Today, I take the blame. I set myself up. You know the saying about self-fulfilling prophesies? Well I saddled on up to that cliche this morning.
One month from today is Esprit Montreal — my first 140.6 distance race — and to celebrate the countdown I posted the following on my Facebook and Twitter status:
One month from today I will test my mettle at my first Iron Distance event. Is it possible to cry and throw up at the same time?
Ah, I was trying to be witty and honest at the same time. Only here’s the thing — I focused on my doubt and fear and uncertainty. I focused on the nauseous feeling created by the mere thought of attempting an Iron Distance event. I didn’t focus on the fact that I will more than likely surprise myself on race day. I didn’t focus on the good feelings. I focused more on the blah feelings.
With this focus I went out for my 8-10 mile run.
And promptly fell apart.
I could not for the life of me get my hydration pack to play nice and it was too humid and warm for me not to run with water. I stopped several times in the first two miles for adjustments. Then I started to cry. Hydration packs are necessary accessories but they are not the most attractive. In a moment of vanity (or perhaps it was the combination of unusual hours, lots of training and high humidity) I started to focus on my figure flaws. Then I started to wonder, maybe I’m too fat to do the Iron Distance. Maybe I need another year to to improve my fitness and body composition.
I took several walk breaks because it’s difficult to keep from crying while running let alone crying while running in humidity.
The gift in all of this is that I could see my lunacy rather clearly. There’s a difference between having patience and being stagnant. Patience is letting things unfold in time. Patience is enjoying the journey, enjoying the moment, without attachment to the outcome. Stagnation comes from waiting for the perfect moment, the right timing, for everything to fall into place, before you even try.
It took me about half of my run to clam myself down. I finally figured out a way to wear my hydration belt without constantly adjusting it and gave up worrying if my stomach was sticking out too much. I stopped looking at my watch and judging my pace and just ran as I felt, even if that meant slower than I’ve run in some time. I took a break every two miles for water and let go of the notion that I should be running longer, more continuously. Those “shoulds” are what always seem to get me in mental and emotional trouble.
By the last two miles, I was feeling pretty good and remembered the lesson that it’s not the struggle that’s important, but how you recover.
Was it my worst run ever? Probably in the worst five for sure. But I decided to think about all the things I did right — how I kept my hydration belt instead of ditching it (a good call since I needed the water on a hot and humid day), how I listened to what my body wanted (to slow down) and how I adjusted to keep going, to finish the workout, instead of bagging it.
Will it physically help my running? I have no idea on that one.
But I know that it will help me mentally.
No. 1 — I will not start a workout with a negative statement, even a flip one. My gift of sarcasm and self-deprecating humor is best left for other times.
No. 2 — If I let those hard times, those unexplainable emotions, wash over me, there is strength and courage and, yes, even success on the other side. I just need to stick around long enough to let them emerge.