Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Small negotiations

After 2 weeks of recovery from Dopey and the nasty cold I got when I arrived home, I finally went for a run this weekend. Two runs actually, back to back. Because I need to start training for my back to back marathons coming up in May.

Saturday while some of the east coast was being buried by a blizzard, Lowell was protected by a lovely bubble of high pressure, but it also brought with it ridiculously cold air. The temps were in the teens with a "real feel" in the single digits. I convinced my friend Lisa to get out there and do a quick easy 3 miles with me. Well, actually we convinced each other. It was a text conversation back and forth that went a little like "we should go for a run" "it's really stupid cold out though" "just a short one" "we will be done before we even realize it's cold" "I have a lot to do today" "it won't take us long" "it's not going to get much warmer, if we go we should go soon" "I could do 3 miles right now" "ok let's do it" "I'll get dressed" "me too"

My legs definitely felt a little heavy and it took about half a mile for them to remember what this running thing is and how to do it. And right about half a mile in was when the wind kicked up and we realized how friggin cold it was. It was ok though, we were already out there and running, nothing left to do but get it done and we did. Afterwards I felt a lot better. I had been feeling antsy and kind of lazy because I rested SO much after Dopey, but clearly my body needed it. The run was a success and I was back at it again. Officially training for my next marathon.

Sunday morning I was very pleased to wake up and see the sun AND no snow (sorry rest of the east coast, but Lowell got enough last year). I headed out for a slightly longer run. Aiming for 4-5 miles, 4 if my legs and body didn't feel good and 5 if everything was ok. As I was running and reaching the decision point of my route, it occurred to me that every run is in a way a series of small negotiations between the brain and the body. This could not be more true in a marathon.

On this particular run I was debating between, easing into my training and not over doing it but going a little bit further if I felt like it, but not too far. I play these weird mind games with myself. Like if my iPod shuffle plays a motown song next instead of rock or pop I will turn around now and call it a day. Or maybe I'll just run to the next mailbox and THEN turn around, that might be far enough for the day. Then this other voice in my head chimes in and says, stop it you feel great and you can go a little further. Then the OCD side of my brain kicks in and thinks if I do 7 miles today that makes a nice even 10 for the week with yesterday's 3 miles. And the type A planner in me starts thinking long term, if I do 3 and 7 this week, what should I run next week?  I ended up pushing through the negative Nelly that tried to make me cut the run short and did the full 7 mile loop.

The same sort of small negotiations happen during a marathon only there is no turning back. It is either keep moving forward or stop. When I start to suffer towards the end of a race I think to myself "just get to the next water stop or mile marker". I forget where I read it and which marathon training book it was in, but one of the best mantras I've learned is no matter how far you have gone or how far you still have to go, just run the mile you are in. I use that one a lot in the last 10K of a marathon. I sometimes try to do math (depending on how delirious I am sometimes I succeed sometimes not so much) - how many miles left? If I can at least maintain my current pace for the next X miles I can still finish under X:XX time.

No matter how much it hurts and how much I suffer I somehow always manage to negotiate just a little more out of myself. I have even thought before, "as long as I slow down a little I'm not going to die". "This might take me a lot longer than I wanted it to, but I will finish." "I can go straight to the medical tent AFTER I cross the finish line." "Just stay upright" "Don't close your eyes" "Don't pass out." "The faster you move your feet, the sooner this will all be over." "Run for just one minute more or 30 seconds more."  All of these little conversations I have with myself somehow eventually lead to the glory at the finish line that I have been chasing ever since my first marathon. Then I start the debate of I'm never doing this again vs. what race should I sign up for next.

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