That phrase has been in my post-workout notification comments at least three times in the past few weeks. "I don't know what's wrong with me."
"I'm a mess."
Training isn't going poorly. In fact, training is going far better than I would expect for January (well, now February). I'm really not a fan of doing comparisons, especially to myself, but if I think about how I was running in January of last year and how I'm running now, it's better. Not a lot better, I'm not suddenly running sub-7s at MAF, but slightly better. A noticeable amount of better. Especially when I consider the double-slammer of recovering from pneumonia (lungs are clear, most days I don't need a shot from the inhaler) and moving a mile up (still see black spots if I get out of bed too quickly but I don't have to breathe every stroke AND off the wall in the pool anymore). I know I'm not adjusted to the altitude yet - the common consensus is that it takes somewhere between six weeks and two years to adjust fully - but when I bother to look at my pace at all, it's not nearly as horrifying as I would expect based on the past few months of my life. And we won't even mention the twelve pounds I gained in the off-season.
So, that said, I don't know why I keep falling apart.
I'm certainly not going to pretend to be perfect, and that means talking about the hot mess just like I talk about my triumphs. It started a few weeks ago, I headed out for a tempo-ish run, and for some reason, while I was warming up, just felt incredibly blue. Like tearing up, water in the eyeballs blue. And those of you that know me, know that I am 98% on the T scale. I barely have feelings at all, I hate it when people are emotional, and I certainly can't deal with it when it's myself.
I finished my run - which was fine, even running up a slight hill into the wind I managed to hit the various gibberish I was supposed to hit - and then trudged home like someone just told me Santa actually isn't real. Emotional gak, coming up and out of me, and I have no idea why or what to do with it or - most importantly - how to make it GO AWAY AND LEAVE ME ALONE.
Sonja responded to my WTF workout notes by dumping all the intensity out of my sessions for a while to give me a chance to figure out my shit (which I was cranky about but turned out to be exactly what I needed, as usual). And I had the happiest week, I splish-splashed through masters (yes, I went; yes, I am embarrassed that I was scared of it for so long; no, I don't care if you make fun of me for being scared), spun my easy wheels and chitchatted through social runs with my watch stuffed in my pocket. I spent all week preparing for my last long & hard run before Austin, really preparing my brain to knock the stuffing out of it. Hopefully your sense of foreboding has kicked in by now.
It was a disaster, the whole day was a disaster. I'm over it now, I'm trying to figure it out and I'm certainly not letting it hang over me, but it was a mess. I met my good training buddy on a new (to me) trail in north Boulder, and we thought it was going to be flat (we were specifically instructed to find flat) and it turned out to be a steep rocky hilly mountainous mess. A trail that I would love to run another time, when I can be happy in the sunshine, but not a good one when I have a run that is supposed to descend starting thirty minutes in.
After about fifteen minutes of running, I turned around and headed back down the rocks to look and see if I could find flat trail, and I couldn't. I found a short stretch of flattish terrain and headed off that way, only for it to dead-end about 1/2 a mile later in someone's backyard. And I stopped. In the middle of the trail, frustrated and pissed off. I turned off my watch and walked back to my car with tears leaking out of my head like a crazy person. I couldn't even convince my legs to jog up the little trail when I got cold, I was just done.
I drove home, I got in bed, I was mad some more, I ate crap, I cried mad little tears, I did all the things you aren't supposed to do (all the things I would never tell my own athletes to do but that is a discussion for another post), I punished myself HARD for being such a failure.
What a mess, eh?
The thing that I can't figure out, is that training is actually going well. I don't feel like I should be doing "better" anywhere or like I am failing, I feel like I am doing really just fine, I am seeing progress across at least two sports, month to month, year to year. Which means the problem isn't with my training, it's with my big fat stupid brain. I've been trying so hard to be more detached about my running, and when things chug along, it goes pretty well. But the problem - according to my master therapist - is not the getting mad part. It's the getting mad AT the getting mad. We had a long chat on Monday and I'm still not exactly sure I understand what is wrong or how to fix it, but I'm starting with awareness, only because "ignore it and hope it goes away" was a pretty massive failure.
I've dealt with mental crap before. It was almost a year ago when I talked about how I was completely afraid to fail, how it created one mental blow-up after another, race day after race day. And then earlier this year, even, when I talked about how I felt guilty and undeserving of the very positive changes that have happened in my life over the past few months. The key, or one of the many many many keys, or maybe just a place to start, is to stop punishing myself. For things that have happened in the past, for mistakes I have made, for feelings that I am feeling. Every time something good happens, I feel the need to punish myself, because who am I to be lucky and happy? Who am I to accept health and generosity and love from others? And every time something bad happens, I feel the need to punish myself because it's what I deserve. How about that for a load of psychological crap on a random Tuesday morning in February?
I did get the run done, by the way. I got up before sunrise on Monday morning and headed to a flatter terrain'd trail, alone and in the quiet of the morning. The run wasn't perfect. The trail ended at a road about 2 miles before I needed it to end, so I did a bunch of crazy out-and-backs in the middle to make up the distance. All the crap I ate on Sunday came rushing down with a vengeance, and I ended up leaping into the bushes/behind a tree/next to a bridge at least a half-dozen times in the middle of harder sections of running (sacrificed both gloves and a sock). And the last ten minutes, where I was supposed to be really flying, I took off after hitting the lap button FAR too fast and burned the last little match I had, so I didn't hit my numbers. None of that matters. I'm pretty sure what matters is that I got it done, I've let it go, and I'm trying to figure my way forward, both in AND out of the run shoes.