It’s all starting to make sense. For weeks I’ve been struggling in my workouts and feeling wiped out much of the time. I chalked it up to being out of shape and the whole 3 kids thing. But then I noticed things.
1. I didn’t realize how long I’ve been training again. I received my coach’s email for Week 18. 18 weeks!? And I’m struggling this much with a workload that in the past has been more than doable.
2. With a few exceptions, the same thing keeps happening in workouts. I feel ok for the first 1 or 2 intervals and then my legs are impossibly heavy and feel overcome by weakness and my splits tank.
3. I usually run strong in the wind and lately the wind whips me around and I don’t have the strength to push through it.
4. I’m tired much of the time, but it’s not a sleepy tired. I just feel drained, but not like I want to sleep.
5. My race times are really slow. Not just a little disappointingly slow. But slow. Like slower than what I ran last year with no training and an infant at home and abs that didn’t work. Like so slow I should be laughing at myself, but I’m on the verge of blowing up at the pace.
I have been chalking this all up to some mental failing. I’m just not pushing hard enough. I just need to get it done. I just need to … bla bla bla. But when I actually take a step back and look at this situation, I know that this is not right.
Now, I don’t know what’s wrong yet. Maybe it is my new normal. I don’t know. I do know I do not have full-blown anemia. I’ve had a CBC (complete blood count that tests for anemia) done and my results were all normal. I’m working on getting more blood work. In particular, I want to see my ferritin level and how my thyroid is functioning. All women runners of child-bearing age are at high risk of developing low iron stores (ferritin) which can leave them feeling zapped. And then women can develop mild thyroid disorders during pregnancy which results in similar symptoms.
A distant third possibility is that I’m overtraining, but usually that’s proceeded by actually being fit and I have yet to achieve that feeling since coming back to training this spring. Plus, I’m on the low end of volume and intensity for me compared to the past. Maybe my threshold has changed, but my gut tells me this isn’t it. But, then again, my gut isn’t a doctor, so who knows!
In the meantime, my favorite local race was this past weekend. I was optimistic that I could at least match my performance from last week (I ran a 32:20 for 5 miles). I went out at a good effort. I felt like I should be good for a 6:20, but then as the mile marker neared I knew that plan was out the window. 6:37. Ok. Fine.
The second mile is uphill, so I told myself this is where the woman in front of me will pay the piper and I will push and catch her. I pushed hard. I ran with a guy for most of this mile and stuck to him like glue. 6:5x. I did not pass judgment. I kept going. Maybe the woman up there was dying. So, I really tried to focus and keep it going, but the wheels were falling off (whatever wheels were ever on, anyway). I hit mile 3 around 6:45. I was about 20:10 for 3 miles. And then it got uglier. I wasn’t sure if I could finish without walking. I’m not kidding. It hurt. I have never fought so hard to stay focused and committed to a race ever. All the ignoring of the slow splits I had done was over. It all came crashing down and I had to choose to be dejected and give up or push through and do my best. I have to admit, this was a tough call for a few seconds. I know it sounds so dramatic, but in that moment of physical and mental hurt this was a big deal. I chose to fight for whatever I could. I came through mile 4 in 6:5x and dug deep. I made breaking 34:00 my goal, no matter how pathetic or sad it sounded. That was my goal. GO!
And in doing so, I erased the embarrassment and shame I had for the splits. I realized that this was what mattered. That pushing myself and bettering myself was why I do this. That the clock had nothing to do with anything and meant nothing. I’ve seen it on LOLcat memes all over Facebook, but until this moment I didn’t fully grasp it. These hard moments are when we realize what we’re made out of, when we realize who we are. Am I so superficial that I only do this to produce numbers on the internet for others to see? Does it even matter what time I run? Or place? Or anything? What matters? Why do I do this, again?
In the past if I did not run a PR or the time I thought I should, I’d be very upset. I’d beat myself up about it. I’d cry. I’d whine. I’d brood about it for weeks. Not today.
I realized how I’ve not quit through all of this. The butt injury. The surprise pregnancy. The heart condition. The broken abs. And now this. Whatever it is. I’m still here. I’m still fighting and pushing myself and going for it. In the famous words of my 4 year-old, “I’m a tough cookie!”
And I don’t think I could ever had said that back when I was running my PRs.
Mon: 8 easy and early with no watch.
Tue: 10 with track. 4 x 1200 and 2 x 800 with 2:00 rest. Was supposed to be 6 x 1200 but I was struggling so hard coach lightened the load so I could get through it. 4:34, 4:37, 4:44, 4:47, 3:02, 3:01.
Wed: 6 on the elliptical. Legs were feeling beat up!
Thu: 7.5 early and easy with no watch.
Fri: 9.2 with Pepper! Was supposed to be a slow tempo, but I felt so tired. We ran a good effort and I still only averaged 8:09 with 5 x :20 strides.
Sat: 6.3 pushing my 4 year-old daughter in the stroller. She’s getting so big. We had so much fun chatting and she ran a little with me here and there.
Sun: 11 with 5 mile race in 33:45.
Total: 52 running and 6 elliptical.