Sunday, November 27, 2011

"If you can't run, you walk. If you can't walk, you crawl..."

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 130:

Today was a rough one, BlogLand. Like, the kind of rough that I haven't experienced in a long time. I debated how I was going to write about this, or if I was... but this blog is ultimately about honesty, and for me to look back on the reality of my progress... and really, the bad days are part of the process. Added to that thought, I know that many of my readers are on their own journeys, along with me; For me, if I was following along with someone for motivation and/or inspiration, I'd want to know that they were human just like me, had bad days like me, and even had really awful days. Like today.

I was a little bit sore when I got up this morning, from yesterday's CrossFit adventures, but not as bad as I had expected. I was a bit stiff in my upper body and my calves were a bit tight (damn you, jump rope!), but that's nothing new. Thankfully, it was supposed to be Long Run Day, so the upper body was no issue, and I usually warm up out of the sore calves. No problemo. I was looking forward to getting out of the house for a bit and stretching my legs; it's been a few days since I just straight up ran.

I suited up in some new gear (Moving Comfort, I LOVE YOU. Review tomorrow.), and took a look in the mirror. I should've recognized at that very moment that today was going to be a difficult day. When I looked in the mirror this morning, to check out the new top that I had gotten, all I saw was Old Me. I saw bulges. I saw belly. I saw ugly.

More often than not, these days, I can at least see progress: I look in the mirror and while I do recognize areas that still need work, I often now see the strong arms, more defined waist and muscular quads. I can usually look approvingly at myself and the changes I've made.

Such was not the case today. Although, I do feel like this calls for a tiny bit of back story. It's been a tumultuous week or so in my life. My family imploded right before the holiday, including both sides of my divorced family in screaming matches with each other AND me, some of my small family is STILL not speaking to me, and we didn't do any sort of family Thanksgiving. To add insult to injury, there's been a lot of changes in my friend group (which, for me, is really just extended family), and a lot of those relationships have felt far away, distant and just-not-right lately. For me, someone who is very family-centric, emotional, involved and devoted to the people in my life, this is extremely stressful. Everything feels wrong. When everything feels wrong, then it becomes MUCH more difficult to fight the tiny battles that make up the larger war.

Such was the case when I looked in the mirror. When usually I am armed with an arsenal of positivity around me, the emotional stress had really sapped that energy, leaving me vulnerable to sneak attacks by Old Me.

Despite the squishy-bulges I was focused in on, I laced up my sneakers and drove out to my Long Run spot. My thoughts were busy and racing, and I was looking forward to a run to clear them out - I do find it difficult to think about too much while I'm running, because I need to focus on the run.

I set off and was feeling a bit off kilter. My calves were not happy with this, my legs felt a bit stiff, but nothing I wouldn't just warm up out of as I pushed on. I got through the first half mile and nothing felt better. My breathing was all wrong, I was pushing just to make my legs maintain my stride, and I just felt like I had no energy. Drained. Totally drained. I allowed myself a tiny walk-break at a half mile, thinking maybe I just needed more of a stretch and/or warm up than usual, after yesterday's rigorous CrossFit. I stretched a bit, regrouped my brain a bit and tried to remember all the things I've learned from the veteran runners I've come across.

And so, I pushed on... two or three more lengths between telephone poles (it's a dirt road... it's how I measure, sometimes!). All wrong. I just couldn't bring it all together. Focus on breathing, I told myself. Keep the legs moving, they'll warm up. Watch my turn over and stride. How bad did I want it?! I wanted it bad. I pushed through... another two or three more telephone poles lengths. Everything was screaming at me. My legs were in concrete. I broke to a walk. I let out an exasperated sigh. What was going ON?  This was unacceptable I told myself. I wasn't even at a mile yet, and I had already walked twice. This was *backward* progress.

I just needed to keep working, I reminded myself. Keep moving. A couple more telephone poles... Not even a mile and a half total... and I was fighting every fiber in my body. Thankfully, it's a quiet dirt road I was running on - mercifully untraveled on a grey, brisk day like today - because then came the tears. Yep. I fought to put one foot in front of the other at the slowest, barely-a-jog-trot possible and hot, angry tears of frustration, disappointment and raw emotion ran down my face.

Was it the bad run? No. Was it the fact that I was having a bout of Fat Chick Syndrome? No. Was it the family bullshit in the background? No. Was it the friend-stuff cropping up? Was it all of those things at once? Yes. Yes it was. Everything. At once.

I was still walking forward, trying to gather myself, and decide what was going to happen next. Since I began my Spartan Shape-Up, I've never quit on a workout. Ever. I've always pushed to completion or my absolute limit - whichever came first. I didn't want this to be the first time. I couldn't tolerate that. But I couldn't fathom more running. I sniffled and the battle raged on in my head. I kept walking forward.

Then I thought of mantra that one of the original Spartan Hurricane Heats coined (I may be slightly paraphrasing): "If you can't run, then you walk. If you can't walk, then you will crawl. If you can't crawl, then I will carry you!".

I couldn't run. But I COULD walk. Wasn't that what this process was all about? NOT quitting? Not letting myself get in my own way? Not accepting my body's limits?

... But it was so hard. I wanted to stop. I wanted to turn around and go back. I heard myself start to come up with good "reasons" to turn back - I was too sore, I'd run the day before, I could do it tomorrow, etc. ad nauseum.

Old Me was making some really excellent points. But then I thought about all the people who have helped me along the way, who have supported me or inspired me. I didn't want to let them down by quitting. What COULD I do, I asked myself.

I was angry that I had to have this battle, frustrated that all these things were sitting on my emotional shoulders and impacting my training, and 300 other things. But I walked. I ran a few more telephone poles, then would walk again. Try and run some more, back to walking.
Admittedly, this four-ish miles was probably more like a walk with some runs in it, than a run I had to walk a bit during. But I finished the distance. I also finished the last half mile or so at a run. It was everything I had, but I wasn't going to finish Long Run Day at a walk.

It was the longest 56:15 minutes I've had in a while. Never got into the running zone... just had a lot of time to think, get angry, feel defeated, hurt, and try and press on through the emotional walls.

As I got back to my car, I didn't know what to do. Typically, this would be the moment where I would declare my accomplishment triumphantly to my GT, or Facebook, or Twitter. I didn't feel triumphant. I didn't feel accomplished, I didn't feel good, happy or satisfied.

I felt slow, out of shape, fat, stupid for thinking I could do these things, and angry that I had ever lead myself down this path where I was bound to fail.

Yep, it's true. I think these things, sometimes.

I have about a 20 minute drive home from that spot, and I used it wisely, I think. I cried. I cried about all the things and people I can't control right now, and I cried out my frustration that I couldn't just run the damn distance. And then I stopped.

I dug in my brain for every positive justification I could think of: Not every day is going to be a PR. Some runs ARE going to feel bad. I've been working hard pretty non-stop, maybe my body just couldn't, today - but tomorrow will be better. Everyone trips... it's about who keeps getting up. How bad DID I want it? Did I want it bad enough to take this day, feel it for what it was, then finish it and move on to tomorrow?

Yes. Yes I do. I felt really bad today, Blog. Readers, if you haven't yet, you'll feel really bad training one day, too. You'll have your own back story, your own negative self-talk, your own thought-demons to slay... but the war is the same. Know that you are not the only one. That helped me today. Even the athletes that we all strive to be have these days. What makes them the ones we strive to be is how they handle those days. Do they let it consume them, drag their whole training regime off track, throw it all away because they had a bad day or two? Or do they get up, dust off and push forward?

So, how did I push forward? Well, I squashed my emotional brain for a bit and brought my logical brain to the surface - what COULD I help. Well, I was sore as hell, my legs were fatigued. Answer to that problem: Ice Bath. That would be a good place to start.

A handful of Ibuprofen and an Ice Bath later, my mind felt a bit clearer. Throw a warm shower on top of that, and I almost felt human again. Am I proud of today's run? No. Am I proud that I am going to get up and train tomorrow? Yes. Old Me would've let this moment ruin the whole journey. Made it come to a crashing halt.

Things have changed around here, though. After a deep breath and a cup of tea, I'm setting my Monday alarm. It's a Crossfit morning.

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