It's been a rough few weeks. January, my alleged "down time" before the next big full marathon, was weird. A month off - no speed work or long runs. Just easy runs. In theory, this sounded like a slice of heaven after the craziness of December and the fall running season. Sleep in? Yes please! Three dinky miles at a time? Hell yea! Let's rest, relax, and enjoy life.
But instead of being rejuvenating, I found myself sinking more into a yucky state of blah-ness. Unhelpful thoughts like, "What was the point in running only five miles?" and "It doesn't matter if I skip this run" crept in. What is the point of Tuesday if I wasn't at the track? Long Run Saturday morphed into Sleep In Saturdays, and my brain was tired and fuzzy all day because of it. My daily hit of endorphins slowly slipped away. There was no training schedule to adhere to, no list of runs to check off, no routine to settle into. I find it amusing that some folks have trouble setting and sticking to goals. Here I am, an aimless, grumpy bear without them. I love goals. Goals are AMAZING.
But the truth of the matter: the less I ran, the less I wanted to run.
The thing is, regardless of your level of commitment to your sport, at some point, life takes over. Work, family, the weather -- it's so easy to get distracted. In the middle of my yucky rut, I managed to get out the door one very cold morning to attempt five pointless miles before boot camp. However, there must be this strange new ordinance at the Summerlin parks because the chains were still up, blocking off the parking lot. I am not proud - I had a minor meltdown. Where was I supposed to park??? - mind you, there are plenty of side streets available - but that's not where I want to start my run! Had I had bolt cutters, I would have snipped those stupid chains. Maybe it was the early hour and my brain just wasn't functioning, but I actually had to talk myself out of sleeping in the car for the next 45 minutes. One tiny setback and it really fried me.
Not surprisingly, the less I ran, the worse I felt. My hands swelled up. My left index finger suddenly got so stiff, I couldn't bend it. My right leg ached. The bottom of my left foot flared up. Was this the beginning of the end? Had I hit my peak, at the ripe old age of 37? Stop running and get old? At this rate, obesity was just a hair's breath away (or it felt like it). It was also around this time I realized what a slippery slope this whole thing is. That left index finger wasn't really holding me back; I was holding me back. My fuzzy, endorphin-starved brain was making up stories and I was believing them. I stopped googling autoimmune disorders, put the glass of wine down, and reevaluated the situation.
The only way out is through.
Look At Progress Over the Long Term (i.e. Keep a Journal)
I pulled out last year's running journal felt almost instantly better. The same runs I was doing in early 2015 were a solid 45 seconds/mile behind my current pace. On the same routes where I clocked 9:15 miles, these days I was churning out an effortless 8:30. And I really mean that - that's my comfy speed. (I've checked and double checked to make sure my Garmin isn't messing with me, because if it is, I'm going to have another meltdown). While it feels the same, there has been a whole year of improvement. In terms of weekly mileage, I had totally forgotten I clocked a solid 8 weeks of 8-20 mile weeks after the LA Marathon. My currently weekly mileage of 20-25 is pathetic, yes, but I survived a stint of low mileage before; I can do it again.
Throw Money at the Problem
I say this jokingly, but...there's some chicken on that bone. Maybe a new lulu Swiftly will get you out the door? Some fresh, non-cotton socks? An updated playlist? Last Saturday, I (begrudgingly) planned a long run so I would pass the new running store that just opened. I've done a lot of things during a long run before, but shopping is not one of them. As it turns out, it was quite delightful. A quick restroom/water break, my purchase behind the counter ready for pick-up later, and I was on my way. It made my day.
In the same breath, those shoes are what got me out the door for my first speed workout in months. I'd managed to find every plausible excuse to skip speed work since November (::gasp:: -- I know, whisper among yourselves for a moment). Thank heavens for the Adidas Takumi Sen racing flats, weighing in at an effortless 6oz per shoe. Same as the ones I ran in last summer, just now sold in flaming yellow. Like the sun.
In the immortal words of Alex: "bruh."
(this may be the greatest advice I've ever dispensed)
At some point, you have to turn off that voice in your head. You just have to. Why? That thing you are avoiding is actually the solution to the problem. A long run eventually ends. Despite feeling like you are riding a rusty bicycle, speed work isn't going to kill you. Things could be much, much worse. Hell, I rolled down a hill last week. I mean, I fall a lot, but this one was particularly bad. Major face plant after my feet slipped sideways, with what felt like a crowd of thousands watching. I wanted to die of embarrassment. (I still kind of do). I came home, flopped face-first on the bed, and told Brian, "We need to move. I can never go back." But what can you do? Quit? Let that fuzzy, blah feeling take over? It occurred to me, after that catastrophically humiliating tumble, that I would rather go fast and fall any day, than go slow and be safe. Safe is easy; fast is hard. (and so is the ground! Haha)
As strange as it may sound, that fall helped shake me out of this rut. It reminded me to laugh at myself. Somewhere along the way, in addition to motivation, I had lost my sense of humor. I take this stuff so darn seriously. When the rubber meets the road though, I'm no elite athlete. I'm just a mom who likes to run. So I skipped some runs. I had a bad month. The sun still rose the next day; everything is going to be okay. Besides, that pointless 5 mile run sounds a lot better than rolling down a hill. Fartleks over falling. right?
It's no surprise one of my favorite running mantras is, "Suck it up, Buttercup." I even wrote "BUTTERCUP" when prompted for a name on my bib for the next marathon. (I'd had two glasses of wine when I was registering, and it sounded like a great idea at the time). But it's true.
Whine. Cry. Let it out. Lace up anyway. It's worth it. :-)