Monday, August 19, 2013

Making the Decision

I kept on with my marathon training schedule this morning.  It calls for four miles today, seven tomorrow, four on Thursday, and 16 on Saturday.  Yesterday I made a firm decision about what to do with marathon training.  It took way less time than I thought it would, considering how long I've been working toward this goal.  It's been ten weeks of "real" training and probably as long doing pre-training.  The investment in time, physical effort, and motivation has been considerable.  Aside from what I put into it, there is also the contribution of support from my wonderful husband and my outstanding running buddies.  Without their help, encouragement, and other efforts I'd never have been able to train at all.  I have an incredible support system and I appreciate them more than I can say.  I really feel that I owe my success to them.

Oh, I said I'd made a decision, didn't I?  All I've mentioned above went into consideration.  Thoughts of everyone else who has helped me was the hardest (and easiest) part of realizing that training for the marathon will actually be training for the half marathon.  Everything I've worked up to will culminate in me being awesome on Sept.7 at the half marathon I signed up for last week.  I feel really great about ending my training here.  I feel peaceful about it.  The only part I don't like is telling people I'm not running the full marathon.  My vanity makes me feel that I have to defend my decision because I worry that others will look down on me or be disappointed in me.  The only person who would really carry any disappointment is me, and I'm not disappointed with myself.  I was able to set aside the fear of others looking down on me by remembering that the only people this would affect are my husband and my running buddies.  No one else matters.  In the end, I've trained to run a half marathon and that is crazy good.

Now for the why behind finishing with a half marathon.  I'll try to keep the story short.  It began with me feeling miserable on the toilet and wondering why people choose to run marathons at all when it makes you feel so cruddy.  I thought of my own reason: so I can say I've done it.  Basically it's a bucket list item from a list I've never cared enough to write.  I had no other reason to run a marathon and I realized that reason isn't good enough anymore.  The time I spend running and recovering (ugh, the recovery is a thousand times worse than the running) has started to take over other aspects of my life.  When those "other aspects" include my family and my spiritual development, I need to reevaluate how I'm spending my time.  I've felt that for a while, but tried to ignore it because I had a goal in place.  It's time for a revamp and the heavy training simply doesn't get to keep its place on the priority list.  It is, however, very important to me that I finish with the half marathon rather than just stopping right now.  Thankfully, the load gets considerably lighter by the end of this week and there are only two more weeks to go after that.

This has been such a great decision.  Several times a day I discover a new reason to be pleased to stop with the half marathon.  I was so happy yesterday to read the next section in my marathon book.  I decided to read on a little bit more to make sure I really was happy to be done.  This is what I found, with my own emphasis in italics:
Running this marathon is not something you HAVE to do.  It is something you HAVE CHOSEN to do, something you WANT to do.  In the great scheme of things , it is not that important that it be THIS marathon...
As strange as it may sound, it will sometimes help to take your mind OFF the goal of running the marathon and to remind yourself that training is for you and your self-development and that it is contributing to your physical and mental health.  If, for whatever reason, you don't complete the whole program this time, it will still have contributed to your well-being and you can choose another marathon and restart the program later...You don't HAVE to do anything.  You are doing this because you chose to.
It was perfect.  The book is very encouraging and after reading through the chapters I always feel like I can do anything.  At this time I choose not to run a full marathon because other things are more important to me.  I really love that I can own this decision.  I am neither injured nor pregnant so I can't place blame on stopping anywhere but in my own mind.  There is nothing to feel wistful or bitter or disappointed about.  I've always been a bit sad that the other two times I've tried to do the training I've had to stop because I got pregnant.  This time it's all me...and I'm so happy about it.  No regrets here!  And I'm also excited to be nearing the end of the training.  :)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Halfway Point

Today's run was remarkable.  14 miles.  I was pretty amazed and pleased with myself.  I ran those 14 miles like a boss.  When I started off I was pretty nervous.  Last week was 11.5 miles that I did mostly on my own.  That makes a 2.5 mile increase and I knew I would be doing ALL of it by myself.

I started off early because I was going to need to be home earlier than usual to keep an eye on the kids. When I was ready to go it was darker outside than I felt comfortable with.  I am extremely nervous about running outside by myself.  Some pepper spray might help with those nerves but I'd still rather not put myself in what I feel like is a dangerous position.  Anyway, once I saw how dark it still was I decided to run the first three miles on the treadmill and then do the rest outside.  As it became apparent that I would not be able to finish all of my run outside before I needed to be home to watch children I decided to just do all the run on the treadmill.  That would also allow me to take a short break anytime I needed to run upstairs and grab myself another bottle of Gatorade.  I went through three (or was it four?) of them, as well as most of a water-filled Gatorade bottle.  Running is thirsty work.

During the run I discovered that our treadmill stops itself off when it reaches 100 minutes.  I worried that I had burned it out or something but it went on running just fine once I selected a speed again. Even though I had several little stops during the run I am so proud of how I did.  I kept up a good pace and I kept going when I wanted to be done.  Two and a half hours is a long time to run.

After the run was done I was shocked to realize that my body felt really good.  I had taken a couple of pain pills with caffeine in them (LOVE those pills) to keep from feeling the intense pain I'd had in my ankles after last week's long run.   I'm sure the pills helped with how I felt.  As I stretched my muscles I marveled at how unfatigued my legs were and how not painful my joints were.  It was pretty great. Then I stood up.  MOTHER MINE!!!  Ow! OW!!! OOOOOOWWW!!!!!  The middle of my heels, which have been troublesome for quite some time, protested when I stood up.  They hurt a lot so I stretched them some more and they felt much better.  When I was all done The Hubs went out to do his yard work and I took over the watching of the children.  Sort of.

Not long after my husband went outside (he also took the two oldest with him) I had a recurrence of the intestinal troubles that plagued me for several weeks.  I thought I'd gotten over them because I had two weeks of no troubles after the long run.  It's pretty horrible.  I've spent more than an hour in the bathroom since finishing my run and that was less than four hours ago.  There are frequent trips to go sit on the porcelain throne.  I really hate it.

Along with the intestinal distress I was unhappy to experience chafing beyond anything I've had before. One of my exercise shirts rubs my arm and I have stopped wearing it to run.  Today I touched the bare skin on my back to see what was feeling strange there and I was met with a fair amount of pain. Ooooh, it hurt.  A lot.  The waistband of my running shorts (which I have been running in regularly for over a year and irregularly for a few years before that) left two long strips of rubbed-off skin.  Ow. Not cool, running shorts.  Not cool.  Once I took my shower I also discovered, thanks to the warm water hitting it, that my sports bra had also left a spot of chafed-off skin.  So basically my back is one big welt and it hurts to wear clothes.

If you have held on and read this far it's time to get honest again, as I promised myself I would.  It's possible that I'm done.  Well, that I'll be done as soon as I finish the half marathon I signed up for.  It's in three weeks.  As I was sitting in the bathroom suffering from intestinal distress and rubbed-off skin I said to myself that I don't want to do this anymore.  The only times I've ever felt so strongly that I didn't want to do something were all when I was in labor and about to give birth.  I get that feeling whether or not I'm medicated--it's just an inescapable part of the process of transition and every mom I know of goes through it with each birth.  I sat there in agony and wondered why people (myself included) are dumb enough to choose to train for marathons.  If it were just sore muscles and joints I'd be able to cope.  That's exactly what I've done for months now.  But the idea of feeling like this for another ten weeks is almost more than I can bear.  The sick really is horrible.

There's a part of me that hates the idea of "giving up".  There's another part of me that tells me I'm freaking amazing and that what I've done is sufficient to prove to me that I've done what I set out to do.  I feel like I do when I'm on the treadmill and debating with myself whether or not I should slow the pace.  The is always a conflict of thought that goes back and forth between "if I keep up this speed I'll finish faster" and "if I slow down I'll run longer but I'll feel better in the rest of the time I have left".  The second one usually wins because it will only add a minute or two onto the time and I'll feel good instead of cruddy for the 10-20 minutes still left to run.  It all comes back to if it's worth it or not.  I mentioned in another post that included wanting to quit that I wasn't sure if, come marathon day, I would be disappointed for not doing it or if I would do a happy dance that I hadn't chosen to subject myself to that kind of torture.  On a somewhat related note, every new school year I do a happy dance knowing that I'm no longer teaching.  There's an enormous amount of relief associated with thinking training will be completely done in three weeks rather than having ten more weeks of misery.  There is also some disappointment in myself in the thought of stopping, though that feeling isn't nearly so strong.

One thing that has kept me going when I wanted to stop was my desire to prove to everyone that this is something I can do.  I'm very stubborn and one of the best ways to encourage me to do something is to tell me I can't.  No one has told me I can't or vocally expressed doubts, but I'm self-conscious enough to believe that if I quit something there will be some jerk out there feeling smug and pleased to see me fail.  I talked to the Hubs about my thoughts.  He has been enormously supportive of my marathon training.  I never would have gotten this far without his efforts and encouragement.  He, more than anyone else, is the one I don't want to disappoint.  I was completely honest about what I'm thinking and why.  I told him I didn't know what I thought he'd say or even what I wanted him to say. Smart man that he is, he spent a while thinking before saying things to suggest that he'd be fine with either choice.  I wasn't asking him to make the decision for me and he didn't.  He knows me so well.  :)

So right now I feel comfortable with saying that my training will be finished after I run the Mt. Nebo half marathon in three weeks.  Is that a permanent decision?  I don't know.  It's amazing to me that my muscles and joints can stand up so beautifully to 14 miles of running but the aftermath with my digestive tract is enough to leave me moaning and miserable.  As I've been typing my body has started to recover and the sick is going away.  Huzzah!  That may also be because I've been sitting still and it could come back with a vengeance as soon as I stand up.  Not looking forward to testing that thought.  When my body feels better I'm less likely to want to stop.  The difference with what I'm feeling in this very moment as I type is that if I stop with the half marathon that I won't be quitting, just stopping.  Perhaps that's a fine line but, again, at this very moment, my mind doesn't immediately reject the thought as it usually would.  Right now what I have done feels...sufficient.  That's the best way to describe it.  It's the same way I felt at the end of my mission as I pondered whether I had been diligent enough and worked hard enough.

I am helped along with the sufficiency thought by what felt right as I was registering for races this week.  I really wanted to sign up for the Mt. Nebo half.  I expected to run that with my running buddies.  They won't be running it because they've got other things going on in their lives.  Imagine that. :) I still wanted to do it and I was excited to sign up.  So I did.  I went to register for the full marathon because the price was going up.  I couldn't do it.  I felt like I shouldn't do it yet.  So I didn't.  I was even feeling really confident about the marathon that day.  Whether that was an impression or not, I simply don't know.  I'm not yet ready to say that this is as far as the marathon training will take me but, as of today, it's looking that way.  If that's disappointing to you then I apologize.  If you feel smug about it then please keep your feelings and looks to yourself or I may have to blow a raspberry in your general direction.  In the end I'll make the decision I think is best and makes me feel peace. That's what I always do.  We'll see what exactly that decision is.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Enjoying a Run?!?

Well, it seems I may have turned a corner.  There I times I actually (gasp!) look forward to my next run.  Weird.  It's not generally for treadmill runs, but I do seem to enjoy running outside now.  It's more pleasant to actually see the ground moving under my feet than just to stay in a single place and run until I'm done.  The change seems to have coincided with when we started to run down the canyon and when The Hubs downloaded Zombies, Run! onto his phone for me.  It gives me something a little more exciting to run to than just my regular playlist.  All I have to do is steal his fancy pants phone when I go on a run. :)

Today's run was 12 miles...almost.  It came up to about 11.5 when I was done.  I had driven a route the night before and got everything all planned.  When I actually ran I missed a turn and it cut 2 miles off the course.  I was cursing the stupid GPS on the phone because I thought I had one mile left and it told me there were still three.  You want to know what's demotivational when you run?  Realizing there are two extra miles to go when you thought you were almost done is pretty disheartening.  I added in some extra running spots to try to make up the mileage I'd lost.  By the time I got to 11.5 I was almost at my front door and I could see that I needed to get inside and shower lickety-split if we were to make it on time to the family activity at my in-laws house.  So I decided that 11.5 miles was good enough. Besides, at that point it was all I could do to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  One of my neighbors told me she saw me running around our block and I was a little embarrassed.  By that time my form had broken down completely and my pace was comparable to a sloth's.  I was so tired and sore in muscles I didn't know I had.

The good news is that I finished and came close enough to my distance goal to make me happy.  The bad news is pretty much the same as it always is.  I start to question and wonder about the decision to run a marathon.  Do I really care about doing a marathon as much as I need to so I can finish?  If I were to quit the training would I, on race day, be disappointed in myself for not finishing or would I dance a jig and be pleased I wasn't putting myself through that misery?  Hard to tell.  What I do know is that I'm one that just keeps putting on foot in front of the other until the run is over.  That means I would certainly finish the marathon if I went--even if I had to walk the whole thing.

**Continued two days later**

There was some pretty good news about Saturday's run along with the discouraging thoughts.  Most of the day Saturday I was sore and tired (I'd just run 11.5 miles, how else was I expected to feel?) and walked a bit gingerly.  Sunday was a huge surprise.  I expected to be hobbling around, sore and tires, as I usually do the day after a long run.  I didn't.  My body felt pretty good.  Even more exciting to me was that the runners diarrhea I've experienced for the past several weeks never showed up.  I can hear the heavenly choirs rejoicing with me.  I love not feeling like I have to be parked on the toilet all day.  Last week I only had half a day of feeling sick and I thought that was pretty good.  Not sick at all is about a million times better.

The biggest surprise of all came this morning when I got on the treadmill for a four mile run.  I did awesome.  I expected my legs to rebel against me and refuse to cooperate.  I got the four miles in 41 minutes.  That's really good for me, especially because I run on a little bit of an incline.  We'll see how it goes tomorrow when I run six miles.  I'm expecting to do pretty well though I doubt I'll be able to keep the same pace.  It's all stuff to look forward to.  After my last post I had a really difficult running week.  Last week was great and this week is shaping up to be even better.  Also, by the end of tomorrow's run I will have reached the gold level of the fitness challenge I've been doing.  I originally signed up with the goal of finishing at silver level, which is 170 miles.  After a good week of running I looked at my projected mileage for the marathon and saw that I could reach the 220 miles of gold level. I was super nervous, but a challenge isn't a challenge unless you push, right?  Well, I'm 4.9 miles away from gold level and I've certainly pushed it.  I'm pretty proud of myself.