Needless to say this is not the position I expected to be in 5 weeks post “marathon.” I pictured myself running so hard that I could not walk my first week of downtime. Then, I would spend my second week of downtime traveling around and participating in all activities that are not running related. By week three I would be ready to be back in the saddle, fired up from a new PR, and ready to forge ahead.
In reality, I am sitting here wondering what I have done with the past 5 weeks. I feel like they have been wasted. After my initial downtime, I hit the ground running, feeling fit and ready to take on the world. Then, my long run day came around and my body rebelled. I was not ready to face yet another long run. Had I not just done 16 straight 21+ mile long runs? What is the point of this meager 18 miler anyways?! Staying in my pajamas and being a grump all day seemed much more appealing. Mind you, I have NEVER missed a run on my training schedule for any reason other than injury or illness. This was the first time in my life I simply did not run because “I didn’t want to.” Something was off. I decided my mind was not ready to face the war of training yet, so I took another few days off, drank some wine, and made a new plan.
Yes! Plan B is a good one! It is speedy. It is intense. I was feeling fast. Whoa, was that a new 200m and 400m PR?! Then, my body was dominated by the flu. Give me a break, universe! I have not had the flu since I was in elementary school and here it is, feeding on the motivation I had worked so hard to scrounge up. Five days later, although I am still only about 90% recovered from the flu and 1.5 weeks removed from my last workout, I am sitting on a plane heading to a race. Granted, I have only done two workouts, so I am not too worried about these 10 days off/easy. It was not like I was in stellar shape beforehand. I am more worried about why, for the first time in my running life, I had missed runs and not woken up so fired up for workouts that I was ready to take on the world. Some serious soul searching was in order.
Meb compared the loss of the NYC Marathon to an injury. Although I can agree with the sentiment, this analogy did not hold true for me. When I sustain an injury, I go through a wide range of emotions while I heal, but eventually somewhere along the road to recovery, I bounce back more fired up and motivated for my running future than ever before. I become obsessed with training and crawling back into shape. It becomes exciting and fun. This has not been like an injury at all. The loss of the NYC Marathon was a break-up for me. I had endured and recovered from a fractured knee cap, a serious bout of pneumonia, a broken ankle, and anemia for this race. I had put in the highest mileage training weeks and hardest workouts of my life. I had moved across the country for this race and suffered through the acclimation to altitude while trying to become a beast of a runner. For 16 straight weeks, I lived, breathed, and dreamt about this one race and for the first time in 12 months, I was 100% ready to PR, race, and do what I do best…be myself.
If you were left at the altar on your wedding day, would you immediately find a new person to marry a month later? Of course, not (well…probably not. No judgment.) After a break-up, I often find myself swearing off all relationships forever and the thought of a couple in love holding hands makes me want to gag. Why do I respond this way? My hypothesis is that it is a pre-determined defense mechanism to avoid getting hurt again…to avoid losing all my investment in someone else. This is how my body and mind have been treating races. I am scared. What if I invest everything I have in an event again and it does not happen? I do not know from personal experience, but I bet being left at the altar twice would be enough to swear off love forever and truly mean it. Running may have hurt me physically in the past, but it has never hurt me mentally. It has been my savior for the rest of life’s turmoil. It has been my support system. If we open up the possibility of running breaking my heart, then that means ANYTHING can hurt me. If I am being honest with myself, this is not a prospect I was ready to accept right after New York.
So, what does one do when their messed up mind is preventing them from doing their job? I am sure everyone has a unique answer, but I would tell other people to “toughen up and quit being a pansy.” My best friends and family members are quite familiar with my tough love approach. It would not be fair for me to treat myself any differently.
Therefore, I am on a plane and ready to conquer my biggest fears, so I can move on and smash out a wicked awesome new PR at the Houston Half Marathon. I am going to race a short distance race untapered, out of shape, recovering from an illness, and full of fear. If I race well, great! I will get in a good workout and kick start my build up to my winter race schedule. If I do not race well, oh well! I will get in a good workout and kick start my build up to my winter race schedule…but if this race gets cancelled, you can accept my retirement from this sport. ;-)