The beauty of a Bad Run

Oy.  That Hurt.

Saturday was the winter edition of Mark Iscool’s semi-annual Really Early Morning Run (REMR).  A group of 10-12 crazies (mostly ultra-junkies) gather at 2 a.m. to run up to 25 miles.

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Upon returning to Mark’s house, runners enjoy coffee, baked goods, and lots and lots of BACON.  Its always a good time.

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The companionship and BACON did not disappoint this year, but the run…ugh.  Its been a long time since I hurt that badly.  While I am really annoyed at myself for suffering like that, there are a LOT of lessons to be had.  I realize that we need these bad runs (or bad parenting days) every so often so we don’t take the good ones for granted.  Just because one has the base mileage doesn’t mean one can ignore such important factors like recovery, nutrition, sleep, fuel and hydration.

  • Recovery.  Still healing from running hard at Holiday Lake.  Upping the strength training has left me with aching quads and glutes.  The tendons and ligaments in my feet are also still sore.
  • Sleep.  The run started at 2 am.  I did not get ANY sleep beforehand.  I went bowling instead.  Bad Annie.
  • Nutrition.  I’ve had a lot of luck with eating a big breakfast, protein-rich lunch, and carb-based early dinner the night before a big run.  A bowl of oatmeal 2 hours before the start tops off my tank and gets me through the first 2 hours feeling strong.  Friday, I had a small breakfast, a salad for lunch, and ate a late dinner – a huge mexican meal that sat like a rock in my stomach.
  • Fuel.  The undigested food in my tummy meant I had NO desire to eat anything during the run.  I forced down a gel around 90 minutes in, but it had no noticeable effect.  I ate nothing else the rest of the time, and I bonked HAR D around mile 14.
  • Hydration.  I also had no desire to drink anything.  I forced down about 20 ounces of fluid, but probably needed twice that amount.

I believe ALL of these factors contributed to the extreme nausea that plagued my run.  I knew 1/2 mile in that it was going to be rough.  By mile 6, I was questioning my ability to continue.  I wanted to throw up, but couldn’t.  I ended up slogging through 18.5 miles – almost 3 hours.  Even though it was miserable, I knew it was good training.  I’d much rather feel this was on a fun run than in a race.  As an added bonus, it was dark – so no one could see the near-death expression on my face!!!

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I have more of these “bad runs” as a mother than I’d like to admit.  When my patience frays.  When I’m not as present with the girls as I’d like to be.  When the clutter, mess, dishes, and laundry take over the house like a mutant-plant-creature in some B-grade horror movie.  If I can just step back, there are always root causes.  There are always solutions.  And, like muscles, bones, and tendons, my family grows stronger each time we’re tested.  Thank goodness for tomorrows – a chance to wipe the slate clean and start over again.

Pre-JFK Thoughts and Musings…

Forgive me as I ramble through the myriad thoughts consuming me in these final days before JFK, but this week is kind of a big deal for me.  In fact, the last time I felt this way was almost seven years ago.  Instead of tapering for a race, I was on bed rest, awaiting the birth of my first child.  I was a nervous wreck.  I knew at a high-level what to expect:  the pain of labor, sleepless nights, maternal anxiety.  But not having been through it myself, I had no idea how I would handle the pain and exhaustion.  Would I be able to perform?  Would I be a good mother?  What if it was all too much??

The labor was agonizing, but I got through it, and the pain was soon gone.  The sleepless nights were rough (and continue to this day), but I discovered that I didn’t need much sleep after all.  As I emerged from the first six months of motherhood, I had started to form a new identity.  I was Emma’s mom.

With this new identity came many changes.  Some for the good:  new friends, new layers of patience and self-sacrifice, new depths of feeling.  Some for the bad:  more wrinkles, more chaos, more laundry.  Running, my faithful go-to method of sorting out life’s stress and problems just wasn’t an option in those early years.  Sure, I’d put in a half-hearted effort to train and run Monument Avenue each March, but afterwards I’d just throw my running shoes to the back of the closet for another year.

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I found my way back to running in the dark winter months of 2011.  It began as a way to stay fit.  But as I gained strength and set a few 10K PRs I thought that, just maybe, I could recapture a bit of my pre-motherhood self.  I started training for the marathon.  I read ‘Born to Run’ and dusted off a thought that had been pushed aside a decade ago:  JFK.  It was the tiniest little spark – just a wild idea that seemed so fantastic, so out-of -reach – an embryo really.  But it gestated and grew over the ensuing months.  Each time I went for a long run – it became more real to me.  Every race was a stepping stone.  The long runs and speed work, the hills and the trails, they all brought it closer.

Not long ago, it hit me.  I wasn’t recapturing my past.  I was a BETTER runner than I had been before children.  Motherhood has given me an edge.  The grittiness required to endure a toddler’s tantrum, the exhaustion that comes from waking four times a night, the knowledge that hard work yields marvelous benefits all help the runner in me.  I may not be vying for a podium spot, but in this small way, I feel like a winner.

So here I am on the eve of JFK – the race that started it all.  This time next week, I won’t be holding a baby in my arms, but I will have given birth to a new me.  And while I want so badly to cross the finish line – I don’t think the result matters so much.  The changes of this year – the discipline, the knowledge, the experience, and the amazing network of new friends – will endure regardless of whether there are numbers or letters next to my name.

So I will deal with this anxiety head-on, just as I will handle the pain and fatigue on race day.  I acknowledge it, accept it, and calmly put it to the side so I can carry on.

Stay tuned!