Thursday, January 19, 2012

Running On Empty

I'd originally set out to post about the Olympic marathon trials, which were AMAZING, by the way, and more about the fantastic 5.5 hours and 25 miles of trails I did with a group last weekend. I'll likely mention it anyway in this blog, but the week really unfolded differently, and I feel like I need to be more true to reality instead of just focusing on the awesome that was last weekend.

I don't think that any of us who love to race and run come with personalities that tell us to sit back, relax, take that rest day, and all that good stuff. "Suck It Up, Buttercup" is a frequent mantra, and others in the vein of "What Doesn't Kill Us Makes Us Stronger." For the record, I DO generally agree with that most of the time; we can do a lot more than what we limit ourselves to, and sometimes we do have to go too far to discover those things we're capable of doing. Some of my best runs and races have come on days when I just wanted to stay in bed, or when the first handful of miles didn't feel great. There are times, though, when running isn't the magical cure-all. Sometimes, rest is just the thing, even though it's hard as runners to admit that time off is just as crucial as the tempo runs, speed work and long runs.

My week started harmlessly enoough. My plate's been especially full lately; I wrote off not being able to double-up on local Serpents Trail on Monday as fatigue from a weekend with a very long trail run, yoga, and hike with 2000 foot elevation change. The next day, though, I just didn't have any mojo. There were outside reasons for this, but I've always been able to "just run" and block that stuff out physically and mentally. I canceled my early run, and figured that Wednesday track would be great. Wednesday wound up being many times worse than Tuesday. My body, heart, and mind were not in it for running, yoga or any other kind of moving around. Still, I told myself, suck it up. Don't be a pansy. I've always said "listen to your body" is a bunch of B.S., because often the body says "go eat some chocolate cake!" or "mmmm, wouldn't those french fries taste good right now?"

What followed shouldn't have been a surprise, but was totally discouraging nonetheless. I felt like I was moving through sludge on the warmup. This wasn't an epic pace; just waking up the body. The planned workout was different than what we've been doing, and was something I should have been able to hang on to easily; 800 meter repeats with 400 jogs between, done in groups of three with similarly-paced runners. I barely made it around one time, feeling like a brand new runner who was attempting to run a world record pace on the track. My back had been bothering me since Monday, and that was also wound up tighter than ever. It hurt, and everything was tight. I couldn't do it, and bowed out of it, walking it off a few laps. I was dejected but tried to tell myself hey, it's okay. Everyone has off days. I needed to go clean at the yoga studio where I work in trade, so I decided to leave early for the first time since we started this group, and head over to take the "playtime" class, and follow up with a cleaning. This is considered an advanced yoga class, and I am NOT an advanced yogi. Still, it's encouraged for all because of the fun and playful nature, and the chance to work on cool inversions, jumping into stuff, and basically just play around on the mat. I figured, hey, the body can't handle running tonight. It's cool. Yoga's what it needs tonight.

Yoga wound up being even worse than speed work. This was a totally fun class; something where I should have felt like a kid again, jumping, handstanding, and other cool things. I just wanted to lay down and go to sleep, though. By the time I finished, I think I'd spent close to half the time on the mat in child's pose, a restorative pose that one can assume if things are too tough or overwhelming. I rarely go into this in the regular, hotter classes, so it was a shock to me to feel this bad for the "playtime" class. As someone who always pushes through, and gets it done, I really felt like a failure for going 0 for 2 on attempts at physical activity that should have been no brainers.

What went wrong? Well, I guess I've just been lucky in being able to push through stuff....pain and fatigue, whether directly related to running, or not-but it finally caught up with me. My first instinct was to beat myself up about it. Recognizing this as not productive after doing a little bit of it, I worked to change the mindset. I started with settling down, getting showered, and laying in bed reading to relax until I fell asleep. I finally headed to the chiropractor this morning, and already feel more relaxed. He could have easily used a sledgehammer for the adjustment; I was wound up tight as a tick. This felt good, but I was still feeling like a bit of a schmuck between the bad workouts, and my friends knowing that something else was obviously going on, and showing their concern. I jokingly add "of awesomeness" to a lot of cooler of awesomeness, mile of awesomeness, long run of awesomness......while I don't dig Debbie Downers, I think I'm figuring out that I do need to cut some slack on the idea that I need to be positive about everything all the time. Some days, some workouts, some life situations, are just shitty and hard. There's no way around it. Working the problem, and figuring out the best solution, is what matters most.

The chiropractor, the fabulous Dr. Yale here in Grand Junction, advised me to skip yoga or running this evening, so I'm going to stick to that advice as much as I'm itchy to do what I call "revenge run" or yoga practice to make up for the way things went yesterday. I know he's right that I need to give the back and body the rest but it's hard to follow through sometimes. I'll take the opportunity to do other things and make the most of the down time, and keep in mind that I've made enough training deposits to not be concerned about a few days off this week.

Next up on my schedule will be the Appleton Freezer 4-miler on Saturday, followed by a 2-3 hour long slow trail run on Sunday. I did a glorious run with a group of eight local runners last weekend, covering 25 miles around Mary's Loop, Steve's Loop, Moore Fun, and other trails here near the Colorado/Utah border. I feel a little off-kilter for racing, but maybe this unintentional extreme taper will be good. I was also very inspired by the runners at the Olympic marathon trials, and getting to watch a fun, stealthy feed by another fellow runner who did a small-time stream of the event. I felt like I was right up in the action as he ran back and forth on the trials loops, and commented about ALL the runners, and not just the two or three big names in the game. Though my body sort of said "enough" this week, my mind is more in the game than it has been in a long time, and the trials just fueled that enthusiasm. I'm going to be patient, let the body catch back up to the mind, and let the two start trying to get along again out there on the roads and trails.


Liz H said...

Listen to your body is right on. It's the mind that tries to manipulate you to inhale that chocolate cake- the body is honest:-) You're still an inspiration, even when you're chilling on the couch once in a while..

Girl In Motion said...

Love this post, always appreciate hearing what's really going on in mind and body. Of course you can't be on all the time, though you strike me as one of those people who are always doing something (having a family kind of insures that) beyond physical activity so it sounds truly reasonable that you simply need some downtime. We all do, the better to be re-energized when you're ready. Good luck this weekend and have fun.

Christy @ My Dirt Road Anthem: A Runner's Blog said...

Great job listening to your body, I am not always very good at that, and sometimes I end up regretting that!