“I have to do 14 miles today…my legs kinda hurt…maybe I will do 10…but I know the race is a month away and I am behind, I have to do at least 12, ok….12 is good, let me do 12….I’m at 9, this feels amazing…I’m hungry…I kinda have to take a crap…oh boy, this is starting to suck…the sun is shining though, makes the lake look so pretty, like glitter…why am I not at 10 miles yet???!!….stupid Nike app….what am I going to eat after this run, I am gonna do 14…I can eat whatever I want….no, I can’t undo my meal plan, but I will burn like 2,000 calories today…I can cheat later at dinner…I’ll do eggs and meat for breakfast…this gum is starting to taste bad, I should have put another stick in my hidden pocket…I really like this Rihanna song, my lady jam…the Chicago River is ugly this morning…man I hate stairs…ok, I am almost 20 minutes faster than last week and my half…come on Giz, pick up that pace and beat your Nashville time…totally using this red light pause as an advantage to book the next mile…13 miles…here we go, come on 2.03…YES!!! Crap…still have .9 to go to make 14….ugh….14…and done…I need to poop.”
That’s the mind of Gizmode…most of you training athletes out there know exactly the sentiment behind the mindless rants that we have to push us through our training. I mean there’s nothing we won’t think about to distract our minds from the shin splits and aching muscles as we plow through our dedicated mileage for the day. As I train for the Chicago Marathon, I realize how much different it is from my previous half marathon, mainly because of the distance and the shorter preparation time that I have. However, training for any athletic event is a combination of physical, mental and emotional strength that needs to be perfectly balanced to achieve great results…but the road to getting and maintaining that balance, is definitely filled with rocks.
Let’s talk about the physical first. My legs hurt, my hips hurt, I’ve magically avoided massive shin splints this time around…but I can feel a twinge here and there. Sometimes the last few miles, my head feels like a bowling ball on a stick and I start to put all the pressure on my back. This sh*t sucks. The aches and pains of training are real and can’t be avoided. We think because we can kill it in the gym, it’s easy, but on the street, the pavement owns us. That cement digs deep into our muscles and pulls at each sinew one by one and twists it until we call mercy. I went back into the gym after a long run and worked on a muscle group, after my 11 mile run; this time it was back strength. Lats and trap pulls, push-ups, pull-ups, strength training, more dynamic swims and TRX…whatever it took to build more back strength to support my weight. It worked, barely felt it this week, but now I know that I need to tighten my core and work on my glutes and hip flexors. I’m lucky that I know how to troubleshoot my body and can work on muscle groups accordingly, I’ve had enough experience. A lot of runners I know tell me their solution to fixing soreness is to run more and then your body just gets used to it. I call horse patootie on that, that just creates numbness to pain, not strength.
Aside from just building muscles, I have understood how important pre run prep is and post run recovery is. We aren’t invincible. Just like having a drink and/or massage after a long day at work, your muscles need a drink and a massage too. The only difference is that your muscles need salt and water, not vodka. The massage it needs doesn’t come from a European woman in a room filled with eucalyptus and Enya, it’s from a long cylindrical device called a foam roller. This smooth log is far from its appearances, as when used properly on your IT band, it feels like a 600-lb man standing on your legs with football cleats on doing the Irish jig…yes, that excruciating. So as much as my muscles hurt during and after my run, it’s a pale comparison to what lies ahead. It’s the worst and best part of my days, mainly because it does help and although you don’t know it until hours later, the benefits outweigh all the pain. The other thing that I have access to that has really helped is that moment where I sink deep into a hot tub at the gym and close my eyes. Those jets are the most painfully soothing sensations ever. I mean they come darting out like needles, but as soon as your muscles adjust, it’s hard to leave…until of course I am suffocating from the steam and heat like a pig in the desert without mud, and then I jump into the pool…which then I discovered that I can emulate the whole “cold-hot” thing without an ice bath. It’s enthralling! I know I probably look nuts going back and forth, but it works wonders! Now, just like most salon appointments, what you do in the gym, doesn’t always translate at home…most of us don’t have pools and hot tubs. So, between 93,000-mile shower jelly, asper crème and my “funstick” (For you pervs that thought otherwise, check it out…https://www.thestick.com) I work on my muscles during movies, blog writing and when I’m waiting for something to cook. Basically, DUH, training is physically draining, taxing and just plain old exhausting, but don’t be one note about your training. Learn from your body, listen to it. Believe it or not, every twinge, cramp, shooting pain you feel is a message from your body that you need to decode and pay attention to, even if you don’t need to do much about it other than take a nap…ZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzz.
OK, let’s talk about our brains. This whole thing has been exhausting my brain more than anything else. Your body mostly does what you tell it to do, and sometimes what you subconsciously are thinking. After I hurt myself, I was out. There was no way I was doing this, not because I couldn’t, but because I didn’t want to. My mind wasn’t even entertaining the idea. I started boxing more and thought a lot about being an MMA fighter…LOL…yeah. Mentally, I was never going to run again, at least not in a race. Then as I began to heal, I started to run and those rusty wheels started to turn and with little oil and help from a man behind a curtain, I started to mentally think about crossing that finish line at 26.2. My first run after that epiphany went sort of like this:
“I am going to run 3 miles tomm, I got this…my new shorts are cool, I love the fabric…it’s hot outside, I love summer, this is going to be fun, it’s only 2pm, I can get some wine after at some happy hour…Spotify is blasting, Nike is up and running, I got my Wrigley 5 Spearmint Gum…let’s do this…end of the block, panting…what the hell is going on? THIS IS GOD AWFUL! I can’t even go .2 miles without wanting to die…I am totally going to play the traffic light game where I will WAIT for the lights, instead of going where there is a white man…Wow, one mile…smells like vomit and crap on Lake Street…I want to puke, because I can’t breathe…what am I doing? This is stupid…I’m done running, I knew I was done running…I hate summer, this heat sucks…1.5 miles…I’m done, I can’t even see straight…I want to jump in the river, that would feel so good…that guy has a Slurpee, I want it, yummm, it looks like it’s cherry…oh look the Riverwalk stairs…stairs suck…almost at 2 miles…this is pretty, I hate people, so many of them…GET A JOB! Get out of my way, I am barely holding on, don’t make me feel like a dog in an agility course!! MOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 2 miles…I can’t breathe…where can I get water? Why are there no water fountains on the Riverwalk? This is stupid…there’s the Tiki Hut. I’m done. 2.2 miles…I need a beer, water…whatever cold thing I can get. “
After that run, I realized that no, I can’t run this race if I think like I did on that run. There is no way that someone concerned with how cute their shorts are is going to train seriously for this race, at least not me. Just because I saw visions of finish lines and medals in my head, doesn’t mean that it will happen…cold, harsh truth…no matter how ready my legs may have been, my mind was a kid with some serious ADHD. How do I fix this? I didn’t know, not sure if I even cared. I tried, it didn’t work, running isn’t for me, case closed. I then started to look at my kids that I coach, some never thought they could run a mile, but they come every Sunday and run a SLOW 3 miles, but it was still 3 miles…and I’m the coach? Really? Some coach I am…who am I to motivate these kids when I don’t give a crap about any of it. These kids would finally start opening up to me on these jogs and talk to me about how they tell themselves that they get a good sandwich when they are done and nutrition bars and that’s the best part about it. Every good run for them equates to a chance to get new shoes to replace the ones they are running in that are a size too small. Yes, those are incentives, but as I talked about before, is that so wrong? Incentivizing someone to complete a task isn’t backhanded, everyone needs a push. We know these kids have it in them, we just had to get it out of them. LIGHT BUUUUULLLLB…why am I not doing this for myself? I can do this race, I can go on these runs, I can change my life for a few months to get there, right? Yes. I can, I will, I have. I took a week to find out what my “carrot” is that needs to be dangled in front of me to do this. I want that medal, I want that finish line, I want that high, that chocolate milk from Fair Life, even that banana! Why? Because that’s what winners get, not quitters.
From that point on, it’s been chocolate milk and bananas that have inspired me to create this “runhole” for myself…fitting…don’t you think? Get it? Carrot? Runhole? Yeah? With me still? I created a meal plan system designed specifically for race training that I am now working on making more automatic for my clients to use. The meal plan is based on what training I am doing that day and the next 12 hours so I can plan my carbs and proteins properly. I found a new training plan for mileage and adjusted it after each short run to see what was manageable, MANAGEABLE…not what some piece of paper tells me what I have to do, but what I CAN do based on actual facts and numbers. I curbed my social life and crawled into my “runhole” after Labor Day and haven’t looked back. The next time people will see me, I will have a chocolate milk moustache and a shiny medal around my neck holding a banana…Eh, what’s up doc?? 😉
“I’m nervous, I don’t know how I am going to do this run…I have never run more than 8 miles in a training run before…weirdly, I’m excited to see if I can…what happens if I fail? How am I going to face this? I am going to have to quit the race…these 11 miles decide what happens from here on out…why does this protein bar taste so good, I like Cookies and Cream…yum! I will do what I can, then make a decision…wait, there’s not decision to be made if I can’t make it…I don’t have time to make up this run, it’s now or never…I found a penny!! Yes!! Good luck! Mile 4, wow, I haven’t stopped yet, I was supposed to walk after 30 minutes…I don’t want to stop, I’m not weak, I feel great! So many runners out today…ooh that guy has great abs…I want her arms…these miles are starting to hurt…not even close…I’m tired, hungry and gassy…I want a hot dog later…finally, I can turn around! Great, I need to walk for a min, wuss…you can’t even get through 7 miles without a break…the weather is amazing, I hope it’s like this on October 9th…OMG…only 2 miles left…I can do this!! Almost there, come on Giz…my back hurts so much, why does my head weigh so much??? 11 miles!! I finished! Omg, I am going to be a marathoner! Why does everything hurt?? Who cares!!!! I am going to run a marathon…best feeling ever!! Why do I want to cry now? Why am I getting so emotional? Crap, I have 14 miles next week…I’m nervous.”
Thank GOD no one ever said there was no crying in running. I am a wreck! I can’t even tell you the gamut of emotions that run through me every run, let alone this whole training process. I go from self-doubt, to fear, to nervousness, to well I’m doing it, to feeling pain and failure, to feeling elated and high, to crying out the emotions from being high and then all the way back to self-doubt and fear. It’s nuts. It’s like a constant state of PMS that will last me until October 16th. I will be on that runner’s high for a week! Each weekly long run is a 28-day cycle complete with mood swings and cramps packed into 3 hours. It’s not even the running; sacrificing time with my friends and family and not being able to eat what I want, when I want has been really hard. Any time you change your meal plan, the irritation and moodiness that comes out of it makes Medusa look sane. Add in the self-doubt and fear that creeps up, I’m a total basket case. However, when I complete those long runs, it’s like no other high I’ve ever had before. It feels like I have already crossed that finish line, and as foolish as that may sound, it’s actually therapeutic. Each week for me is a new race. Every time I hit my milestones for the day, is another finish line I have crossed. I may not get a medal every time, but I do allow myself to revel in the high, cry in the shower with my shower jelly and then smile coyly to myself randomly throughout the day as if I am hiding a dirty secret.
There are days where I feel alone and secluded because I don’t feel I can reach out to anyone that can relate, sometimes I feel like an outcast because I can’t be a part of something because I have a run the next morning. I start to regret my choices, but it’s never a permanent feeling because that high returns and I know that I am about to accomplish something most of my friends can’t even spell. It’s no easy feat, the emotions that come with it are a roller coaster from hell…you all know how I feel about roller coasters. I know that when I cross that finish line I feel every emotion any being has ever felt. I will know my struggles and triumphs throughout this journey and I know that I bravely embraced all of them because each paved the way to that finish line. I will cry, laugh, hyperventilate, scream, cry some more, smile until I can’t feel my cheeks, lay in the grass and smell the fall air accompanied by the odor of 100,000 people…it won’t matter. My heart will feel even when my legs have given out a few hours later, and this feeling will only happen once I’ve allowed myself to go through all the ones I am experiencing now. Until then…I got this, bring it on.
I didn’t write this to gain sympathy or empathy, but often times most people have no idea how complex training for a race is. Most of us just see this person’s post on Facebook saying how awesome they feel after running 10 miles at a pace of 8.55 accompanied by a sweaty pic posted by NikeApp. How many of us actually “like” their post and think “what a showoff.”? How many of us ignore it and think “whatever, I don’t have the time like her, I could do that if I had the time.”? How many of us comment on that person’s run and say “Hey, great run! How do you feel?” There you go…my point. You won’t understand what a runner goes through when they are training, if this was a good run or a bad run, what’s really behind that sweaty smile unless you have been through it. Just ask that person. Everyone loves a winner, a picture at the finish line with a medal…have you thought about what they had to go through that you didn’t see to get there? This was the point of my whole blog. We need cheerleaders the whole way, not just on race day. We need people to just say “You killed it!” “When’s your next run?” Send articles, memes, inspirational quotes and and even stupid jokes on running that may catch your eye even if you think that we’ve read them all. If you can’t muster up something clever, just tell them they did a great job and wish them well, it goes a long way when it comes to the mundane nature of training. I have a few more weeks left before the race, so there may be third chapter yet the deeper I dive, until then, think about what I’ve shared and remember that most people aren’t islands even if they appear to be surrounded by water…it’s just over hydration.
Have you GIZMODE yet? Check it out! 🙂