The Beginning of the Beginning

Something happens to me in the last month of training. It starts to get real. The first couple of months are a study in process. It’s about doing the same things consistently day after day. The race is far off. The only thing I can do in the present is focus on the day to day process. Keep to the schedule. Be patient, keep on pace. Eat properly. Sleep properly.

The kilometres rack up. Distances get longer. Runs take close to four hours. You run when you feel energized, you run when it’s the last thing you want to do. But you do it.

Then after hill training it starts. The excitement, the terror. It’s going to happen, you’re excited. You can fail, it’s terrifying. What if I have a cold? What if I eat something that makes me sick? What if my calf cramps up and I can’t finish. But it’s not just the fear of race day. What if training goes bad in the last month? Early in the training you might feel a tight hamstring. Meh, it will get better. Just relax. When it happens now I start to panic. Is this mild pain going to turn into a full blown injury? I become acutely aware of every ache and pain. I landed with a little twist. Felt it in the knee. Should I stop? Will it swell? And sniffles. Is it allergies? Is it the beginning of a three week cold? Can I miss that many runs?

And then there’s the excitement. There’s only a handful of long Sunday runs. I look at the schedule and I get a short burst of adrenalin. It’s coming. It’s real. I’m beginning to see the start line. I’m furiously planning. Nothing can go wrong. I imagine crossing the finish line. I replay the moment over and over. Visualize, it will happen. I well up with emotion. I’ve been imagining this moment all my life. Once it was just the dream and fantasy of a young man. Now it’s there. It’s close. It’s becoming real.

It’s still time to focus. The process still has to be followed. It’s Saturday night. My hydration belt is laid out on the kitchen table. My food is packed. The bottles are in the fridge. My gear is laid out beside the bed. I look and double check, from top to socks and sneekers. Super is done. I’ve eaten the same thing I eat every Saturday night before the long run. Breakfast is laid out. The all natural Peanut Butter is there. Beside the knife and a loaf of whole wheat bread. The banana is close by. I will eat exactly one hour before the run. It’s 29k. I’m not too nervous. I’ve done it before. One time it almost killed me. I still respect the distance. But I feel ready. One foot after another and three and a half hours later it will be done. Another day in the process. Another day closer to the start line.

The terror and the excitement.

Slaying the Bad Run Dragon

After 15 months there is still one aspect of running I struggle with. That is the enigma of the bad run. Or more correctly the inexplicable bad run. Some runs are bad because you make them bad. Going out too fast and the tanking, one of my personal favourites on race day. Running too soon after an injury. Not taking a break between races. Just a few great ways to turn what should be an enjoyable run into a torturous affair that seems to go on for ever and ever. And if you really want to have a bad day run and run and run without ever resting. It catches up. It hurts.

But what’s soul sucking, heartbreaking and totally demoralizing is the unexpected run from hell. They exhaust you, hurt you and rob you of all confidence. After a horrible run if you listen hard enough you can hear the run dragon from hell laugh as it rides off into the wind carrying the last bit of your confidence and dignity.

I don’t remember having any one particular bad run like this. I usually can find a cause and effect relationship. But sometimes the reasons remain subtle. Hidden. You never find a reason. You just have to accept that some days you are just going to have a bad run. And August 23rd I had on of these.

The run from hell.

As hard as I try I can’t think of why this run was so miserable and painful. I panicked. Was this a sign it was a sign to go back to 10ks and halfs? Looking back that was panicking. At the time the fear was real. Was 29k the bridge too far? The end of the dream? In retrospect it seems dramatic. At the time it was real.

I crawled back on the proverbial horse and overcame the 29k dragon. These bad runs to have a good person. They humble you. They remind you to respect these distances. It’s important to me to finish this and post it. A reminder not to get cocky. A reminder to keep training. The more you train the less likely the dragons will catch you. And the most important reminder? You will have bad runs. Get over it, and get on with it.