Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hitting the Wall

"In running, it doesn't matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say, 'I have finished.' There is a lot of satisfaction in that." -Fred Lebow, New York City Marathon co-founder


Yesterday I planned to go for a short run after work before I picked up Peanut from daycare. My first run since my race on Sunday. Three to four miles. Quick and easy. (That's all relative, I know.) Get back out there. Get the old legs pumping again. I decided not to go. But first, I called My Director for reassurance. "I don't feel like running today. You think that's ok?"

"Yes," she said. "You just ran a half-marathon. You're allowed to take a break."

You see, that's my problem. I'm incapable of giving myself a break. Even when I do give myself a break physically, I beat myself up for it mentally. A lot of that comes from the fat kid who lives within me. And yet, that fat kid is part of the reason why I run. It's a vicious cycle. And sometimes I need to get out of it. So yesterday, I did.

I gave it my all on Sunday. I thought the stars had aligned. I had a good warmup, a good stretch, a good morning overall. I was pumped. The horn sounded and we were off,  and I was flying. (Relatively speaking, of course.) Throughout all of training, mind you, I struggled to get off to a decent start on my long runs. Those first two or three miles were always slow, plodding, frustrating. What was I doing wrong? How will I fix this by race day? If this happens on race day, how will I overcome it to make up the time and still reach my goal?

I never did find an answer to those questions. No matter what I did, no matter what I changed in my pre-run routine, I could not get off to a good start. And now here I was on race day, and I was killing it. My goal was to run the 13.1 miles in less than two hours (a 9:13/mile pace). But since my training didn't go well, I had amended my goal. I just wanted to beat my personal record time (2:04:22 last year).


But this amazing start, with the adrenaline coursing through me, had wiped away all of those concerns. I was in the zone. I was imagining myself beating last year's record. I had even pictured a time: 1:59:57. Why be greedy, right? I mean, under two is under two no matter how many seconds are involved. I envisioned walking through the door and hugging My Director, crying, and saying, "I did it." A raging narcissist, I was even writing the freakin' blog post in my head already. It was going to be called "Conquering Doubt in 1:59:57." I sh1t you not.


Around mile four, I spotted an inspirational sign that someone posted on their lawn for us runners. I wish I could thank the person who made that sign. It read, "Today is your someday." Instantly, that became my new race mantra. Every race I adopt a four-to-five word sentence that I repeat to myself when I need a confidence boost. (Or to settle down my spaztastic brain.)

Damn straight, I thought. How many times have I said, "Someday I'm going to run a half-marathon in under two hours?" Dozens. Well why the hell not today? So riding the adrenaline wave, I kept the pedal to the medal. Those four words carried me.

My unofficial time. I hit 13.1 on my watch
a minute or so before crossing the finish line.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the DKL running record book. I hit a wall. Hard. Mile eight. I had barely anything left. Well, I had about five miles left but I was virtually out of gas. Running on fumes, I had to dig deep.(And use every other possible sports cliche I could think of.)

Anyone can be a runner, which is one of the things I love about it. Even though I'm a runner, I'm not a fast guy. I have built up my stamina over the years to be able to get through these long races. In hindsight, I didn't train as hard as I did last year, when I hit my personal best time despite an injured hamstring. I think I figured that since I hurt myself last year, all I had to do was stay healthy, get my long runs in, show up on race day and finish in under two hours. Didn't work. So even though I was feeling it, even though I went for it, even though I finished and accomplished something that My Director calls "impressive," I'm disappointed.

I'm also too hard on myself sometimes, I know.

I still haven't looked up my official time. One day I will. For now, I'm taking a break from the distance races for a while. I'm going to work on my speed. Go after some new goals, some different ones.

And when I'm ready, I'll check that official time. It's probably not as bad as I think. I'll eventually run another half-marathon. But right now, this one is a reminder of a missed opportunity. Today is my someday? No, maybe another day.

23 comments:

  1. I'm impressed. I don't think I could walk 13.1 miles. Take time to congtatulate yourself for the accomplishment bc it is impressive.
    I think that feeling of being too hard on ourselves is what drives us. It keeps us moving, working, and getting closer to the goals we set. Don't let that feeling go away.
    Good luck on your speed.

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    1. Thanks man. I know it's an accomplishment. That a lot of people can't or don't do it. And I AM proud that I did it... again. But I have to be honest about things when I write and this is honest. I'm not satisfied. And that's ok too. I know I sound a little like a whiny baby, but thanks for looking past that. I'm gonna go back to 5K's and 10K's for a year or so and work back up to a half-marathon maybe next fall.

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  2. Great post! Thanks for sharing...anyone can be runner...oooh maybe I should get out there and run!

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    1. You can do it! Some people do it without legs.

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  3. You are my hero. For doing this race, for training, for challenging yourself to get and be healthy for your life, your family, yourself. I mean it. I love that you have a spaztastic brain. Weird, right? I applaud your efforts. I love that you narcissistically were writing a blog post about it in your head, but then stopped and focused on your new mantra. TODAY IS YOUR SOMEDAY. I love everything about this post and you have inspired me today. THank you.

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    1. You're the best!! Thank you. And here I thought I was being a party pooper.

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    2. in no way are you being a party pooper.

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  4. You are too hard on yourself but I can totally relate (not for running but for musical performances). Often after a show I will be going over what I should've done better. I'm not seeking perfection, just continual improvement. I'm not happy with good enough. Sorry to have made this all about me but I am a blogger. ;)

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    1. Exactly. I was looking to get better. At least I went for it, right? And I'd expect nothing less than full narcissism from a blogger. So nice work.

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  5. Running is really hard for me. Even when I was in shape, I didn't have the mental ability to keep pounding the pavement. More power to you. You are making a positive example of activity for your kids

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    1. A lot of it is mental. Maybe that's why I struggle sometimes hahaha. I do love that Peanut gets to see me do this. She is adamant, however, about not wanting "sweaty kisses" when I get home from a run.

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  6. I could tell you your time right now if you wanted? I know I couldn't run 13 feet let alone 13 miles. Thats just crazy! I could never enter something like this because I would be too compelled to want to win and I know that I couldn't. THAT is the only thing that is stopping me. Maybe not the only thing, but one of the reasons. Good job!

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    1. I look it up eventually. Probably this weekend. A small part of me also wants to actually win these races. I'm nuts.

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  7. Yes, you're definitely far too hard on yourself! I am the same though, I'll beat myself up fro not going for a run when I have almost every other day that week! But you should be so, so proud of yourself - and it just gives you something to keep striving for! The race isn't over yet! xxx

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    1. Very true. If the race were over, I wouldn't be writing this right now. :-)

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  8. Wow ! 13 miles ! Can't even envision doing that ! whatever time you took, it's admirable! Finishing the race is what's important I think, even in life ! So easy to give up with stuff that comes up but keeping on ...I felt like that with the A-Z Blogging challenge. Felt like stopping in between with stuff that came up, but I finished, a week later than the others & it was nice feeling:) All the best for your next marathon. Sure you'll be doing one soon & Don't set a time. Just finish and your'e a winner !

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    1. Yes, I know. The competitor in me takes hold sometimes. Thank you for your kind words as always.

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  9. Dear Daddy,
    I could sign my name to this blog as it was so spot on to the type of day I had that same Sunday. I thought for sure it was my day too. Thanks for helping me realize that our "troubles" are not our own but shared but each of us that laces it up. I hope that you realize that no matter what the clock says, Peanut thinks you won. I know mine always does. :) Good running and good health my man.

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    1. Yes... Peanut saw my medal and thought I won. And that's really all that matters. Thanks for your comment. I'm glad there's someone else who ran the LB half who had the same experience I did.

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  10. Come on don't give up! We all hit walls and the difference is how you overcome them. I run my first half marathon on the Long branch half tw weeks ago. I have a long record of 10Ks and improving my times so it wasn't a big deal. In preparation for this half marathon I worked out my legs more at the gym and run progressively but never gave my best during training. You just want to be at your best the day of the race. But I hit that wall on the 12th mile with wind in my face on the shore. But I dug deep and pushed and was able to hit 1:58. You are not far from that!

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    1. Never giving up. I hope I didn't portray that here. I'm going to focus more on 5K and 10K races, build my speed and get more fit. I think a break from the half would be good for me. I'm aiming for the Seaside Park half in fall of 2013. But you can bet I'll be running plenty between now and then. Including 2-3 long runs a month.

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  11. I loved this entry!! First time reader and the long branch half was my first half. I too wanted under 2 hours.. And was probably just a handful of runners ahead of you (2:04:20)... I really connected with this entry because I too started running to lose weight. I too beat myself up over taking last week off to recover. The only difference is my inner demon is named "my former fat kid".. I always says that sucker never dies!

    Keep running!!!

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    1. Thanks so much! Glad to have you aboard. Hope you stay to read more and follow. I am typically a daddy blogger who writes about parenting/marriage shenanigans. I post about running a few times a year. And judging by my "unofficial" time (I haven't looked up my real time still), you beat me by a good :90-2 minutes. Nice job!

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