July 3, 2012

The wall

On Sunday, as scheduled, I set out for a ten mile run. I was beyond thrilled. I was pumped. I was ready to watch the sun rise as I worked through my first long run along the lakefront path in nearly a year.


Except that I hit the wall. Of my ten planned miles, I ran two before I found myself overwhelmed and needing to stop. It was both physical and mental, and I found myself walking for a few minutes, then running another half mile, walking, running a half mile, walking, running a quarter mile, and then taking the bus and the subway home. Add in the last stretch from the main road to the apartment, and it was just shy of 3.5 miles.

I was crushed. Disappointed in the run, in myself. I wanted the first time back to be magical, to be everything I'd dreamt about back in California. But I couldn't do it. Not even do half. Not even a quarter before I had to stop.

I know exactly why the run was a flop.
  1. Per usual, my body decided to get me through an incredibly stressful time, and then just as I think I'm in the clear, I get a ridiculous cold. First the sore throat and coughing, then runny nose, and finally a fever and full-body exhaustion. On day two of feeling this lousy, I decided to run ten miles. Not my smartest decision.
  2. It was very hot out - we're in the middle of an intense heat wave right now, and even though the temps are about the same as I was running in back in California, the huge difference is humidity. I could wear light cardigans over my sundresses to work a week ago; today, a tank top and shorts feels excessive.
Related, I didn't properly hydrate during the run - I have never used a water bottle before while running, and without the humidity it wasn't terrible. This run absolutely knocked me out. I was drenched in sweat after the two miles - more than my nine miler last weekend.

I came home, complained to Matt, and then cried in the shower. Even though I knew what I needed to do to make the run better, I was devastated. And even though I went out that afternoon and bought a running water bottle and some Gu/Clif gels, just thinking about reattempting the run tomorrow morning is leaving my stomach in a knot. I'm nervous, and I'm scared. There's always that little what if? in the back of my mind: what if I can't do this run again, tomorrow or ever? What if I can't get my act together, even in Chicago?

Because the thing is ... my first run in California was supposed to be a ten miler.

And I bonked that one, too.

And then I pretty much quit running for two months.

And everything else became a struggle again for the better part of a year.

I can't do that this time. I may have fallen, but I have to get right back on the horse. Post-California move, I was running just to run. This time, I have immediate race goals - the first being a half marathon in less than three weeks.

And even more than the upcoming races, I have my renewed sense of motivation. I couldn't finish my long run, but that doesn't mean I've failed, not even short-term. There are any of a million things that can go wrong during training runs while a race ends up being great; you can have flawless training runs and the race can be a fiasco. I'm going to go back out there tomorrow, more properly armed, and give it everything I have. If I hit the wall again, I will have to reassess some things. But I'm absolutely not going to give up, no matter what.


Maia said...

The wall is a horrible, horrible thing. I hit the wall during a 10k run last spring and stopped running for a year. This, not so coincidentally, was also when my weight loss almost came to a halt. I would say to maybe not shoot for a 10 mile run tomorrow. Maybe shoot for a 3-5 mile run. That way you aren't setting a huge goal in front of you, and it's not the same distance that "defeated" you this time. But, it's just to make sure that you don't let it get into your head more than it already is. Just shake it off, you can do it!

marisol said...

Your body and mind have suffered through a lot of stress lately. Add the fact that you are getting sick to the equation and it's not wonder you didn't make your 10 miles. But don't let it upset you. Your body and mind need to rest and adjust to living back in Chicago.

Glo said...

Sunday was brutal in Chicago. I live here too and am training for the 10k in August. I got up early and ran on the same day, so I know how hot it was. I also ran with a cold awhile back and it was absolutely awful. Mary, you can and will do your 10 mile run tomorrow. You will settle back into Chicago. Right now your adjusting and that's alright. You have not yet begun to fight!

Ashley said...

I know that you can do this, Mary. It's not unreasonable that you're overwhelmed with a huge move, and having a cold on top of it in this heat is a recipe for physical activity to be extremely hard. I think that you won't stop running like you did in California because that's a lesson you've learned. I wish you well on your run; I have faith that you can push through and make yourself proud :)

A said...

"But I'm absolutely not going to give up, no matter what. "

Good for you!!!!

Frickin' Fabulous at 40 said...

Ugh Mary! I seem to get that feeling before EVERY run! I'll suit up and look at my husband and say "I don't want to do this!" and then go out and run. The heat and humidity just make it worse. But, just like you, I'll go back out there tomorrow, maybe even hit the treadmill at the gym to be a bit more comfortable. I hope you have a GREAT run today!

Reeseleese said...

When I have a bad run, I often think of a bow and arrow; you need to pull back (have a bad run) before the arrow can really fly (get a personal record)! You just got the hard part out of the way, be ready for a personal best. This insane Chicago humidity is supposed to ease up by Monday, just a few more runs before then!

Enz said...

Each run is it's own event. Don't compare them. A million conditions exist each time you lace up. Just keep doing it. Not giving up is the very best thing to do!

timothy said...

you KNOW what to do and how to do it.........so stop self sabotaging by NOT doing it the right way, and stop the self doubt. you are an EXTREMELY smart and determined woman and you are capable of anything you set your mind to. so, dont psych yourself out, dont stop running, just get over the cold and then DO IT! (did i get the right mix of cheerleading and ass kicking cause i could be meaner if you need me to!);)

Unknown said...


I've bonked my fair share of long runs and know much of how you're feeling (though I'm sure the 'homecoming' part even adds an extra layer of emotion.)

No one could fault a cut-short run with those awful factors - dehydration, extreme heat, illness… just thinking of these things makes me not want to run!

I'm proud of your "get back on the horse" thinking.

I might suggest with the weather being so hot and if you're still not at 100% energy, taking a bit of the pressure off - I know you can do 10, you know you can do 10 but you might want to aim for 5, 6 or 8 the first time out - I know for me, it would help me to mentally run and reach my goal of a shorter run (but still far enough) rather than have the big 10 hanging over my head. I know that's unconventional for most runners to recommend but that has worked for me in the past. The ten mile run will still get done but having the "I just successfully did 8" in my back pocket tends to help me.

I guess it all depends on what head game works best for you. ;)


Sarah said...

This heat has been absolutely awful. I haven't done any actual exercise in a week because the humidity is killing me. 3.5 miles is really good considering how horrible the weather is. We're under an "excessive heat" advisory until Saturday, with heat indices between 105-110, so be careful. *hugs*

Anna said...

I use a hydration belt for anything over 5 miles, keep it up Mary :)

Ann said...

Mary - I'm so sorry this happened! One of my favorite sayings is, "fall down 7 times, get up 8". I know you will have a great long run in the next few days!!

Lyn said...

That's hard. But you are running! You are doing something good for yourself, working hard at it. And if as you say, you never give up, then there is no failure. You inspire me :)

Adam said...

Hey Mary!

Keep up the good work. The trick to being a good runner is controlling your mind. Pretty interesting actually and a very underrated part of running. You need to feed your mind with positive thoughts...I will complete this run, I will not stop, I will improve everyday etc. All those negative thoughts make running harder. It's a mental game. Spend time visualizing runs and you completing them. Think about how far you come...momentum is huge. Both good and bad. That's why consistency is so important.

Good Luck and I'll be rooting for you!