Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Struggle

Those who are regular readers know that I have struggled all summer long between conflicting mindsets when it comes to training (and to the rest of my life, really, but that's a different post). There's the me that wants to be in the moment, appreciate the journey, take everything in, be at one with the universe and at peace with whatever comes my way. You know, the evolved me.

And then there's the competitive weasel me that seizes on any external marker as a way to size myself up and provide affirmation.

This struggle is evident in the story of my marathon.

I'm not disappointed AT ALL in how things ended. I am still really proud of what I did and that I was able to go after my true goal - that of enjoying the day and loving other people. But I'm writing today because I'm a little bit regretful about how things started. Not just in the day but during taper (the three weeks before the marathon when I should be resting and recovering while still keeping just active enough to stay sharp).

I had the feeling throughout those weeks that I was self-sabotaging. Not getting enough sleep. Not eating well. (I'm not going to detail the food stuff except to say that I struggled with an eating disorder for many years and still struggle sometimes with eating and how I think about eating.) Not adjusting my workouts well. And then, in the days right before the marathon, by not eating enough -- not carbo-loading well. Same thing that morning. And in the first part of the race I wasn't careful enough with my walk breaks. My breakdowns in the last five miles were very clearly related to the choices I made in the weeks of taper and in the days and hours immediately before the marathon, and my mindset going into it.

In the end I'm happy with how I handled what came up during the event itself - but things didn't need to have gotten to that place to begin with. I'm sorry I wasn't more self-aware in those last weeks. I think really I was trying to sabotage the competitive me so that I could have the experience I really wanted (and had).

But you know, wouldn't it be nice to have just chosen that course instead of tricking myself into it?

I belong to an online running group, and one of the members of that group (hello, Joel!) wrote this reflection about goals after reading my story:

I trained as best as I could, but came to the line knowing that my original stretch goals for the event were not in reach... The races themselves were more like regular training runs, but with crowds and a tight schedule. I worked my way through, so that I could wear the t-shirt, and set my next goal. I still want to keep doing them, although they have been far less fun [than his first race experience].

All of this is why I am so delighted with [Anne's] Chicago Marathon experience. I was downtown volunteering and hoped to meet her, so I was watching her times. I knew she missed her goal, and was worried when she went Facebook-silent for the rest of the day. Her recap yesterday was pure sunshine. Anne did all of the work to get to the start line, and her physical and mental fitness are not at all diminished by the fact that her pace wasn't what she hoped for. But I've been in this activity long enough to know that to let go of goals and just enjoy the experience of the run can be much harder than actually pushing all the way and meeting your time. Anne deserved her victory lap through the city, and I am inspired that she was able to take it as such, goals notwithstanding...

[Regarding fellow Sub-30 Group runner Lonnie St. John] ... he has shown how to keep the joy while still running with real intelligence and self-awareness... [italics mine]

That is what I want, really. To run with joy and intelligence and self-awareness. I think I am a little bit closer to this after this year's marathon. And I'm looking forward to getting closer still.

Yours truly,


  1. The more I read blogs, the more connected I feel to the authors. I could have written this post myself.

    Also, I knew I connected with you through the Sub30Club but haven't seen you on there (maybe I don't know who to look for hehe). Joe said it perfectly. And seeing Lonnie's report and knowing he chose to be smart about his race made me feel 100x more confident and awe-struck.

    To me, it seems like you're well on your way to your goal!

    1. I started off with the Sub30Club but then joined a sub-group of that focused a little more on weight loss (though it's turned into so much more). I'm back on the S30C again, you can see me as Anne Ellis.