I don't know what's wrong with me

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.


  1. Sorry you are struggling with this, my friend.
    I don't know if this relates to what you're dealing with, but as I've aged I have begun to change from someone who was overly critical and judgmental -- of others AND myself, it goes hand in hand.
    One time I was a mess in my head over some relationship. I drove 2+ hours with a friend to do a tough run/hike that would take 8 hours. Less than a third of the way into it I told her I just had nothing to give. I knew she was going to be livid. But, she wasn't at all. She assured me it was all ok. SHE WAS KIND. That kindness, that forgiveness cut me to the core. It was so powerful. I needed it so badly right then.
    From then on I resolved to give that to everyone I could. And it began to carry over to myself as well.
    It has made such a difference in my life.

  2. I'm so sorry you're struggling. Hang in there friend.

  3. Mental stuff can be so frustrating! I'm thankful I don't deal with it too often. I hope you work through whatever is going on.

  4. I'm glad you are taking the time to figure it out. I've had similar issues with the whole emotional thing, I hate it and when I cry I get angry and I rarely do it in front of others, only my hubs and parents have seen it and that's just cuz I don't always have a place to hide. But the good news is there are ways to handle this. Good luck and hope you get it all straight soon!

  5. You've been through a whole lot of life changes in the past few years. I think it's time to remove the word "failure" from your vocab unless you're talking about bridges and buildings collapsing or important ropes or cables snapping. You're here putting one step in front of the other most days and hiding under the covers sometimes. Therapy? Meds? Pot? There are lots of options that might help. If you ever need a private sound-off to a stranger, I'm here.

  6. Struggle is the key to success for without it would we really know what success is/was?

    Don't beat yourself up about being mad AT being mad either. That is just a vicious cycle that you'll never get out of. Is that easier said than done? Of course it is, but just take baby steps and embrace the changes that are going to occur and know that they are happening in the order they are supposed to happen in.

  7. Sorry you're going through crap :(. Awareness is good. Hope you work through it soon.

    I think that triathletes + winter just don't mix, I'm feeling off myself. I miss racing, I miss pushing myself in training, I miss tri season, I miss that feeling of crossing a finish line and wanting the hurl every few weeks, and I miss being in fighting shape.

  8. I wonder if, now that you're all settled in there in CO, if a bit of homesickness hasn't creeped in? For so many weeks you had so much going on with getting settled in and now there isn't any of that so the suppression of feelings about the move and the missing of friends may have caught up to you? Maybe? I know that sometimes I get really, really homesick for Florida and my friends (still almost three years later) at the most inopportune times, more often then not during a tough run or during a chaotic week. Deep breaths, a good cry session, and I usually work past it. Sending you lots of calming thoughts.

  9. Our minds seem to be our own worst enemy most of the time! Sorry to hear you are struggling - I think maybe it could be homesickness too but also maybe something else. You will figure it out!

  10. Are you aware that moving and starting a new job are two of the three most stressful life changes to go through (the death of a loved one is the third). To do them together, and so quickly, is super hard. Could be your brain is just catching up to processing the past few months. Sending you some hugs.

  11. Whenever I cry randomly out of the blue at things I wouldn't normally cry about it's always whacky hormones... maybe the move you just made has played a number on your stress hormones more than you realize and you're just still not quite adjusted back to normal? Sounds tough for sure, but as you know, the only thing you really can do is cut yourself some slack... take care of yourself physically and emotionally and it'll all sort itself out. :)

  12. ...Or maybe you're pregnant??? ;)

  13. Oh goodness, pregnancy was the first thing that came to mind, heehee. Don't be so hard on yourself - you've had tons of changes and adjustments (and even though they are all GOOD changes, it doesn't mean it will always be easy getting used to the new normal). Keep putting your head down and doing the work - and don't let your mind run amok. Triathlon and training is supposed to be fun. When it stops being fun, take a step back, breathe, find perspective, and then jump back in wholeheartedly. Or eat 18 cupcakes. I hear either solution works.

  14. What an honest post. Don't beat yourself up over it -- I'm pretty sure we all go through phases like this but most people aren't as ballsy as you to share it publicly (at least I'm not...). Hopefully in the next few days/weeks it will just click and you'll find yourself out on the other side of the hole. At least you're still trying to make it happen! That's more than a lot of people can say.

  15. Oh this makes me want to give you a big hug. I'm kind of in the same boat...training is going fine but my head is just off. Too many big changes taking place. We will get through it!!! I bet once we hit the start line for a race we will get the urge back.

  16. All I can say is - Hang in there! I think the honesty of this post and is refreshing - it isn't all peaches and cream!!! Just be nice to yourself - running steep instead of flat sometimes does deserve tears and a trip back to bed.
    As someone who is similar (I rarely cry) - it is hard when we lose control for no apparent reason. Just know that the tears will stop, the sun will shine and you are still you!!!
    Hope you have a super week!!!

  17. I've had a couple of posts lately that have helped a lot with trying to figure out what's going on ... it's sort of been a long process that I've held in for too long. Honestly, I think blogging about it will help. Just keep pounding out the words and the mental aspect will take care of itself.

  18. masters can certainly be intimidating. I'm scared shitless about going back next month. Get your head on straight girl. It takes a long time to get adjusted to life in the clouds. It may not be screwing with your lungs or your vo2max anymore, but your emotions may still need more time to adjust.

  19. My 2 cents (based solely on what you write, I don't know you, so could be totally wrong!) is that being busy, with work, or moving, or triathlon, or whatever, can be a way we avoid having to deal with painful feelings. "I don't have time for an emotional meltdown, I'm training.". Maybe being sick and training less has given your mind space to deal with stuff you have been avoiding. Or maybe you are just physically drained and need to build back your reserves. It is OK to take care of yourself! Give yourself permission to have a bad day, we all do. And as far as "deserving" to be happy- my own belief is that we don't deserve it, but it is a gift of God's grace to be enjoyed. Don't punish yourself, just be thankful and pay it forward, which I know you do. Thanks for writing a very honest post and for being your own unique self. Get some puppy hugs, they always help.

  20. The best advice that I ever heard is, when things go wrong,go back and have another beer

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  24. Ya know, the crying thing may not have a damn thing to do with your training. Or anything. But still everything. Sometimes when I've had A LOT to process in a short period of time, the way that you have, my body & brain decides I need a good ugly cry to kind of mop-up all that change. Wash down the brain walls. Housekeeping, if you will. The pressure valve finally deciding things have calmed down enough to blow off steam. I let myself have that - own that I need to just get. all. that. crap. OUT. OF. ME. & cry for a few minutes. Then I'm fine. Give yourself a minute. What I do know - is that the longer I try to quash that impulse, the more inappropriate a time it is going to choose to get out whether I like it or not. SO respect what you need to do. You've had to keep a lid on a lot of stress and missing dogs and missing friends and changing routines and being great at a new job. Open up the pressure valve. Wash your brain clean. Then get the fuck back in the hurt box.

  25. There's nothing wrong with you . . .


  26. Crying spells happen to the best of us—usually at the worst times possible (though mid-run is far better than mid-work-day). Take some time and let yourself feel whatever it is you need to feel, so you can move on—which is way more fun and less painful than spending a few weeks beating yourself up for something you can't control.


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