25 miles. And then I’m not sure what happened. A weak place in my brain cracked and said, “You should stop and walk.” And I did. And the run was done. Oh, I still had to make it all the way home, but I was finished.
This is the same five cent head that had me shoot at the wrong basket in my first middle school basketball game. The same five cent head that made me throw a million balls into centerfield trying to catch runners stealing second. The same five cent head that lost the league championship when a routine ground ball rolled between my feet at second base and into the outfield.
My brain doesn’t allow me to let those things go. I spent the last 9.5 miles of this run taking account of all the ways I’m a loser. My negative thoughts spiral and spiral and spiral down a dark hole of regret and self-doubt. I ruminate on all the things that are wrong with me – all my weaknesses and failures.
And I’m terrified that blowing this last 20 mile run before the race is going to keep me from reaching my goal, and all this time and suffering and all the 4:15 morning runs are going to be for nothing.
Then I will be a failure. I will be weak. I will be embarrassed.
I asked myself again after a little cry in the middle of Buckhead, why I feel like I have to run another marathon. I think I’m trying to prove that I’m strong, that I’m not a quitter, that I’m special.
If I’m strong, then I’m invulnerable. No one can hurt me. I can take care of myself. I don’t have to care what anybody thinks about me. It’s not scary to be alone.
If I’m not really a quitter, then quitting graduate school, and my marriage, and working my steps, and therapy, are all just flukes.
If I’m special, then I can be self-righteous and judgmental and self-confident and proud and cocky.
When I read back what I just wrote, I see that I’m running to be a person I’m not. Oh, I am strong and determined and special, but those words don’t mean what I’ve defined them as there. I need to see and accept the person I really am – strengths and weaknesses – and be OK with her. (Maybe even like her a little….)
So I suppose the real question is, what happens if I don’t break my 5 hour goal in Savannah? I’ve never dealt well with failure or losing or not getting my way. I was still crying after losing softball games well into my 20s, and I STILL think if I pester Boo enough I can get him to love me. Acceptance is not my forte.
It occurred to me several weeks ago that I don’t like this level of training. This probably needs to be my last marathon. I’m trying so hard now to focus on doing things in life that make me happy.
But am I stubborn enough and so driven by shame that I would train for another miserable five or six months to try again if I fail this time? Would I suffer again just for some arbitrary goal that doesn’t mean anything to anybody but me?
Could I simply accept that I didn’t reach my goal and that I don’t want to try again?
That sounds an awful lot like quitting.
Sigh. Why can I not be OK with that?
130 avg heart rate
13:09 avg pace
Total weekly miles: 40.5
Compare to Last Week
Weeks to Savannah Rock n’ Roll Marathon: 3
Atlanta Thanksgiving Half Marathon – November 28
Battle For Black Rock 12 Miler – December 6
Don’t confuse the difficult with the impossible.”
– Me, 10/4/14
You may remember my crisis about a month into this marathon training when I had serious doubts if I was strong enough to make it through my training schedule. I took a week and didn’t run at all. I was seriously considering quitting. Then I talked it over with a friend who pointed out that even if I couldn’t run 55 miles a week (the peak of the plan), that didn’t mean I had to bail completely. I could alway pare the mileage down.
That was enough to get me back on my feet. Thanks, B!
And this week? I ran 55 miles. I couldn’t have run 55 miles back when I was thinking about quitting. But I kept following my training schedule and when it was time, I could. Such a great lesson for me that I alway forget – most great achievements are reached by many small steps and lots of determination. They don’t just happen suddenly.
Sometimes I have to remember where this journey began about 15 years ago so I can realize how far I’ve come. I was 70 lbs. heavier – 210, and I could barely run 30 seconds without stopping. So many times I forget how much toughness and determination I’ve shown. And I forget that all that toughness and determination that brought me this far is still inside me.
So in that same vein, I ran my first 20 miler of this training plan this morning. I ran it all without stopping in 3:37:02 at a 10:51 pace – comfortably faster than my goal pace. My legs didn’t even hurt much. That’s new for me on such a long run – proof that I’m getting stronger!
I’m generally pretty hard on myself. I’m usually self-critical and think of all the ways I could’ve been better. But after this run, I walked in the door to my building and thought to myself, “Good job.”
151 avg heart rate
*Total weekly miles: 55
Total time run: 10:05:29
Total calories burned: 5921
*These stats shall serve as my apology to everyone I’ve turned down to go anywhere over the last month and everyone who hasn’t has a text returned by me after 7:30pm. I run in the mornings before work. Five days a week I’m up around 4 or 5a, so I’m sleeping every spare moment, even during my lunch hour and usually by 7:30 and 8:30p every night! The calorie stat shall serve as my justification for having eight different kinds of bread in the house – not counting the GU and the MetRx bars and the Clif Bars and the Goldfish and the pretzels and the oatmeal and the Pop Tarts…
Compare to Last Week
Weeks to Savannah Rock n’ Roll Marathon: 5
Finally ran again this morning. It had been a week since my collapse into lameness. Hit it at 5am with the scheduled 17 miler. Had to throw a lot of walking in there, but I got the distance covered.
One of the things I learned when I started running long distances was that after I reach a certain level of fitness, I can maintain a pace where my heart and lungs don’t hurt like when I was a beginning runner, but after about twelve miles my legs start to hurt. Ache. Scream. And it gets particularly bad about mile 18 – crunch time in a marathon.
When your heart is pounding and you’re out of breath, walking helps you feel better. When your legs are aching, walking doesn’t help at all. In fact, nothing hurts as much during a long run as STARTING to run again after you’ve stopped to walk.
So what I’m trying to conquer mentally this time around in marathon training is ignoring the pain in my legs. If nothing’s going to help, why stop running? Just think about something else – Jesus, Janelle Monae lyrics, the comparison between the 3-4 and 4-3 defenses – anything except about pain.
I haven’t broken that brain barrier yet, but I’m working on it.
I plan to pick back up where I left off on my running plan this week and see if the week off allowed me enough rest physically and mentally to deal with the mileage. But Boo made a really good point that I needed to hear this week. There is mileage between 55 miles a week and quit. Duh. I know, right? But sometimes I really need somebody to point out that there other options and gray areas besides just the all or none that are often all I can see.
Also adding to the fun of this morning’s run was the 98% (literally) humidity. I heard something splorking and squeaking about mile 13 and finally realized it was my feet. I had sweated so much that my socks and shoes were as wet as if I’d waded through a creek.
On the bright side, running 5 miles in wet shoes and socks caused the ugly brown callus on the end of my middle toe to peel right off. #runnertoes #disgusting
My running has gone in the shitter over the past four days. I’m entered in the Rock n’ Roll Savannah Marathon on November 8th. This will be my third marathon. The first two were the Georgia Publix races in 2012 and 2013. The Atlanta race is brutal and is mostly uphill from mile 18 on. The first race broke me mentally. I had no idea how much it would hurt physically and I didn’t really know how to deal with that when it hit during the race. I finished around 5 hours and 20 minutes. I had only trained running 30 miles a week for this one.
The next year, I upped my training to 40 miles a week and cut fifteen minutes off my time. I was much more prepared mentally for the rigors of the race. I concentrated on eating more during the race, and didn’t even cry at the finish line this time.
My goal this race is to break five hours. My assumption (and you know what they say about those) is that the course will be much flatter than Atlanta. I’m using the Pfitzinger Advanced Marathon 12 week training plan that peaks at 55 mile weeks before the taper. I had to dramatically increase my mileage every week leading up to the start of the plan just to get to the mileage where the plan starts. I knew it was dicey doing that. This should be the fourth week of the plan. I was on track to run 43 miles last week. Then Saturday came.
I was supposed to run 16 miles with 10 at marathon pace. I woke up at my usual 5am long run time and was not feeling it at all. I went ahead and got dressed. Drank a Gatorade, strapped on my water belt and GU and dragged myself out the door. Sometimes when I get started, everything will shake out and I’ll be OK. I ran about a mile and then I did something I’ve never done. I stopped and walked about a quarter mile and then turned around and walked home.
Normally, I would’ve felt really guilty and like a gigantic pussy. But I felt satisfied. I enjoyed listening to the crickets on the walk back. I went back inside, laid down on the couch and went back to sleep. And I haven’t run again since.
The mileage has been killing me. I’ve been trying to pretend it isn’t; but it is. My right hip is aching. My right quad is gimpy. My left calf has been tenuous. I think I have tendonitis in the back of my left knee. I’m pretty sure my right foot is broken from when a log rolled up on me during a mission trip this summer. I limp every time I stand up to walk. I’m exhausted from getting up at 4:15 to run 11 miles before I go to work. There has not been enough sleep in the world to touch how sleepy I’ve been. I’m burning so many calories, I’m having trouble eating enough to fuel myself without making myself sick. Frankly, except for bragging rights, it’s been no fun.
This is my conundrum. Where is the dividing line between being a Bad Ass and being a Dumb Ass. If I decide to keep this up for two more months, who am I trying to impress? And how will I feel if I don’t finish what I’ve started.
I used to be entirely opposed to quitting anything I started. Then I tried it. I quit seminary. I quit my marriage. I quit drinking. I quit working through my twelve steps. I quit Facebook. When is quitting good and when is it bad?
I’ve found that it’s nice to be able to brag that I’ve run a couple of marathons, but I’m not sure how self-satisfying it’s been. It’s always a relief when it’s over. That’s what’s felt the best. But I’ve been surprised at what a let down it’s been when it’s over too.
Why would I want to keep doing something that hurts and isn’t making me happy? But that’s what competition and drive is all about. How far can I push myself? How far CAN I run? How fast can I run? (Not very.) And if I quit, will I be able to face myself and the people I care about impressing in my life. (Yes, I DO care what others think about me. I admit it.)
Why do I have this need to push myself and try to prove “something?” And what I’m I trying to prove, and to whom?
I’m not sure what to do. But I know I have to decide really soon.