Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mental games

***I had to add this - Way to go Chris on your new PR at the Madison Half Marathon - You are on your way to the next Ironman!!!!***

Since Steve had to go to a conference this week, I made plans to get caught up on sleep, food, and peace. I was a little bummed not to be joining my family in ND (Amy and my niece flew in from Wisconsin), but it's probably a good thing. I'm mentally tired. That's the nature of the career I've chosen. Some days and/or weeks are just chaotic and heartbreaking, made worse when there's not a lot of time in the day to process what is happening. It was good timing for a three day respite for the mind and body...

...until I saw our credit card statement. Someone got our information and charged thousands of dollars on flights out of this country. It's been reported, the account is closed, an investigation will be started, but the experience is frustrating and scary.

We also found out the owners of our cabin decided to sell the place. We're not entirely certain it would be worth buying, especially for what they are asking, but we were hoping we could at least continue to rent until we figure things out. Steve is still working in a community four hours away, continuing to search for a family practice position here. That leaves us on some shaky ground. We love this area, want to stay, but would actually like to live in the same place someday and do away with the whole "commuter" relationship. Lots of decisions again.

Saturday morning, I decided to manage (or ignore?) my stress, by doing a 20 mile trail run. My route took me on a 7.5 mile out and back on trails and old logging roads. It was perfect running weather for me. Overcast, 50's, with a cool breeze. I brought two bottles of Heed, GU, a protein bar and set off. There were way more people than I had anticipated, primarily families hiking, mountain bikers and people with horses. I got several remarks along the way - from the "are you crazy - I wouldn't even walk this" from a guy on horseback to "a little too much energy today?" from a guy hiking with his family. From the looks of him, he seemed pretty fit, so I think he was just jealous not to be running too.

I finally hit quiet trail about four miles up at 4300 feet. I stuck to the plan of eating every 30 minutes and the protein bar definitely helped. Since adding these to my long runs, I've been able to control the blood sugar issues and avoid the sudden bonk. I was able to spend some time exploring new areas along the ridge, but knew I had to go back down to the car for more Heed. The picture below I took at the highest point of the run, around 5100 feet. The logging road in the distance is where I had come from and where I'd be going back.

On the way down, it started to sprinkle, and two miles from the car, downpour. I passed the family of hikers again, dashed the last mile to the car and debated whether or not to continue. I really wanted 20 miles. Not sure why that number stuck in my head, but it did. One thing you should know is that I'm NOT a mental runner. I don't set many goals, and I don't purposely inflict pain upon myself. Because of this, I don't race much either. I usually stick out a long run with the group, but tend to set easy goals when I'm by myself, or cut runs short if I don't feel up to it. Today, I wanted to test myself. It really ended up being a mental game.

So, I grabbed my handheld bottle, and headed back up. Again, I approached the same family who was looking at me like I was absolutely nuts. The youngest girl stopped and said, "you aren't going back up there, are you?" The "up there" sounded like she thought I was going to do battle in some horror movie. My reply - "just a little of the way."By now, it was a steady rain, but still not cold. I told myself I'd go back up until I hit mile 17 even if I had to hike it, then turn around. My earlier plan was to go really slow with a goal of 5 hours. Primarily because I've only done one 20 miler since last fall, and because I was tired (see how easy I am on myself?).

I realized on my way back up that I could finish in 4:30 if I could maintain a decent pace. The main problem at this point was the mud. Trail shoes are awesome except when it comes to mud. The lugs were attracting it in gobs, until I felt like I was running on 2 additional inches of shoe. Plus, it was sticky enough, sucking me to the ground, that I thought my foot was going to come right out of the shoe. I tightened my laces and trudged on. I was thrilled to reach mile 17. Turning around though, I realized the downhill might be more painful. Sure enough, it was. My hips were aching at this point, and my calves threatening to cramp up. I ran though, concentrating on the absolute brilliance of my surroundings. I was again reminded of how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place. I won the mental game in 4:27 with wet, muddy clothes and shoes, and a much more peaceful mind.


xt4 said...

The best races are the ones against yourself. Kickass.

And scary with the ID theft. And unsettled about the living arrangements. I hope everything comes together, as I'm sure it will.

Great work out there -

Meghan said...


Oy, you've had many the struggles lately, haven't you? It sounds like you found a bit of respite in the challenge of your long run. Congrats on that, and I hope more respite is on the way, somewhere.


Danni said...

Ack! I didn't realize all this was going on.