I should have known something like this would happen at sooner or later: a running slump.
I’ve learned a lot in my short time as a runner, but after only 1.5 years, I’m still pretty green. I haven’t had enough time to experience the inevitable ups and downs – the rolling hills course, if you will – that is the life of a runner. And now here I am at one of them: a slump. The blahs. The “blerch”.
I haven’t written about my training much in the past few months, mostly because with no big races on the horizon, there hasn’t been as much focus on the actual training and my running journey has been more holistic. But I can honestly tell you, you haven’t missed much. Aside from a great 10K performance last month and the strides I’ve made in redefining my attitude and goals…my actual training has really been nothing to write home about.
Or, to put it more bluntly: meh.
The focus of my training has basically just been to stay in shape for a half marathon I have in two weeks. Yay! A half marathon! I love those, this should be exciting!
But not this time. Something isn’t right.
I signed up for this race because I thought it would be a good way to stay in shape and keep from slacking off this winter. But it seems like it’s actually having the opposite effect. I’ve never felt so unmotivated to get through my workouts and long runs before. I’m kicking myself for signing up for this race. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve grumbled to myself, why couldn’t you have just taken this time off from racing? It’s gotten to the point where I honestly couldn’t give two hoots what my finish time is. I just want it over with so I can move on with my life. I’ve never felt this way about any race before and it’s making me wonder what is happening to me lately.
It’s so many things. It’s the frustration of trying for months but not being able to establish consistency in my training. First there was marathon recovery. Then, when I was finally recovered and started getting into a groove again, along came the holidays – craziness and lack of routine that sapped both my training time and my energy. The holidays came to a close and I was looking forward to finally getting back into a routine and nailing some workouts but, guess what? A deep freeze and lots of snow! COME ON. Really?!
And that’s all on top of the effects of less daylight on my body and energy levels, and stressful weeks that leave me worn out and wanting to do anything but hop on a treadmill or run in the dark in the snow. Sometimes I actually hear myself thinking that Mother Nature and my job and my body are conspiring to sabotage my training. I just can’t get motivated. Lately I’m lucky if I can get in three workouts a week and even luckier if I get more than 20 miles in for the week. For someone training for a half marathon, that’s pitiful.
I miss marathon training (now there’s something I never thought I’d say!). I miss it a lot. I feel like I’m just biding my time until February 16th, trying to bear down and get through this month so I can finally start marathon training and have something to look forward to again. No, I don’t miss the 20 mile long runs at 5 AM, but I miss the structure. I miss being in such great shape. I miss that feeling of no matter how much I got sick of long miles, it all felt worth it because I was working toward something I was really excited for. I miss the way that every workout had a purpose, and even the bad runs gave me that sense of excitement of working toward my big goal.
I’m sure I’ll be singing a different tune a few months from now, when I’m burnt out from training and knowing that when I finally cross the finish line, I only have a short break before I jump right back into another training cycle. But right now I just feel so aimless and unmotivated. I am counting down the days until I start training for Grandma’s – 5 weeks from today.
I’m hoping that I can actually use this to my advantage. Sometimes in life we need to go through a “slump” period to re-motivate us, to give ourselves the momentum to make a big rebound. I still don’t want to do this half marathon, but, I’m in it now. And in spite of how I feel about it now, I can’t deny that there are some unique positives to this situation. It might take me a while to see them – I may not appreciate them until after this race is over – but I know they are there. For one, this race is injecting some variety into my training and racing experience. And getting through these indoor track long runs (not to mention all these treadmill runs, and the snowy slushy outdoor runs) will surely strengthen my mental resolve. It’s only two weeks away now, I think I can survive two more weeks. And then I’ll have three weeks before marathon training starts – three weeks to take a breather from all the pressure of wondering if I’m doing enough training, and do some things I might not have the chance to focus on once marathon training starts, like try for a 5K PR and do some cross training without feeling like I’m skipping a run and finally do a timed mile.
I am still disappointed in myself that I’ve been giving in to laziness and skimping on mileage, but it’s done now and there’s nothing I can do to change it. All I can do is keep trying to do better going forward. I keep reminding myself that what doesn’t kill me is making me stronger…and that much more prepared to start training for Grandma’s.
I sat down with my training journal this evening, and went back to a section I had skipped before, that had me brainstorming what motivates me and what I want to get out of running. Here is what I wrote:
I want to FEEL — Fit. Energetic. Healthy. Fresh, clean, alive. Hungry for improvement, for greatness. Strong. Athletic. Fast.
I want to line up at the start of Grandma’s Marathon feeling well-trained and raring to go; I want to feel fresh and healthy and unstoppable and fit and strong and full of life as I run through the woods and the fog on quiet northern Minnesota streets, soaking up the natural beauty along the shores of Lake Superior; I want to cross that finish line feeling better than I’ve ever felt in my life. I want to BLAZE through half marathons, feeling fierce, putting it all out there, and cross those finish lines with the indescribable euphoria that comes from the bite of lactic acid, endorphins, air rushing into and out of my lungs, the elation at the end of pain.
Onward we go.