where my head is in competition with everything else

I feel like I am at the part of training where the physical training is starting to lose some ground to the mental.

Physically: it’s just running. One foot in front of the other, over and over and over again. It’s shorter miles during the week, in preparation for longer mileage on the weekends. It’s getting up before the sun to log those miles. It’s fueling and hydrating and early(ish) bedtimes. It’s stretching and cross-training.

As my miles increase, it seems that my brain is interested in getting some skin in the game. Up to about nine miles, I am pretty much on auto-pilot. My body seems to know what it has to do (with varying degrees of rebellion), and I am settling into a groove of preparation, nutrition, hydration and fueling that seems to be working, most of the time. Once we start looking at those double digit long runs, though, the overthinking, anxiety and doubt start finding the chinks in my proverbial armor.

That’s a little harder to handle.

Friday’s long run really rattled me. A few things went wrong that were out of my control, but I really felt on top of it until the last few miles.

I guess the first problem was my 24 hour delay. The run was planned for Thursday, and I was doing beautifully with my eating and water consumption. Little man came home with a bit of a bug from school and so I ended up postponing by a day. Totally the right call, but sometimes a holdup can create some unintentional issues.

But I was ready to go on Friday and made my way to one of my long run routes. I pressed start on my Garmin a little before 5:30 AM and I was ready to own this run. I had my handheld, two bottles of light blue Gatorade, a few mini Snickers bars (a fueling tip from the ever-positive, supportive and helpful Neon Runner on Facebook), some new tunes on my iPod and a smile on my face.

The plan was to knock out some bridge repeats and then to finish up my miles with a run along the beach and through downtown. Nothing new or dramatic. My first interval started and I went up the bridge like a boss. However, at the top, before the descent on what can only be called the steep side of the bridge, I realized something was wrong.

All the street lights were out.

It was pretty cool for getting pictures of all the lights in the dark. Not so awesome for running downhill. My pace suffered as I focused on my footing and my surroundings, so I would neither take a tumble nor run into anyone. Ugh.

At this point, it was too late to find somewhere else to run, so I decided I would just try to make the best of it. I got through nine miles just fine. I took a break at 4.5 miles to get a drink and a little bite to eat, and then filled up my handheld to take with me until I hit the nine.

With four miles to go, I cracked open my next bottle and had something else to eat. I was tired. And hot. So hot. My shorts were soaked through and I was just dripping. A bug actually drowned in a puddle of sweat on my forehead. I can’t even explain the physics of how it happened, seeing as how my forehead is pretty much vertical, but it did.

I had brought a towel with me, and dried myself off as best I could, and then I decided that I would reduce my running interval from 2:30 to 1:30 so that I wouldn’t be exerting as much effort. I would be out there longer, but in the grand scheme of things, that didn’t matter as much to me as finishing and feeling ok.

The last four miles were flat and mostly shaded. I figured this would help me get through, but at that point, it didn’t really matter. I. Was. Dragging.

And I was starting not to feel so good.

Since there were a lot of benches along the way, I started taking little breaks. I sipped my Gatorade and tried to keep to as much shade as possible. I was fading so freaking fast. I was dripping sweat, but I was also starting to get the chills, and I knew my body temperature was absolutely out of whack. I texted Mr PugRunner at mile 11, to tell him that I was struggling and he told me to just walk back to the car and forget about the rest. It was the safest option and a training run wasn’t worth getting sick or passing out.

Which, of course, is 100% right.

There was a coffee shop along my route, so I stopped in to get a fresh Gatorade. And then began walking the longest mile ever to get back to the car. A few times, I jogged a little, just so I felt like slightly less of a failure, but my heart wasn’t in it and I quickly lapsed back into my walk.

To add insult to injury, I didn’t even make the full 13 miles. I stopped at 12.96, and quite frankly, didn’t have the will to push for the final .04.


I know I shouldn’t be hard on myself about this. A lot of things went right. My pace, even with all the hills and bridges, started out really well for me (when the temp cools down and I am on the flats, it will definitely be more apparent). My fueling was working great – no emergency bathroom dashes and no upset tummy. My legs felt pretty good and even though I was tired (because who isn’t tired after o’dark thirty wake ups), I wasn’t exhausted.

The weather, however, is doing me no favors, and it’s easy to get discouraged, because, well, being discouraged comes fast on the heels of something like this.

I know I’ve said that the only goal I’m setting (and that I even SHOULD set) is finishing this marathon. Bonus points for doing so with a smile on my face. Rough calculations indicate that I have a time window of over seven hours to complete the course, based on when I think my presumed corral may start, and if the 16 minute mile pace is upheld, and even if I perform exactly like I did on Friday, I can finish in well under that.

But then I feel like I’m aiming low. That it’s not enough to set a goal of running/walking/crawling 26.2 miles. That I should be incredibly serious about it, too. I guess this is what happens when you get dehydrated and fatigued – you start having crazy thoughts like this. I feel like I give myself a lot of outs: Sure, you’re slowing down, but it’s really hot and humid out so that makes a difference; No, you haven’t PR’d a 5K since last year, but that’s because you’re training for longer events; Go out and try to get a PR in the Marine Corps Half in a few weeks to get that corral upgrade, but don’t worry if you don’t because it’s not the most important thing in the world. So many buts, feeling like so many excuses.

By all accounts,  I am proud of myself. I’m being consistent. I’m moving forward. My plantar fasciitis hasn’t returned. I’ve been keeping up my cross training, being religious about post-run stretching and following my body’s cues. I’m still excited about racing and already have big plans for the rest of 2015. This is what it’s all about and I’ll be a lot happier if I can get that through my head.

To be honest, I’m not surprised this 13 miler was so hard. The last time I ran 13 was in January and it didn’t really end so well for me. Hitting the distance again was a bit of an emotional obstacle, and even though I didn’t quite exactly make it the whole way, it’s close enough that I can call it good and cross it off my training calendar. I preach a lot about using bad runs like this to appreciate the good runs even more and I have to remember that advice applies to me as well.

My next long run will be 15 miles in about a week, and that will officially be the farthest I’ve ever gone at one time. Obviously, there are no guarantees, but I’ve taken notes and will be starting earlier, bringing more fluids, and doing everything I can to avoid what happened with this most recent run. From this point on, everything I attempt will be new and my focus has to be on acknowledging all the new objectives and successes as they come.

No matter what happens out there on the road, I’m going to remember to enjoy the beauty of it all, both in the fact that I am able to get out there and run and that I get to see things like this while I’m doing it.

And, no matter how down I am, no matter how much I’m hurting, no matter how hard it was, I’m going to try to finish with a smile on my face.

What are the things you most appreciate about your runs?

What’s your farthest distance?

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