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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23 Responses to where my head is in competition with everything else

  1. Anne says:

    Girl no wonder it was a hard run, The last time you ran that far it was nice and cool January weather, not icky sticky Florida August weather!

    I have a similar experience in St. Augustine one morning when I got to dehydrated. Luckily I cats money on me and was able to stop and buy a G2 towards the end of the run. It was actually a pretty scary moment when I started to get a bit dizzy. Honestly these days in the summer I keep my runs to 10 miles or shorter.

    Really chances are you just had an off day! I am sorry it didn’t go as planned fingers crossed your 15 miler is much better, I’m sure it will be! 🙂
    Anne recently posted…Princesses, History, and Rollercoasters: Labor Day Weekend 2014My Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      The last time I ran that far, it was about 27* at the start and I don’t think I ever got feeling back in my toes!

      I make it a habit to always have some money on me, just in case. Especially when the weather is like it’s been. It’s not a chance I’m willing to take.

      Pffft. 15 miles? No sweat! Easy peasy! LOL! I’m hoping I can make it through entirely on positive attitude!

  2. The heat and humidity really make a difference in how your runs go. The fall weather is around the corner and it will get better! Good for you in using this run as a learning tool! We all have those bad runs….it makes the good ones even sweeter! 🙂
    Mindy @ Road Runner Girl recently posted…WIN Detergent ReviewMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      I feel like fall is never going to get here. Of course, it will come later for us than for most of the country, but eventually it will be cooler. Maybe. I’m even starting to count down to the time change because at least I will have more hours of light in the morning. I need a good run next time. Fingers crossed!

  3. If any one is proud of you–I am!! This training life is so not easy. Sometimes even when you set yourself up for the best of runs/races something can always go wrong. I can’t believe all the streetlights were out. I wouldn’t even know what to do, especially downhill!! Its bad enough that we have to run in the dark–but without streetlights? brutal!! Congrats on your 12.96, you did great! You are going to do so well in your marathon. I have had 2 terrible humidity beaten training runs this week but I managed to stay on pace today and I will take it. My longest run so far is 10miles.
    Nellie @ Brooklyn Active Mama recently posted…BAM Girl Talk: Big Brother, Fall TV & CVS to Ban CigsMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      <3 <3 <3 Thank you so much. I appreciate it more than you know.

      I was so afraid i was going to trip and fall and break my face. The worst part is that I usually get so much speed and momentum flying down that side of the bridge. And nothing! I guess it's time to start looking at headlamps.

      10 miles is a great distance! Two digits, even, round number. I love it! Keep it up! The humidity is really a factor this year.

  4. Don’t forget that you also had been nursing a sick kiddo. Which means you were exposed to his cooties. It’s possible that your body was also fighting that off in addition to heat and fatigue. Nice work getting it done! And honestly, come race day, your body doesn’t really know that you stopped .04 short of your distance goal on a training run.
    Stacie Seidman recently posted…Truthful TuesdayMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      YES! COOTIES!!!! I think I am tucking that away for all the time he is in elementary school!!! WINNER!!!
      Come race day, I don’t think my body knows what the heck it’s going to be doing on race day! I can tell you right now it’s not going to be happy!

  5. Angie says:

    It is tough to feel down, but you are out there doing it. This heat and humidity are no joke! It sucks. My long runs are suffering, and it has me doubting that I can finish the next long distance. I am running Marine Corps Half for the same reason as you. It is so hard to push pass the mental obstacles of running. That is my biggest problem right now. It isn’t my legs, it is my mind. I know you can do it.

    By the way, the Snickers idea is genius! I did that many years ago and it was great. I want to go back to it, but I am afraid they will melt during my run.
    Angie recently posted…Almost Fall Racing SeasonMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      I had the very same question, and I asked my buddy Neon Runner about it. She said to freeze the Snickers in advance and then carry them away from the body. Like maybe in the pocket of a handheld water bottle. Genius!

      I hope I see you at Marine Corps! I am not thrilled about it, but it’s too late now! 🙂

      • Angie says:

        Freezing them is a great idea! I wear a hydration vest on my long runs so I am not sure if I can keep them away from my body. I told my husband he can meet me on the route and hand them to me. 🙂

        I will look for you at Marine Corps! This race scares me for some reason. I think I am putting way too much pressure on myself to finish in a certain time.
        Angie recently posted…Almost Fall Racing SeasonMy Profile

        • runswithpugs says:

          Having your hubby meet you along the course would be awesome! Those Snickers freeze pretty hard, so you might be ok, regardless. I think, no matter what, the weather here is Snicker-melting LOL!

          Definitely look for me. I am terrified too. I heard it’s hot and a hard course. Really, no one has anything positive to say about it. And yet, here we are. Going for it.

          • Angie says:

            I haven’t heard anything about the course. I chose it because it was the only half I could find before the proof of time deadline. Well, I guess if I don’t meet my goal I can just call it a glorified training run. 🙂
            Angie recently posted…Almost Fall Racing SeasonMy Profile

  6. Some runs are just better and worse than others. Don’t beat yourself up about it. You are doing great.
    Abby @ BackAtSquareZero recently posted…Weight Watchers – Week 7 of MeetingsMy Profile

  7. jan says:

    You are probably tired of me saying this but I seriously have no idea how you handle running so far in the HEAT! That’s really amazing to me. I wouldn’t beat yourself up over that run. It was still great!
    jan recently posted…The Night We Almost DiedMy Profile

  8. Darlene says:

    I think you’re doing great. Don’t beat yourself up. I am having problems running 3 miles in the humidity. 13.1 is my farthest and will probably stay that way.
    Darlene recently posted…Friday Five: race day ritualsMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      Sometimes, I can’t help myself. I always try to be positive and look for the good, but I often hold myself to a much higher standard. After this, I will be right back to my 13.1s. I am pretty sure that 26.2 will be a one and done thing for me.

  9. Patty says:

    You know I needed to read this, right?! Thank you for having a sucky run so I don’t feel alone. 😉 You hit on so many truths for me in here- and I’m going to take some of your lessons to heart for myself! Especially the thoughts about crawling across the finish line and how that shouldn’t be the goal… but… maybe that’s ok if it is. <3 Jenn!
    Patty recently posted…Disneyland Half Marathon Race Re-Cap 2014My Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      LOL! I’m so glad I could be of assistance!

      In all honesty, I talk a big game. I’m going to be disappointed in myself if I don’t finish how I see it in the far recesses of my brain, but I’m going to try to make myself see reason. The end goal is to finish. So many people never even start, so we’re already halfway there 🙂

      As I said on Twitter, I wish I had the bravery to do something huge like Goofy, but I had enough self-doubt signing up for just the marathon, that there’s no way I could go for more. You are so awesome and you are going to do great! There will be things that will go down that are out of your control, but you’ll weather those storms and come out stronger than ever before.

      Hang in there. Give yourselves a few days to digest and move past Sunday’s race and then get back out there! You’ve got this!

  10. April @ RunTheGreatWideSomewhere says:

    What a great post. I’ve felt like I’ve gone backwards in my training this year and all my runs are just HARD lately. I know that the summer is like that for me, but with Wine & Dine I don’t have a choice I have to get those runs in even though the weather is miserable. You did a great job and I think you have a great attitude about it. We all have those doubts and self-criticisms (some of us more often than others). Marathon training is something to be proud of!

    • runswithpugs says:

      Everything has been hard this year. I had a bit of a bright spot at the DONNA 5K,and then just sloggy slog slog. I guess the takeaway is that I still love races, so my joy is there. It is what it is, I guess. I’m doing what I set out to do, and no matter how it shakes out, I’m checking a goal off my list, and I’m going to try to have fun while I do it. Maybe 🙂

      You’ll have fun at Wine & Dine. I would like to try that one next year.

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