As in, I'm not running it anymore. In my head, I cancelled the hotel, changed my flight, and just ate the entry fee. It was foolish of me to consider running a full marathon eight weeks from my first ultra, and well, I completed overestimated my ability while grossly underestimating the punishing power of the ultra.
Remember when I said I had zero issues with recovery? That's was true - and not so true. I didn't have time to even think about recovering from that race since five minutes after crossing the finish line, life smacked me in the face. Hard. I didn't think about ice baths, sleep, or hydration. I did what the situation called and kept on truckin'. I was even at Hill Day that Wednesday, a mere three days after the race, chugging away on fumes and adrenaline. Ran eight that Saturday. In the weeks that followed, I continued my 3:45am wake-ups to get 7-8 miles in before 6am and one Saturday, I got up especially early to get 14 miles in before heading downtown in heels for a Junior League event, existing on about four hours of sleep.
An elite athlete, I am not.
Function well without sleep, I do not.
(Talk like Yoda, I will. Much Star Wars, I have watched.)
The toll this has taken on my body has been a sneaky one. I thought I was fine after the ultra - toenails, all counted and present! Knees, hips, glutes, and hammies were great. But fatigue, that sly devil, slowly crept in until it had me in a choke hold. Burning the candle at both ends morphed into a sinus infection AND an ear infection. Now illness on top of exhaustion and my 8oz running shoes suddenly felt like cement boots. Speed work? Ha! That's a laugh. Tempo run? Not gonna happen. The best I could manage was to crawl up Hualapai at a ridiculously slow pace and then flop face first on the couch post-run.
All of this fatigue means one thing in my life: overly emotional Kimmy. Yay...
I cried through boot camp multiple times. I broke into sobs during one Super Loop. I cried at my birthday lunch. Like, literally putting my face on my plate and crying into my napkin. (that was a fun one, let me tell you). When my (free) Rent-the-Runway birthday dress failed to arrive on time, I sank into my knees on our porch, choking back tears. You would have thought I was play-acting in a bad movie, but nope, those tears were genuine. It's because once I hit that bone-achingly tired phase, just about anything causes me to lose it. Even Scott, sweet little Bear that he is, asked me, "Mom, you eat all the good food, right?" I nodded. I think I was making a salad at the time this conversation took place. Scott continued, "...then why don't you win the races?"
Thankfully, a dish towel was nearby to catch the tears.
All of those horrible, no-good, incredibly unhelpful thoughts about running go through your head during these times. I'm not going to win. I'm not going to qualify for Boston. This doesn't pay my mortgage and the pride of the nation does not rest on shoulders. This started out as something fun (FUN?! What's that?!) and has totally turned into an animal I can't control. Running is essentially recreation but it doesn't feel that way anymore. Why am I doing this? No really, why? Can anyone answer that? I certainly can't.
Thankfully, I've been doing this long enough to know that the minute I start asking "Why?", it's time to redirect. Time to turn off my brain. We're reaching the danger zone...and if it goes on too long, there's a good chance I'm hanging up my shoes and not looking back. Because screw it, what's the point?
So on that fateful day when I decided to cancel the race, I had a long talk with myself. It was time to chill out. I do not need to adhere to my training schedule 100%. It's time to scale back. Sleep in a few mornings. I skipped - yes, skipped - one whole workout completely.
And you know what happened? Aside from the sun continuing to rise and the Earth continued uninterrupted on its rotational path?
I don't know what is going to happen at the Chicago Marathon, but I'm happy to say that I will be there. My original goal was to beat 4:44 and I'm sticking with it. It's so easy to get caught up in the excitement of others and their goals, and as cool as a sub-4 run would be, I just don't think it's in the cards. That's okay - because I have hit all of my other running goals for the year, save one. Sometimes scaling back is what is needed to get one foot out in front of the other.
During my 8-miler this morning, in the black of night down the Beltway trail, instead of my shoulders slumping forward and me drudging on, I felt light for the first time in six weeks. And know what? I finally, finally hit my pace.
The Chicago Marathon is twenty days from today and I'm praying for 19 awesome nights of sleep, good weather, and lots of positive thoughts.