Surviving the slump.

So, this is how my week went:

Tuesday:  I really need to make sure I get my miles in this week.  I have this race coming up and I’m pumped.  I ran two miles today, and I’m getting up early Wednesday to get my run in.

Wednesday:  Alarm: “It’s 4:15 am.”  Me: “Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.  I’ll run after class.”  All day at class, “Man, I really am not feeling this run tonight.”  After class, “Man, it’s really raining.  I guess I can’t run in this, that lightening is dangerous.  I really wanted to get those miles in.  I’ll get up early tomorrow to make sure I get them in.” :/  Right.

Thursday:  3am.  Why is it so hot in here?  Why am I waking up covered in sweat?  Why does it feel like I swallowed a box of razors?  Maybe I should check my temperature.  Oh, it’s 100.  That explains the sweat.  Medicine, back to sleep.  (Later, at a more decent hour)  That tylenol helped, fever gone for the time being.  I have to get five miles in today.  I’m running tonight no matter what.  (Enter rain)  Guess I’m running these on the treadmill.  (After 3 miles on the treadmill)  Treadmills suck.  Why do people run on these?  I’m done.  I have to make sure I make up the rest of the miles and add my other 2 to that.  Four mile run for Friday.

Friday:  Supervisor, “Did you get up Wednesday morning for your run?”  Me, “Nope.”  Supervisor, “Time your long run this weekend so I have a goal to get my miles in.”  Me, “Um, it takes me two hours to run 8 miles.”  Supervisor, “Yeah.  What’s important is you don’t injure yourself though.  Seriously.”  Me, “…”  Friday miles, 0.  (My boyfriend found this exchange to be hysterical, by the way.)

Or get injured I guess!

I honestly love this guy.  He cracks me up, and I found his comments to be entertaining.  He makes it a point to encourage me, and he asks about my runs all the time.  But as you can see, my week was less than stellar.  I’m going to blame it on the mystery fever.

Enter Saturday morning.  The alarm went off at 4:15, and I was up.  Oatmeal, coffee, dogs out, shoes on, hydration belt packed.  I step outside around 5:20, intent that I will hit 8 miles today if I have to crawl.  The weather is beautiful, a nice 74 degrees with a breeze (and no sun!).  Sure, it’s humid, but it’s Florida.  This is about as good as it gets.

I’ve got a new power bar in my pack.  I’m trying out new fuel, and I eat my first part of it about 45 minutes and a little over 3 miles into my run.  I’m feeling good as I head towards mile 5, but around mile 6 my stomach starts to hurt a little.  Okay, so the power bar is good for energy bad for digestion.  I do think some of my bonked long runs may have really been fueling issues, though, ’cause I still feel pretty good.  Mile 6 and 7 are a little rough because now I really have to use the bathroom and I’m feeling a little sore.  My hamstrings, glutes, and left knee are pretty achy, but I expected some pain so I’m okay.  I push through it, 7 to 8, and I’m done!

So, lessons of the week:

You can plan all you want to, but remember that intention and action are two completely different things.  To be cliche, just do it.

Running slumps suck, and you really just have to get through them any way you can.  Run as slow as you need to, but you need to run.

I can still run 8 miles.  Next week 9.  Two weeks, race.

Fuel is an issue, I’m not just making excuses why my runs have bonked.  Time to try something else until I find something that works.

Task this week:

Get some gels.

Run.

Don’t get injured.

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I need a race.

Yesterday I was catching up on reading some posts that I follow, and it seems like everyone has a race very soon or has just finished one (or two).  My supervisor at practicum has a marathon this month, and my running buddy is running a 5k this weekend.  My half isn’t until February, and reading about everyone’s races made me jealous.  I need a race.  Soon.

To add to it, I made some running goals for myself this year.  One was to run a 10k, which I haven’t done yet. I feel pretty comfortable that I could finish a 10k, and I was thinking that it’s time to make this goal.  I started looking at local races over the next few weeks, but it turns out that 10ks are much less frequent than 5k’s.  I found one this weekend, but the registration was closed.  It’s kind of a wash anyway since I have a birthday party on Saturday.

I kept looking, and I came across a 15k on October 20th.  Well, 15k kind of subsumes my 10k goal so that counts.  The registration was pretty cheap, and scheduling a 9 mile race should motivate me to keep up with my running schedule.  The run is part of a bigger triathlon going on that day, and there is no time limit on the course.  You know what?  Why not.  I was scared, and I hesitated for a while, but I registered for it anyway.

And I’m already benefiting from it.  I really wasn’t feeling my run today, but I knew I had to go because in a few weeks I have a big race.  A milestone race really since I’ve only run 5ks until now.  I sorted out my schedule for the week to make sure I could get in all my miles this week.  My nutrition over the past few weeks has been less than stellar, but today I planned out all my meals and took all my vitamins.  I haven’t even had any ice cream yet today (although this is certainly subject to change).  I also have to figure out fueling for my long runs, as I’m pretty convinced that this is part of the reason I have been having trouble hitting my mark.

The half is too far out to give me that sense of urgency that registering for a sooner race has given me.  Sometimes you just need a little extra push, and I’ll take all the help I can get.  Now I just hope I don’t die, since the race is at 10:30 am and we all know how I feel about the sun.

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Take the long road.

I woke up early for my run this morning.  It’s been about a month since I actually hit 8 miles, and I had a hopeful belief that after three weeks of sporadic running I could do it today.  I mean, it’s important to have goals right?

This week’s running was set for a park close to where I live, which meant I could leave later.  It also meant we were starting an hour later since my running buddy is unable to rouse herself before 8am for anything.  We were supposed to meet at the park at 9, but she got lost and we didn’t actually get started until around 9:30.

The park was busy today, full of people and sunshine.  We ran past photographers, tours, children’s groups, and random hikers.  My friend and I discussed the weekly tribulations of our lives (as always).  Running all those problems seem less real, less intense.  They wait around at the finish line, but out here we keep a faster pace than all of them together.

We talked this morning about setbacks, about failure.  My first year of graduate school I had to retake my first class in my life.  This set my graduation back a year, and at the time I was convinced it was the worst thing that had ever happened, and I was filled with self-doubt and panic.

Two years later I’m convinced this was one of the best things that ever happened to me.  I re-evaluated what I was doing, and I made changes in my life to make things work better for me.  I went from taking five classes and working full time to taking three and working part time, which meant I went from feeling exhausted and over extended to more centered and able.  And a million other reasons.

What I realized this morning is that so many times in life I have tried to take the shortest route from start to finish.  I focus on the finish, and I want to get there as quickly as possible.  But things are different than they used to be.  More and more I choose the longer trail.  Running this morning with my friend we passed every short cut, every golden road that would have taken us straight back to the cars.  We took more time, we went further, and the time and distance made the run even better.

What an analogy for life.  So many times we are in such a hurry to get the prize.  Married, house, car, job, money, whatever.  Sometimes it feels like a race to milestones, to where you should be, as fast as possible.  Why are we in such a hurry to get our lives over with?  Take the long road, and enjoy the scenery a little longer.

By the way, the sun is like kryptonite to me.  I made it five miles before I almost passed out from the heat.  So, if you do decide to take the long road, be sure to bring Gatorade and I would recommend going before the sun comes up.

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Go running, it’ll help.

I don’t know how many times over the past few years I’ve suggested to people to go running.  Feeling tired?  Go running.  Feeling cranky?  Go running.  Stressed?  Running.

But like all advice, it’s so much easier to give than to follow.  In the past few weeks I started full time classes again, I spent 36 hours in New York for a wedding (and what felt like another 36 traveling there and back for it), I’ve been at practicum…getting the idea?  And I have a knack an underestimating how much energy continuous mental activity takes.

Needless to say, I have been pretty exhausted and stressed.  Over the past two weeks I think I got three runs in total.  I knew just a few miles would help.  I would have  more energy, I would sleep better, I would think clearer, I wouldn’t feel so anxious.  But somehow I just  couldn’t muster up the energy to even put my shoes on.

But you know, I don’t really feel bad about it.  We can only do what we can do, and I don’t  you have to do everything.  I knew I would run again, and I did manage to get a couple in (including a fantastic one with my sister while we were both in New York).

Yup.

The other day after a long day of seeing clients at practicum, I felt that familiar urge.  I had homework to finish for the next morning and dinner to make, but I was out the door for a run with my dog in tow ten minutes after I got home anyway.  When inspiration strikes you don’t wait to act on it until it’s convenient.

Another run today, and then meeting a friend on Saturday for a long run.  And just like that I’ll be right back on track.

On a side note, I have met a few new runners over the past two weeks.  My practicum supervisor runs marathons and has one next month he’s training for.  The other evening when I was at practicum late I told him I was going to try to get in a run when I got home.  He told me he was getting one in, and as I was leaving he told me to have a good run.  I think just that little bit of encouragement helped.  He’s thinking about running an ultra, which is mind blowing to me.  More inspiration  perfectly timed.  Love how the universe works sometimes.

Also, two other students at school are training for halfs in November.  They are following a similar training plan, and they are actually running less than me (which secretly made me feel better about slacking off).  It was nice to have a couple more people to complain about the trials and tribulations of life as a student and a runner with.  They have been struggling to balance their schedules too, and it sure does help to have a couple more people to help you feel normal.

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No one’s a fraud out here.

Self-consciousness comes in infinite forms.  Some people feel like they are never pretty enough.  Some are never thin enough, some too thin.  Some are too short, others too tall.  Everyone has something that nags at them.  It shifts, it hides, only to rear it’s head at the most inconvenient of times.  It’s elusive, hard to explain sometimes, but you know it’s there.  It’s like a demon that needs to be exercised:  It seems bizarre and delusional to those who aren’t possessed by it and only too real to the one it seems to own.

My particular demon is self-doubt.  I feel like an impostor, like I don’t belong.  My greatest fear is not that I don’t belong, though, but that someone will notice and point it out to everyone else.  Most of the time I can regulate it; stop myself from feeling that way or put it in a little box to be taken out later.  Other times, like anyone, it gets the best of me.

I used to feel this way a lot when I ran.  I’m slow.  I walk.  I miss distances and fall short of goals.  I would run races and feel like I didn’t belong there because I couldn’t run an entire 5k or, later, finish them in 20 minutes.  I didn’t think I was really a runner; I was a person who really wanted to be a runner.  I hoped that no one would notice, but secretly felt they couldn’t help but not.

I woke up this morning to run before I started my third year of my doctorate degree with these thoughts in my head.  In the back of my mind was a familiar twinge, a feeling like I was in over my head on every front.  I put on my sneakers and headed out.  It was hot and humid this morning, and as soon as I started running I felt like I wasn’t going to finish this run.  I told myself I couldn’t do this, it was too hard.  The truth is I’m not really a runner, and I don’t belong here either.  I was 2 miles into a 3 mile easy run and I was still telling myself I couldn’t, I wouldn’t, I didn’t.  Until I stopped.

The truth is, I am a runner.  I may not be the best runner, but I am a runner.  I was tired and I could have stayed home.  But I didn’t.  It was hot and I could have walked.  But I wouldn’t.  And with a mile left, I couldn’t fail.  It occurred to me it’s impossible to be a fraud here, out on a run by myself with just the road to judge my effort.  That idea only exists in my mind, and I can change that.

Our brains are powerful, more so than we really know.  We make our own truths.  We don’t see what we don’t want to, and we make our beliefs into reality.  I, on a few occasions, have been amazed by my own ability to not see.  It’s when we truly recognize that power that we can use it to begin the slow process of exercising old demons.

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Hitting the mark while missing it by a mile (or two and a half).

Nothing like trying to dry out wet, muddy (new) sneakers :/

When the alarm went off for my Saturday morning long run I think I actually winced.  Snooze.  Snooze again.  Oh, I don’t want to get up right now.  I’ve had some trouble sleeping, and Friday I had 10 hours of practicum with an hour commute each way.  I was tired in a way that I haven’t been in a while, and it took every ounce of willpower to pull myself out of that nice comfy bed and strap on my shoes.  But I have to meet my friend for a run, and it’s too late to call her and cancel (don’t think I didn’t seriously consider it).  So I made some toast and coffee, grabbed my hydration belt, and headed to the park.

I only got half my breakfast down because my stomach has been bothering me the past few days.  Not anything serious, just a little off is all.  I get to the park a few minutes before it opens, and there are a bunch of jeeps outside the gate with bikes strapped all over them. Most people bike at this park.  In fact, I have never seen another runner here besides my friend and I.  I find the mountain bikers to be a little like I imagine surfers to be.  They are all friendly, and they say good morning to me and each other.  They have long hair and say things like, “Hey man,” and, “Righteous trail!”  At 8am pre-run with a little stomach ache and a big desire to leave and go back to sleep they are a touch annoying.  And their are too many of them.  Like a gaggle of them.  Why are they all so motivated on a Saturday morning?

I am notoriously 15 minutes early for everything, and this friend is always late.  No big deal, because I really don’t mind sitting in my car right now sipping coffee and dreaming of the nap I’m going to take when I get home.  It gets to be the time we are supposed to meet, but I know I have a few more minutes at least.  I head out on the trail to warm up.  About a half mile in she calls to tell me she’s in the parking lot but can’t find me.  I tell her I’m running, and in a few minutes I hear her come up behind me like a lion charging prey.

We chit chat while we run the next few miles.  One of her dogs is dying, and the story is heart breaking.  We talk about school, about shopping, about the race we are going to run together.  She tells me she has trouble finding people to run with her and how happy she is we meet every week.  I tell her running with her pushes me and I like it.

But I’m still really tired.  I put in some hard workouts this week, and my body is feeling it.  And trail running is a different beast.  These trails aren’t like sidewalks without paving.  They’re like an endurance obstacle course.  They are steep and winding, tricky in some areas, and narrow and muddy in others.  And then their are those damn mountain bikers.  They travel in packs and they come out of nowhere.  They say, “Hey ladies!” with a stupid surfer grin as they almost run us over 500 times.  At least they are polite I guess.

After mile four I’m out of energy, which isn’t that big of a deal since we have hit trails that  are so covered in roots and hills we can’t run anymore anyway.  We are basically hiking at this point, to the extent that we have to use trees to help pull us up some of the trail hills.

My friend says she is glad to have someone to run distances with, but these last few workouts with her have been more like my speed workouts than my endurance ones.  It occurs to me we are trying to combine two workouts and it is not working.  I haven’t hit my distance in two weeks now, and I think it’s because these trails are too difficult for me.  She wants to run with me because I run long runs, but these runs are not it.

I realize I’m self-conscious about my running when I’m with her, so I’m trying to do things I really just can’t do yet.  Meanwhile, she’s not getting what she wanted either.  She can run fast, but she never runs more than five miles at a time.  She wants an eight, nine, ten mile run but doesn’t know how to get there.  I can run eight miles, and this is not how I do it.  If we keep doing what she has always done, we will stay at her five miles.  Eureka!

We ran (hiked) two hours yesterday and finished a little over 5.5 miles.  I’ve put two really hard runs in this week, which is great, but I need to get in a long run.  I just need to have the confidence to make that happen.  Next time we are going to run my run not her’s.

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Adding new obstacles changes the game, but it doesn’t end it.

I’ve been pretty lucky this summer.  I was able to have the second half of the summer semester off from school and I stopped working at the end of July.  While getting my undergrad degree and my master’s I worked full time, but trying to do this during grad school is virtually impossible.  My amazing boyfriend and I worked out a plan (and a budget) so I didn’t have to work full-time anymore.  New for this blue collar girl, but fantastic none the less.

This free time over the past month and a half has meant a different life for me.  I switched from the life of writing schedules and papers while trying to sleep somewhere in between to an utter void of responsibilities.  Except for my running.  I have been able to run on the days I want, make them up for days when I didn’t.  I could run in the morning, at night, pretty much whenever I felt like it.  I had company, took trips to see family, read through afternoons and late into the night because I could sleep the next morning.  I even had a couple dinner parties.

But all that is about to change.

My run tonight was hard, and quite honestly I didn’t really feel like doing it.  It was only two miles, which is nothing.  But my legs are really tired from yesterday, I didn’t sleep well at all last night, and my stomach has been bothering me all day.  I figured I could put it in, in the morning, but then I realized I was wrong.  I have practicum tomorrow from 8am to 6pm in the city, about an hour away.  I have to get up early to get the dogs out and taken care of, get my lunch packed, eat breakfast, and get ready.  My boyfriend is out of town for work, which means I have to come home after a 10 hour day and get the dogs out, get them fed, get myself fed, and get ready for my best friends’s birthday party on Saturday.  Saturday afternoon, after my long run.

My summer of leisure is over.  Next week I have classes, practicum, TA responsibilities, on top of my training schedule.  And I’m anxious about them all.  Will my classes go okay?  How will my high-energy site supervisor be?  How many reports will I really have to grade as a TA?  Am I going to be too tired to run?  How can one person do all these things without sacrificing any one?

But I ran today.  I didn’t want to.  It was hard, and I wanted to stop.  But I didn’t.  I realize I have done more than this and squeaked through with my sanity.  I have achieved things in the past few months I never believed to be possible, surpassing my own expectations.  I can do this.  All of it.

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