How the Cookie Crumbled…and Oh, Did It Crumble…

I wasn’t sure this past week if I was ready for this run. Ten days ago, I started having some nice knee pain while running.  I took some time off from running – giving it a chance to recover and heal. The knee started feeling better, but I didn’t push it. I made myself wait a bit more. I didn’t want to jump the gun and risk re-injury.  I know me.  I usually have to fuck it up a second time before I give an injury enough time to heal.  So, I was going to NOT do that this time. 

I did a short run mid-last week. It didn’t feel bad. But everything felt off. I couldn’t put my finger on what – but I chalked it up to being tired after a long annoying day at work.  I briefly wondered if I should bag this run – and do another one in about a month. But, I had already paid my money – so figured I should just go for it. 

Last night, we got a call before we went to camp on the property of a family friend. The race was being held on an island – where there is one way on and off of it – a single lane each direction. On top of it, it’s a farming community – so it is easy to get a traffic jam with a few too many cars.  Our friends called and told us they were fixing up their guest rooms. They both could not let us sleep outside before my race.  Cool. That was good news.

I slept okay. But that’s typical as I cannot shut my mind off the night before a race. I had expected it.  But I woke up with my back being sore. The mattress wasn’t great….and my lower back was telling me that. 

I stretched it out. I hydrated because while the temperature was cool, the sun was shining quite bright. I knew on the open road (with no shade) it was going to feel much warmer running.  I ate what I usually eat – what little I can eat before a race – and got my stuff pulled together.

The half marathon started 30 minutes later than predicted. The traffic jam had prevented people from getting onto the island on time, so they held the start to try to get as many people started at once as possible.  When you use performance “foods” if you will, timing is everything. You usually consume about 10-15 minutes before the start.  I went back and forth on taking in a few more calories before we started, but decided against it because we were still unsure exactly when we would start.

We finally got started. I ran with a friend of mine who runs about a minute slower than I do. I found last time that running with him makes sure I do not start off too fast. Also, it is a good warm up for about the first two miles.  And the plan worked well. I was finding a great stride. And when we parted ways, all was good.

But, I started realizing something…..I had nothing going on in my head.  I don’t listen to music because I usually spend more time fucking around with the “guaranteed not to slip” headphones  – and it pisses me off eventually, so I got rid of them. Also, I realized that I need to hear my pace – my feet hitting the pavement – my breathing – my body’s running rhythm.  BUT – I do need to have something – a song or something – going in my head as I run. Usually it’s a song…..that replays over and over and over again for 13 miles.  But, as I was hitting 5 miles, I realized I had nothing.  FUCK. 

What did this mean? It meant all I had going through my head was how slow I felt like I was going. Or how far I had left to run. Or how hot it was. Or how much my back was hurting……I got to focus on all of the wrong things – the things that start mentally fucking with you at about mile 8……like it did me.

No matter how many times I reminded myself at mile 8 that I only had 5 miles left – my body was not convinced. My back hurt. My knee started hurting again.  I wasn’t getting enough water – so I finally had to walk for a few minutes so I could make sure I was drinking enough.  Walking to get water was a good decision, but only made me realize how sore my knee was feeling when I started again. 

I had some Gu to get some more calories into my body. I was starting to need it, but my knee and back were not happy.  So, I started negotiating with myself. If I get to this point, I’ll grab some water and walk a bit. This continued until the end of the race.

Oh, but I can’t forget what happened to me at about mile 9. I got dizzy for a few seconds, and felt myself drifting as I ran. Thankfully I had just swapped water bottles with my husband, so I had a fresh, full bottle of electrolytes. And yes, I took a moment to drink some. It made it pass, but it just added to my mental fight.

And that was the downside of the race. I mentally had to get myself across the finish line. My knee hurt – I was mentally done – and I was pissed at myself.

For those who know me, that last part shouldn’t surprise anyone. I will always after a situation like this one think about all of the things that went wrong.  And how I should have done something differently.  And in this case, I made myself quite a list. Hell, no song or anything else going through my head – I feel like crap while running – what’s left to do but make a list of how you got there. Or at least that’s what you do when you are me.

I crossed the finish line only 10 minutes past my last year’s half marathon time. I was surprised to be honest. It felt longer. But it didn’t matter. I was pissed at myself. My knee hurt. My back hurt. I was just done.  I felt like I had let myself down.  And yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds considering I had a hurt knee.  But, to me, that’s not an excuse. (I’m a freak. I know I am. A competitive freak.)

My friend (who I started the race with) finished about 15 minutes after I did. He had a similar race. No pain, but was mentally out of it. Nothing seemed to go right for him either. He even described it as feeling off.  And he ended up finishing about 10 minutes past his last half-marathon time.  I guess it was one of those days for many of us. Still doesn’t make me feel better. I swear, with things like this, I’m my own worst critic. 

So, it is done. I need to figure out what’s going on with my knee so I can get back on track again. I train for my next one  starting in a few weeks. Thankfully, it’s a restart meaning – back to small distances. A chance, I see, to have a do-over.

Excuse me now, I’m going to go take a nap and get ready to drink beer tonight at the ball game. I mean, beer is a good recovery drink, right? Or at least for the mental recovery.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. I think what u did was amazing! I hope to someday run a half. Most ive ever done, was a 10K, and that was before my back and hernia surgeries. I hope to be able to do it some day! My back seems to like to cause me issues just as im getting into my groove. Congrats on finishing and hanging with it!

  2. I am sorry the run did not go as you planned. Are you going to see someone about your knee?

    And yes, beer is a recovery drink.

  3. Hubman says:

    Days like that suck. Remember my 5 Boro Bike Tour last year, 40+ miles in the rain, then another 2 hrs until I could get out of my cold wet clothes? Complete and total misery, not due to injury, but the mental effort to keep going seems like it was similar to what you went through with this run.

    I say give yourself credit for pushing on and finishing with a pretty respectable time!

  4. bardbin says:

    It’s always tough to keep going once you start negotiating with yourself. I have been there and it never ends well, always a slow pace and a less than satisfactory finish time.

    The three things that work for me are reminding myself that I have run five miles a million times and this is just one more time. If that does not work I concentrate on counting my strides, and if that does not work I concentrate on the next step ” just one more step”.

    The good news is that there is always another opportunity down the line.

  5. Emmy says:

    Hornynecouple – Thanks for the perspective! I’m sure you will get there again. 🙂

    ASM – Beer DID help for my mental recovery, at least.

    Hubman – After seeing how well I did overall, I think it definitely helped me realize how much I overcame mentally. Even afterward, I felt like I did much worse. And I do recall you doing that race least year. I was impressed how you kept going. 🙂

    Bardbin – I was actually doing something similar at one point, reminding myself that two miles is easy. I’ve done 5 many times before. I do like the counting the strides. A good way to focus on something different. And you are right – there is always next time.

    Thanks everyone for your comments! I truly appreciate them!


  6. Ms Scarlett says:

    I totally get that feeling, being a hyper-competitive freak myself…. I’m always trying to better my last time, forcing myself to push harder… sometimes to the point where I’m hurting myself. I do that whole negotiating with my self thing too. Get to the next lightpost… ok, the next next one…. and so on.

    I do listen to music while I run (I have a whole playlist with songs at the right BPM to keep me on track), but I still need to be able to hear my breathing – I count as I breathe!

    Hope you enjoyed your beer! The next run will be better!

  7. I applaud you for a job well done despite the issues and also because I cannot ever see myself having this strength and fortitude to run like you do. This run sounded so grueling and painful, I’m sorry 🙁 I hope your doc can fix up your knee without too much hassle. I know what mine feel like from just walking a little too much, I can’t even imagine yours!

  8. Vixen says:

    You are amazing. What you did was amazing.

    I’ve never been brave enough to do anything more than a 10k, so you are my hero. But I know for SURE that I’ve had runs where nothing comes together as I want it to. Mentally, physically… just feels like the entire thing is a struggle. And it makes me so annoyed. Much better are the runs/days where it feels as if you can run forever. And unfortunately there is no rhyme or reason to either. For me at least.

    You crossed the finish line and celebrated with beer. That’s not too bad of a day. 🙂

  9. Advizor says:

    Don’t forget that you finished, on a hurt knee, not feeling well, after fighting a traffic jam, sleeping in a strange bed, and starting 30 minutes late. Every race is different. I did a race last year where my “best case” goal was 4:00, my mid-race revision was 4:15 and I finished at 4:29:55, 5 seconds under my “worst case” scenario, but you know what? I looked good in my race picture so everything worked out fine.

    Don’t beat yourself up because of a lousy 10 minutes, you did it, you hung in, you played tough, you finished, and in relation to your post about your family not supporting you? My experience as been the same, they don’t know the hour and hours of work, the early morning runs, the pain, they don’t get it, and they don’t know how to be supportive. Some are jealous, some feel bad as you do well, some are just snide, and others are apathetic.

    You did it!! You finished, and now you get to wear the T-shirt. HNT perhaps?

  10. Just me... says:

    I agree with Advizor.. So what you were slower.. You had many factors to overcome AND you couldn’t get your head in the game.. And you ONLY finished 10 minutes over what you wanted..
    Hell, I’m thinking congratulations are in order!! And that the HNT suggestion isn’t a bad one either!! :):):)

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