Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Turning Boulders Into Pebbles

Convincing my body that a normal sleeping pattern (what's normal?  I work insane hours!) is a good idea is harder than it seems.  After blogging all winter that I couldn't sleep, now I can't seem to stay awake.  After finding a formula… a mix of Valerian tea, magnesium, probiotics, and varying doses of melatonin… I not only have been sleeping, I can't seem to stop!!  Forget eight hours a night, it's more like nine, ten, twelve, throw in a nap (two hours today) for good measure!  I realize I was in a very, very deep deficit and a certain amount of recovery is going to take time.  I also realize that I periodically (like twice during my week in Tulsa) still work/train for periods greater than 24 hours without any sleep, but still!  I keep thinking that at any moment, I should emerge from the phone booth with a big, red letter emblazoned across my chest (SUPERDUCK!!  I like it!)

I have been able to cut back on my caffeine and feel pretty good most of the time. if I had an ounce of perspective on my training would probably acknowledge that things are trending in a good direction.  Unfortunately, all I can see is the shortfall.  DW has been having me do these longish (OK, short to some of you but long to me!) runs and now we have added speed work to them.  I keep thinking that they will get easier if I keep doing them.  It's not that I expect them to be a walk in the park but right now they are holding my feet to the fire and I am coming out of them totally trashed.  Plus, I am consistently falling slightly short of the goals.  It has been a little difficult to sort all of the physical input because of various extenuating circumstances but the constant is that I am not finishing these well at all.

Today was no different.  The run was shorter, though still longer than anything I had done prior to three weeks ago, and just supposed to be endurance miles.  The long run with the speed work is looming later in the week.    Yesterday was my long ride paired with a swim so I went into it a little fatigued and in spite of that felt pretty good through most of it… until the last half mile.  I had an original goal of finishing under a certain amount of time (1:06).  I got within a mile of the end and realized that I was going to beat that by a lot.  Then I got greedy and tried to push that last mile trying to finish as close to 1:00 as I could.  That would have put the pace well below my 5k pace for a much longer run and would have been the fastest time I had ever completed a longer run, racing or training.  I was 4 tenths of a mile from the goal and I blew up like an atom bomb.  Feathers and webbed feet went everywhere!!  (not really, but it's a great idea)  Less than .3 miles from being done, I broke to a walk.  I honestly didn't even know I was going to do it.  One minute I was running and pushing as hard as I could, the next I was walking.  Once I did, it was over.  I immediately tried to run again, not even trying to go fast.  Nope.  Walking again in a few hundred feet.  Each time I broke, I walked a little more and ran a little less until I couldn't even pull off a few steps.  I walked most of the last .25 miles and didn't even realize that I then went a .1 too far.  I was toast.  I finished in 1:08.

This is the second roasting of poultry that has happened lately.  First, I can't even tell you how pissed I am that I could have had a more modest accomplishment without any change in effort but didn't even make that goal because I got greedy.  Two, I am so disappointed in myself for yet another missed workout target.  I don't think the plan is for me to walk part (even a small part) of the assigned distance.  I think the point is to keep moving and to establish a sustainable pace.  There was very little wrong today except perhaps I am not someone who can go for that long without some electrolytes but really, all I had to do was keep fighting and trying.  I was so close but I was a greedy, greedy duck.

I also realize that at some point in that last part, I gave up.  I stopped trying and pushing.  I resigned myself to the failure and just walked.  That bothers me most of all.  It's one thing to miss a target when you try and struggle to the bitter end.  Lately, I have been letting myself off the hook a little too often.  I have had so many physical hurdles that I have learned, grudgingly, to be gentle with myself.  Now, it seems I am having trouble calling up the tenacity that I have always depended upon.  Had that been a race I would have been so disappointed.  I lost the mental game, again.  I have lost it a few times lately.  I think a little toughening up may be in order.  I suppose the balance between the two is a target in motion.

During the pre-bonk portion of the run, I did some thinking.  I have been feeling a little bit like a hopelessly bad athlete.  It seems like I headed down this road and a short distance into the journey, I rounded a bend and found the rest of the road blocked by a landslide.  In order to continue on this path, I have a whole mess of boulders that need to be moved.  Those boulders each have a label.  Extra weight, old injuries, arthritis, gluten, poor sleep, bad habits, poor nutrition, bad equipment, etc.  Some boulders will move more easily than others and a few will bring on another landslide if disturbed.  I would be great if I could clear every last pebble from my path, but really, I just need to move enough to pass.

I have begun this journey of taking care of myself, addressing as many of these limiting factors as I can.  I alternate though between being totally determined to do this and thinking I am just completely deluded.  It seems like I keep going over the same ground and not actually breaking through to the next level.  I ran like a duck when I started this blog and guess what… I still do.   Still, I guess I believe that at some point, I am going to break through this stuck phase and see significant progress because I am still trying, still working at it.  I still want to go down this path that is covered in all these big FREAKIN' ROCKS!!

Years ago, I frequented an online support forum that described trauma as a boulder.  I agreed at the time.  I felt like Sisyphus, pushing my boulder up the mountain.  The quote went on to promise that as time went on the boulder would become smaller and more manageable until finally it was nothing more than a pebble that could be slipped into a pocket.  It would never go because you cannot change your past but it would be a light burden.  That proved true.  That pebble is in my pocket and at times, it gets a little heavy and I have to hold it in my hand, but it is no longer a boulder that takes all my strength to move.  None of the challenges I am facing now will require that much strength.

Training, especially for someone with a lot of boulders, is a process.  It is a physical process, a learning process, an evolution of lifestyle.  These boulders in my life now are all much, much smaller than they were even six months ago.  Unfortunately, I cannot tell how many more still need to be moved before the path is cleared.  Each limiting factor is something that can be identified, addressed, and ultimately, hopefully, managed or removed.  As I learn to manage each, it takes less thought and becomes simply a way of life.  In other words, they become pebbles.  I will always be running with a pocket full of pebbles but that is a lot easier than being crushed under a landslide.

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