Hitting the wall and the friendly treadmill

Posted on February 18, 2013


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My training has been going relatively smoothly despite its obtrusiveness into mine and my family’s schedule.  That has without a doubt been the biggest challenge.  I am juggling a part time job, part time school, and raising two toddlers without using day care, grandparents, or babysitters.  I have had days where I leave for the gym, go straight to work from the showers, then straight to class and lab, getting home by 10:30 at night.  I never thought out how much training was going to affect how much I would get to see my kids.

Of course, I did start a part time job right smack in the beginning of my training, but it has been a safe haven from stress. (You may have seen the “weigh in outfit” I purchased from Athleta in preparation for this blogventure, so I found out if they were hiring hoping for a fun and stress free work environment)  Although my schedule has been squeezed into oblivion, my new job really is a pleasant escape from the everyday, and my running wardrobe has improved by leaps and bounds.

Now let us examine the issue bringing me to the keyboard today. Hitting the wall. I thought I had hit the wall during my two 15 milers, (while I had a stubborn cold) but I recovered in time for my 16 and felt my usual superhero self again. (Yes, superhero- you should see the new Superman-blue running tights I just got- Sehr Ehrserm!)

The winter weather had really started to take a bite out of my powers, with a Kryptonite wind that cut to the bone.  At the beginning of my training, I was invincible and headstrong; laughing at the elements, impervious to rain, cold, dark and rush hour traffic.  Well, I got over that stuff once I started running over an hour each time I left the house.  I would feel disappointed whenever I was relegated to the treadmill at the gym for a workout.  I was out of my comfort zone.  A gps doesn’t work in place, and I don’t get my splits narrated to me every mile. Yes, I know I can see it right in front of my face on the treadmill screen, but it just isn’t the way I liked to assimilate my data.  But, I was able to run without numb fingers and a frozen derrière that wouldn’t thaw for the rest of the day, without fear of being wet from rain or snow in the freezing cutting wind for a two hour run.

And then I started to enjoy the control I had with my pace and being able to keep the exact speed I wanted at the exact time, and this helped me tremendously in the self-esteem department.  Although I was getting a little sweet on my treadmill workouts, I was beyond relieved to have a beautiful day in which to run my 18 miles.  Having never run that far, I was going to have to leave the comforting home turf of my trail extension.  I was used to my six miles downtown on the Tobacco Trail, some haphazard and ill mapped jaunts around downtown, then the return six on the trail. I didn’t think I was going to be creative or cartographically proficient enough to create a nice 6 mile downtown loop, so I went across the highway and picked up the Tobacco trail that progressed in the opposite direction from there. The two sides aren’t connected yet, but should be in the upcoming year or so.  This branch of trail was much longer, and exciting and new.

I awoke scared and excited, ready to face a real challenge. I forgot to charge my phone. Grr. I had about a 2% charge, and really needed a 100% to get to 18 miles using two applications simultaneously.  Plugged in, I waited impatiently. I ate breakfast, made a smoothie, packed my snack and drink combo. I was at about 21% by then.  Drank some coffee, wrote a blog entry. 33%.  I waited and waited, standing around being pissed at myself for being too tired to bother with phone charging the night before.  So I ended up pushing my 9 am start to around 11:30.  Of course, it didn’t dawn on me that it might be wise to eat some lunch.

Regardless, the first 15 miles went great. Fantastic, really.  I knew I should have kept my Dad’s good advice in mind and taken the first 5-7 miles at a snail’s pace, but I decided to stick to my training plan and keep pace for 12, run fast for 3, then pace for the last 3.  MMMkay.  Once I hit 12 miles, I picked up my speed from the steady 9 ½ minute pace I’d maintained to about an 8 ½. I held on to that speed for about a quarter mile, maybe a half mile. Then I started to stall out.  My “fast three” became “desperately trying to keep pace.” So even though I picked up my energy effort tremendously, I still had averaged 9 ½ for my fast 3, and was slipping fast. Then the last 3 miles of actually keeping pace became a battleground of my mind and will versus my legs.  At 2 ½ miles to go, my legs won via executive decision.  My will power was not invited to vote. The legs simply stopped running without any chance for democracy.  My mind was screaming, “Go,(expletive) Legs!!!!!!!” My legs laughed at my mind and will. “How cute that you think I care for your opinion.”

I was breaking my cardinal rule of running.  I have ALWAYS been a firm believer that you NEVER stop running.  You can slow down to a hobbled jog slower than grandma’s walker pace, but keep that light bounce, no walking. It’s too hard to come back from it.  I was so very angry at my legs.  I cried a little bit. (maybe more than a tiny little bit, but not too much.) So the 9 ½ minute pace I had averaged for the first 16 miles were slaughtered by the two 14 minute miles I brought in at the end.  I felt completely defeated.  I felt like a big giant loserville loser. I went home and ate, a lot. In a few hours, I felt as good as new. I even met friends out for drinks and dinner, with no limping or aching. (No heels either, but I’m pretty sure that was just for sympathy.) So the recovery portion was fine, but I just could not get over that doggone wall once I had hit it.

My next long run was only a regressive 14 miler, and I wasn’t worried about tackling this mileage,  so I kind of tied one on at home . There was tequila involved. ( Now, I’m not talking about college style, I’m talking about an Old Lady who can’t really hang and rarely drinks-style.)  I did stay up chatting until past 2 am, though.  As I awoke ready to run, I creaked my eyes open a billimeter at a time allowing them to adjust as I looked out the high transom window in my bedroom.  Is that freakin’ snow?  Really hard blowing, wind propelled thick white flakes of snow in the air hitting a soaking wet ground?  Looks like I’m doing 14 on the treadmill today! Hungover and dehydrated in a heated gym, oh joy!  Whatever, I’m not going to run in the freezing windy rain soaking wet for two hours.

I’d had the foresight to charge my phone, so I tossed on my previously laid out run gear and headed to the gym.  I turned on my Netflix app, started a chic flick in my streaming cue that I was sure husband wouldn’t miss (he hates Katherine Heigl) and started at a sluggish 10:20 minute mile.  Each two miles I went up one notch, 10:10, 10:00, 9:50, 9:40, etc. until I had 5 miles to go and I went up a notch in speed each mile.  Then on my last mile, I went up in speed each lap, finishing at a speed somewhere over a 7 minute mile.  I watched a whole movie starring Miss Heigl with a jersey accent catching bad guys and then most of a stand-up comedy special by my favorite Scottish funnyman.

Who is this happy indoor runner?  I’ve gone from being a runner that embraced the fresh clean crisp air and the great outdoors, using my phone to discover new and exciting music via the Beastie Boys Pandora Station, to a being a regular treadmill potato. I now use my handheld technology to park in front of a good movie on Netflix.  Yes, even my phone has jumped ship to the lazy side of the street.

I barely realized I had been running the whole time!   I finally believe I CAN run the entire 26.2 miles, but can I do it on the treadmill while enjoying some mindless blockbuster style entertainment? I am almost hoping for bad weather for my upcoming twenty miler on Sunday.  Just in case, I downloaded about 9 hour’s worth of how to speak Spanish, immersion style, from my library’s Overdrive.  WTF did my Dad do in his twenties when he was running all these marathons? They didn’t even have Walkmen yet!

Are any of you out there experiencing now or have you before had a run in with “The Wall?”  How did you get over it? Slowing the beginning has worked like a magic trick for me, as well as removing myself from the harsh North Carolina elements. (That’s a joke for my northerly friends.)

I wish you all the best of luck in your training and look forward to seeing you on the trail or in the gym or just posting and tweeting your accomplishments to your heart’s content!

Happy Running Out There!