Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em

But how do you know?

This post could be pretty real, raw, and whiny. All of that emotion brought to you by Barefoot Moscato.

Let's start at the beginning... which I think takes us back to Eugene 2013. I went into that race well trained, ready to chase a big goal, and suffered a week of setbacks prior to race day. I accepted any potential outcome and released my goals. I raced well, all things considered, but still took it hard. I came home, recovered from the dehydration (wow, that takes time! And countless jars of pickles...) took some downtime, then found a coach, and began the preparation for my fall marathon in Tri-Cities. My coach was tough, and very talented. She pushed me hard and I saw huge leaps in some areas, but struggled in others. Particularly the long run. I was honest with her, but we didn't quite mesh, and she continued to push, with me crawling through runs, crying, and suffering repeated knocks to my confidence. I didn't see it then, but I was over-trained and burned out. I ran a terrible (for me) race, barely convincing myself to finish and spent weeks afterward with an IT band injury. I was done. My pursuit of the Boston qualifier and PR was over for now. I had no desire to run the marathon again for a long while, and I accepted that and set different goals once I returned from my injury.

Fast forward to April. Watching the coverage of the Boston Marathon, and Meb's beautiful race and the goosebumps that I felt when he won lit that fire again. The marathon, like that ex who texts you just when you think you are over them, came calling again. When my friend emailed me that she had signed up for Portland, it didn't take much (okay ANY) work to persuade me to sign up too. I was ready. I was tired of my lower volume training and eager to work hard, build up, and go for it. I shifted my perspective from the outcome, the finish time and instead focused on goals within the cycle (certain mileage peak week, certain paces for my speedwork splits). Things were going just swimmingly. The build up was going flawlessly, I was feeling strong, and I was making improvements.

Then there was the Missoula half. I went in with the expectation that I was strong enough to race a PR. There were other factors at play by the time I lined up on race morning that impacted the outcome, but it was the first domino. After 5 miles of the race, even though I was spot on for my A goal pace, I turned off my watch and just ran. I was completely apathetic. Sometimes I would push, other times I cruised. I was annoyed to be out there running at all. I wanted to be done. It was uncomfortable, but not hard. I was in it, but not. Around mile 8-9 I walked through an aid station eating my gel. Just... walking along, not caring. After that, in the morning heat, I walked through every aid station after that as well. Sipping my water and then carrying on. People would pass me and I would let them go. I would pass people, and not feel a spark. I just ran along, willing myself to the line. I finished, in 1:43.02-my second fastest. In hindsight, if I hadn't walked through all those aid stations, I would have PR-ed. Old Monica would feel frustrated, upset, and beat herself up over it. I simply accepted the time and that was it. I was numb to the race.
Post Missoula. Beers because. With RocketCityRun and Alyssa

A few weeks later, I reached moving day. Packing up 5 years of my life with kidlet wore on me, and by Friday, I skipped my run. A 9 mile tempo workout. I skipped Saturday as well to move. That was a long day and took it's toll on me, and I simply didn't want to work running into my schedule. Then... I skipped Sunday. A long run. I did put in an hour bike ride, but that's not the same now is it? Although being on the bike filled me with joy.
Bye North Spokane. There was no running, and tons of caffeine this day.

Since moving day, I have struggled to capture my drive. I have completed workouts well, strong, hitting my paces, or exceeding them. I've also skipped some runs, because I am not a morning runner, and the heat in the afternoons was too much, and by evening, I just didn't want to do it. I set out a few times in tears just not wanting to go. I would get over it, and nail the workout, and feel better, but the next day... down again.

I raced the CDA scenic sprint and was completely ecstatic the WHOLE day!! I smiled so hard the whole time. I was full of my old spirit and couldn't stop talking about HOW MUCH FUN I had had, and how great I felt about the day. I expected it to carry over into training. It sort of did, but then, my achilles tendon flared up. Mid run. With no sign it was even aggravated until I was 5 miles from home and was walk/run/cursing it the whole way back. I took the next day off, then ran again, feeling good again. I committed to the Huckleberry festival 5k in my boyfriend's hometown. I went into that race with the intent to win. I've never shown up to a race stating, out loud, that I wanted the win. I felt strong the whole race, hovering probably 20 ish seconds behind the 3 lead men (boyfriend included) for the first half. The second half is a gradual downhill, and the men opened up a bigger lead but I still finished 3rd overall, 40 seconds behind the boyfriend who defended his overall win title, and 20 seconds behind another fellow. I was giddy. Again, I felt like maybe this would be the boost to light the fire for Portland again.

The next day I was scheduled for 18 miles. I didn't sleep well the night before and pushed it to an afternoon run. My sister was here as I was preparing to leave and I grabbed all my gear and headed downstairs. Wouldn't you know, I slipped off the top step from my upper level of the house and fell down to the landing. I landed on my ass, made some weird corrections, tweaked a shoulder, a wrist, and landed on my stomach, narrowly missing a table corner. No run. No walking. Just icing my butt and assessing the damage. By the next morning, I was struggling to take deep breaths, and my entire back, neck, sides, everything hurt. I went to urgent care and had to have x-rays. Fortunately nothing was broken or fractured. I was given a shot of painkiller, muscle relaxers and super duty ibuprofen and sent home to recover from whiplash and other pain. The first day was horrible. Yesterday was better, and I was moving normally again but still feeling sore and limited in my range of motion with headaches and nausea. Today I felt sore but functional. I could have run. I should have run. But, I didn't. I got dressed, and my garmin was dead. I cried, I took off my shoes, and I didn't run. I didn't want to anyway. And I felt guilty and distressed at that.
"I love racing! This is so fun!! MORE!" why can't I capture this?!

And that's what scares me the most. I am not used to this kind of apathy toward training. I usually want to run. Nope, not right now. I want to ride my bike, a lot. I put in 30 miles Saturday after the 5k because I just didn't want to get off my bike. I only stopped because I was hungry! I WANT to run, in a way. But I don't, because I am scared of what this last month means for Portland. My mileage has not just dipped, it has gone down like the Titanic. My goals feel impossible. My coach asked me if my apathy stemmed from the fact that maybe I have already written off Portland and allowed IMCDA to take over my brain. At first, it did. When I signed up, it was ALL I could think about. I still think about it a lot, and cannot wait to take on the training... but no. That's not it. I didn't write Portland off when that came along. I was still in it. So why am I not now? And the harder questions... do I keep going? I have missed two critical long runs, and several other important training runs. I have had some setbacks, which happen, and it's possible to move past these... but do I want to? Do I race Portland with no expectations? Do I accept that it could be a personal worst (okay, unlikely) or nowhere near the day I want? Do I just run? Do I keep trying to find my spark?

What do you do when training takes on a bleak feel and you can't find that joy?

How do you move past the setbacks and trust your training?

How do you readjust your goals for a race? 


  1. we you figure out the answers to these questions, please let me know. cause, same boat. literally. exact same. i'm still on the fence about chicago but am pretty sure i'll DNS because i just can't take another heartbreak from the marathon. i'll email you though because i had a good chat with lauren at birdcamp about this exact stuff.

    1. I'm sorry that you can relate Holly, because it's a sucky place to be! But it's always nice to know we aren't alone, right? Cannot wait to hear the Lauren thoughts on it! But there's so much that goes into it. If I make a list of reasons why I'd run now it's:
      Don't waste the entry fee
      DNS just sounds like quitting, I don't want to quit
      Don't want to let people down

      But can I just run an easy marathon? Not sure. Is my body ready anymore? Not sure at ALL! Can I accept 'any finish time'? Maybe. Will I put my body into a hole physically? Will I put my mind into a negative slump right before I start ironman training? Make the questions stop!!! Heh. Can't wait to hear from you!

  2. I shared my thoughts on our 5 miler. And I'll reiterate that as your little sister my brain can't imagine you doing anything but amazing. Have fun, drink coffee, pretend like your ready and maybe you really well be!