Thank God for... LA Fitness? And Alex.
Well, I’ve been neglecting this blog. Thank you, faithful readers, who are still with me. I promised at the outset that I’d blog the ups and downs… and well, I’ve been in the downs for a while. A running rut, if you will. Every run for the last couple months has felt like the hardest slog, which then turned my mind into a playground of what ifs. Except, not a playground, because it wasn’t fun. It was what ifs that all ended with me being the biggest loser or having no friends left. It was an abject falling down into the deepest of rabbit holes.
Three weeks ago, mid run, I vomited. Two weeks ago, I literally passed out on the lawn at the end of my run (I’m thankful I was back at my house before this occurred). Every step I took felt like misery and all I could think was if I can’t even finish this [fill in the blank] mile run, how can I ever finish a marathon? I was convinced I had bitten off more than I could chew and that I was, let’s face it, just getting old and a marathon was no longer in my wheelhouse.
After that fated fainting, I had a chat with my running coach and we decided a reset was in order. I took last week to really consider my why – why do I run? Why am I running this marathon? I found some great running journaling prompts (shout out to sarakurth.com) and every morning I tackled one. One of my favorites asked me:
Who are your running friends and role models? What have you learned from them? How have they impacted your running?
Obviously I immediately thought of Alex. You know Alex if you’ve been following this blog with me. We ran the April Arizona race together and at this point Alex and I have known each other for more than a decade, have run dozens of races together, and have that kind of friendship where sometimes you just run (or puzzle) in complete silence and it’s not awkward at all. When the pandemic hit and the world felt like it was on fire, Alex and I still met outside, wearing neck gaiters over our noses, and ran dutifully together in an attempt to make sense of what was going on. Sometimes one of the tried-and-true routes near our respective houses, sometimes the trails at Tiger Mountain. It was one of the few comforts I remember from that time which now feels like a lifetime ago. It is, quite literally, a couple thousand miles away since I then moved to the East Coast and Alex still lives in Seattle.
Remember those early pandemic days?!
Alex never uses a watch. He’s carefree and somehow completely weightless with his expectations of running. I admire Alex and know that when I run with him I feel free and not judged at all, even by myself. So…. How can I replicate that on my own? I took last week and went for my runs sans watch. At first I felt naked. How will I ever know if I should run faster or slower or how far I’ve gone!? That’s when it hit me that a huge part of my negative self-talk and panic was stemming from obsession with data. Data can be great; it can, in theory, help prevent injuries and give us an idea of when we can push more or when we need to slow down. It can also, as it was for me, lead to paying more attention to an electronic device than how your own body feels. I don’t need a watch to tell me that I should slow down – paying attention to my breathing can do that for me. I don’t need a watch to tell me my heart rate rocketed – the 90-degree heat and similar percentage humidity was enough of a warning.
Which… brings me to my next discovery, which isn’t much of a discovery at all, but I guess sometimes we’ve got be hit over the head with the obvious before we work on finding a solution. I HATE THE HEAT. My Scandi heritage self just ain’t built for this kind of weather. Anyone who asks me how I am liking DC after a decade in Seattle knows I’ll tell you I love the city, I love the people I’ve surrounded myself with here, and I DETEST the weather. Politics aside, this place is literally built on a swamp and I’ve got the frizzy hair to prove it. I have been torturing myself trying to train in this weather. I thought it might build mental resilience, doing something that’s so hard for me. Turns out it’s done the opposite – it’s eroded my confidence to the point that I was completely doubting all my capabilities. Anyone who runs knows running is not just a physical endeavor, it’s a serious mental one as well.
So last Sunday morning, I snagged myself a free pass to LA Fitness and I did my long run on a treadmill. Was it boring? Yep. Treadmills don’t provide the fun of running outside with an always changing landscape. But did I have the best run that I can remember in recent memory? Also, yes. My body was performing at a peak level – I ran for 90 solid minutes with no breaks (something I haven’t done in months). I felt like I could have doubled my mileage and run faster, but I am trying to trust the process and respect the long, slow run that is part of marathon training. I felt renewed – I remembered my why, I had the oft-discussed runner’s high at the end, and my confidence was back. The A/C was my savior. (Also major shoutout to the LA Fitness employee who kept women’s softball playing on the TV even after someone asked for football to be shown and she told them they were free to go to the other end and watch that TV where it was already playing.)
I will be doing the remainder of my long run Sundays on the treadmill at the LA Fitness while I channel my inner Alex. It’s not how I envisioned this marathon training would go, but hey, life never goes according to plan.
Anyone got some good treadmill-running-bingeable-shows to recommend?