Running and I aren’t getting along very well right now. Maybe Running is angry because I ignored and eschewed it for two entire weeks after my half marathon, and it is feeling spurned. Maybe, in my post-half delirium of couch snuggling and laziness (all in the name of “recovery”!), my lack of general movement resulted in a loss of fitness. Maybe it’s just the wrong time of month. Whatever the cause, I am just not enjoying running at the moment. And this makes me sad.
Not counting soccer games or sprinting to catch my bus, I didn’t run for exactly two weeks after my half. Then, two days ago, I accompanied Colin on his training run (his first half marathon is coming up in a few weeks) and it was not pretty.
Colin intended to run for an hour and a half in the late morning, and I planned to join him for 30-45 minutes of that. As I was changing into my running clothes, my right ankle gave out randomly and started hurting, and as Colin and I walked down the sidewalk to start warming up, my dodgy knees started protesting. It was like my body had gotten used to being mostly sedentary and didn’t like the prospect of exercising again. I mentally told my body to suck it up and off we went.
Once we started running, everything felt sluggish and my shins hurt. Our first mile was a slog… one of those miles where you feel like you’ve been running for ages and look down at your watch and see you’ve done less than a mile and it’s only been 10 minutes. It sucked. Mile 2 was a little better, though we still needed a long walk break, and Mile 3 was bearable only because I knew I was coming to the end of the run. It just felt hard, and honestly the only enjoyable part of the run was being back out there with my running buddy. Otherwise, ugh.
And then today happened. Colin and I were going to join the Shammies at their indoor track workout, but turns out the track is closed for the holiday. I had the day off, and since it was gorgeous out, I figured I’d take advantage of the unseasonably lovely weather, try to forget how much I hated running on Sunday, and get back on the proverbial horse. And I was met with another crap run.
I walked just over a half-mile to the library to return some books, then ran from there towards the pond. I had been a little chilly while walking (everyone I passed looked at me in my shorts and t-shirt like I was crazy… they were all bundled up in hoodies and hats) but was so thankful for my minimal clothing as soon as I started running – it was 60* with 60% humidity and sunny, and I feel like I broke a sweat as soon as I took off from the library.
“Took off” is a pretty accurate term for how I ran… there was no pacing myself today. Maybe that’s why this run was so unenjoyable – I pushed myself to go faster than I have since my last awesome speed workout. I don’t know why I pushed myself either; today was my first run sans patella straps since my 10-miler a few weeks ago, and I intended to go easy to see how the ol’ knees held up. Maybe it was because I knew I wouldn’t be doing a speed workout tonight and was making up for that, or maybe it was because there were SO MANY people around town and driving past me that I felt self-conscious about plodding along slowly. So I hauled buns.
By the time I had gone four-tenths of a mile I was breathing wicked heavy and wheezing a little, and was ready to turn around and go home. I had Simon set to overall time and distance so I’m not sure what my pace was, but my first mile clocked in at 11:12 and that included a long wait for the walk signal at a busy intersection (I wish now I had paused Simon, but since I was running “for feel” and not for time I didn’t bother).
After the nice break at the lights, I ran the entire next mile (10:10, which is pretty fast for me!) and continued wanting to keel over as I went. I was breathing so hard that people could hear me coming and were giving me slightly concerned glances as I ran past them. By this point, I was cursing my decision to not bring water, and was just trying to get to the bubblers on the other side of the pond as quickly as possible.
I was so hot, and felt like my face was so red it was about to burst, and couldn’t believe how many other runners at the pond were dressed in multiple layers… and running faster than me! I was getting passed by everyone, even though I was running a fast-for-me pace, and it wasn’t helping my mood. Neither was the plethora of meandering people who apparently don’t know how to share the path, causing me to side-step them into mud puddles too many times. I usually try to smile at people as I pass, especially other runners, but today I just wasn’t in the mood.
I stopped to walk a few seconds after Simon beeped the 2-mile mark, and kept walking down to the bubblers. My face was red and throbbing and my lungs weren’t taking in air very well, but the cold water was amazing. I wanted to just give up and walk home, but a tiny voice in my head kept saying “You ran a half marathon! Two miles shouldn’t feel this hard! Suck it up and try for another… you can do this!”
After walking a little farther, I set off once again at a slightly slower pace, determined to at least make it 3 miles. Running still felt terrible, I was miserable, I was worried I might faint, and then I almost got run over by fellow runners who clearly had no time for my slowness in front of them. (Colin and I go single-file when we run past people… why is it so hard for others to do that?!) The only thing that kept me from stopping was this overwhelming feeling of shame that I could barely run 3 miles*. I should have continued running home, but as soon as Simon beeped for 3 miles I stopped and walked. My face was still red and throbbing a mile later, and I didn’t have the awesome feeling of accomplishment that I usually have after finishing a run of any distance. I was just tired and annoyed. And, to top it all off, my one remaining toe on my right foot that wasn’t gross now has a big blister.
So what gives? Were those 2 weeks of no running a spectacularly bad idea that has set me back quite a lot, fitness-wise? Is it because of my increased (and apparently evil) estrogen levels at this time of month? Were those two giant glasses of wine at dinner last night also a bad idea? Or am I just hitting my second patch of the running doldrums… a bit of a slump now that I don’t have a big race looming?
I wrote back in January about my first big slump, which coincided with winter and bad weather and a lack of races to look forward to. Joining the Shammies and signing up for the Tour de Worcester reignited the spark, so maybe I can figure a way out of this one. I haven’t been to a Shammies workout in a while, and the encouragement from my fellow run clubbers always does wonders. What worries me, though, is that I’m not bored of running – I still want to run and have 2 upcoming races that I’m looking forward to – it’s just really freaking hard to run right now, and that difficulty is making it not fun at all. Fingers crossed this is just a rough patch from lack of activity these past few weeks!
Have you ever struggled with running after a big race? Am I going to enjoy running again??
Have you experienced a running slump? How did you break out of it?
Seriously, what is up with lack of running path etiquette?!
*I realized as I was reading/editing this before posting that me-two-years-ago would be incredulous that I feel shame about not being able to run 3 miles without wanting to die. Me-two-years-ago still couldn’t run a full mile without walking, and would be completely and utterly gobsmacked that I’d be running a half marathon at all, let alone within a few years. This realization was a good dose of reality (and relativity)… instead of getting down on myself for a bad run or two, I should be amazed at how far I’ve come! Bad runs happen, right? It’s the nature of our beast. I just hope running stops being so hard soon!