Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Am I Ready to Rumble?

Feigning happiness at mile 13 of a super-crappy 23 mile run
I had a tough go of it mentally the final weeks leading up to Peterson Ridge Rumble 40-miler. I was using a lot of negative self-talk. After the Gorge Waterfalls 50k in March, I suddenly noticed that I had put on weight over the last few months. I didn’t need to step on the scale to know. The running tops and shorts I had been wearing since last summer were now snug and I wasn’t happy about it. In fact, I beat myself up over and over about it. I had been sleeping poorly again, waking up in the middle of the night either in a panic, or feeling bad about myself. One night I awoke thinking about my running pace. In my head I was equating faster pace with being a better runner. I didn’t know if I was deserving of being a faster (and therefore “better”) runner. I cried myself back to sleep. Faster runners aren’t necessarily “better” runners. They’re just different. I know what I’d tell someone else who had the same thoughts that I did, but then I’ve never applied the same rules to myself that I do to other people.

On Monday March 28th I did a 2-hour treadmill run at the gym. When I got home that evening, my body couldn’t get enough food. I ate and ate what I thought were a good mix of proteins, carbs, and fats. My stomach felt full of bulk but I still felt hungry. Eventually I didn’t know what else to do other than just go to bed.

The next morning when I woke up I just wanted to cry. The only things I was able to see were negative— all the things in my life that were not right. I saw the dust on the shelves, crumbs on the kitchen counters, spots on the floors. I got down to clean the spots on the floor and saw the spots on the cabinets. I couldn’t handle it. I decided to go for a run. I put on a running top and immediately burst into tears at the sight of my abdomen pressing against the fabric. See what happens when I’m not in control of myself? I thought. I stormed downstairs. I wanted to kick or hit something really bad. I wanted to break dishes. Instead I screamed, aggressively jumped up and down, then collapsed onto the kitchen floor in a heap, sobbing with my head in my hands.

A short time later I left the house dressed for a run. I told my husband I didn’t know where I was going or when I would be back, but I had enough water and supplies with me to last for 5 hours. I arrived at Shevlin Park. Within 5 minutes of leaving the car, I wanted to go back. But I really didn’t. But I did. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I felt desperate to talk to someone and made a couple phone calls. My body didn’t feel like running, so I just hiked as I talked on the phone.

I hiked through Shevlin Park and up the Mrazek Trail a way, then decided to check out the Tumalo Creek Trail upstream from Shevlin Park. I’d never been on this section of trail before, but had heard about a cool rock arch that the trail passes through. The trail is very rocky and skirts the base of cliffs high above the river. It was pretty slow going. I did not know how far the rock arch was down the trail, but kept going a little farther to see what was around the next bend. The farther I went, the colder and breezier it got. I knew there could be cougars out here (later I talked to people who had seen cougars along this very trail before). I didn’t feel safe out there alone, so called Doug to let him know where I was “just in case,” then high-tailed it out of there.

I tried to run a little on the way back to the car, but my body (or was it my heart?) just wasn’t willing. I looked at my Garmin. I had really wanted to get 10 miles in that day, but it was not looking good. I was being really hard on myself. I would have to hike another mile to reach my initial goal. I was already mad, feeling beat up emotionally, and a bit lightheaded and out of it. Would pushing myself to go an extra mile really do me any good today in this mental and physical state? Probably not. In fact, I decided it would likely do more harm than good. So instead I made myself a deal: I needed to get 3 hours of hiking in. I got to the parking lot with 3 minutes left to spare. So I “made” myself walk around the parking lot for a few minutes. Looking back on it now, that seems so ridiculous! Though I spent most of that 3 hours loathing myself, I also stopped along the way to admire the budding sagebrush and blooming Manzanita. And I’d begun to check out that new-to-me trail. The day was not lost after all. So why did I feel so lost?

The next day I still felt emotionally traumatized. I decided that perhaps I should take it easy on myself physically for a while. I cut my running back to every other day. I removed all information about pace from my Garmincarbs back into my diet. I made it a point to be more aware of what I was eating when and how I felt afterward. I ate dinner a little earlier so that I was just a little bit hungry by the time I went to bed.

A couple days later I decided to try running again. At first I wasn’t into it. The thought popped into my mind that perhaps I wasn’t “worth it.” Then I started telling myself “I AM worth it!” Within 5 minutes I felt good. Another 10 minutes and I felt damn fine and was having a good time. I explored another nearby trail that I had only run right past before. Another short trail I had never run up before. I’d always hiked it. But that day I ran up it, and that made me feel really good. I finished the run on a high note and felt that everything was going to be just fine for Peterson Ridge, which was just over a week away. After that I had a couple of great 1/2-marthon distance trail runs out at Phil’s Trail system checking out another new-to-me trail (VooDoo, and it totally rocks!).

Wednesday the 6th I awoke feeling emotionally “on the edge” again. I was tempted to call off a run date with a friend and soon-to-be friend. Instead of giving in to my fear of what was yet to be, I decided to take the risk and go on the run. I am so glad I went! I had the wonderful opportunity to run with a blind triathlete that day. Nancy and my friend had met recently at a 1/2-marathon training program and Nancy had been instructing Lisa how to be her guide on runs. Nancy let me guide her on the run back. This experience totally blew my mind! I had to be so focused on the trail to keep her safe that I had no time to worry about myself or the thoughts swimming in my head. And this person who had just met me half an hour earlier trusted me! Nancy taught me a lesson that day and I look forward to running with her much more in the future.

I’ve heard from many others that after a certain point, you gotta make running more about other people than yourself. I am beginning to find this true. I had gotten to the point of wondering “is this all there is?” Am I really doing all this just for me? While running is “worth it” to help me stay physically and emotionally fit and learn about myself and what I am capable of, running for others can give it so much more meaning. Much like setting an intention for your yoga practice, you can also set an intention for your run— a person or cause to keep in mind that you wish to send love and support to. You might run to raise funds for a charity or bring awareness to a cause. You might run for all those who wish they could run, but are unable to. What other ways might you be able to lift up others through your running?

Running with Nancy that day got me out of my own head and thinking about how I could be of service to others. It also put me in a much better frame of mind to visualize running the Peterson Ridge 40-mile race feeling strong, and crossing the finish line happy with plenty of energy remaining. Good thing, since the race was now just four days away. I won’t deny I have challenging, negative, down-on-myself days (sometimes even weeks!), but sure do have a knack for pulling myself together just in time for a race. Only I can change my thoughts to cause the change I seek in life. I could either choose to follow my current path and probably have a crappy race, or start visualizing the end result that I desired and trust that everything would turn out just fine. It didn’t just turn out fine though, it turned out great! I am beginning to apply this technique in more areas of my life. If I can crawl out from under years of negativity and feeling worthless, you can too!

Next up— Peterson Ridge Rumble Race Report!

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