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I Have PMS

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Yes, you read that title right.  I am a sufferer of the PMS.  I read a blog a few days ago by “Ask Coach Jenny” about the aftermath of running a long distance race, like the half marathon I ran a month ago.  I knew going into the race that there was a chance I would enter a stage of mild depression following the race…I’d read about it from experienced runners.  Even the most seasoned runners are not immune to it.  Long story short, as the sense of accomplishment and the “high” of race day fades away, a depression sets in.  The technical name is Post Marathon Syndrome…PMS for short…and I’m all up in it.

Six of the warning signs of PMS that the article listed include:

  • Comparison shopping and minimizing your marathon accomplishment
  • Lacking interest in setting a new goal
  • Feelings of sadness, pessimism, and worthlessness
  • Feeling lost without your training
  • Not able to see the light through the fog
  • Rounding your marathon time down–”I ran around 5 hours for a 5:55 finish”

I have cycled through all six of these symptoms several times in the last month.  Even as I write this, I’m living three of them right now.  It’s been a month since I ran the half marathon, and in the last 4 weeks, I have been lazy and unmotivated.  I’ve run only twice, two miles each time.  I can feel the pounds slowly creeping back on, which should be no surprise.  My level of activity has dropped considerably, while my eating habits haven’t changed.  I’ve been feeling lethargic and unmotivated.  Even though, I’ve registered for another half marathon…one that looks to be an exciting experience…I have not found the inner desire to get back to the training regime.

What I’m learning about PMS is that it’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Life has cycles.  God makes this clear in Ecclesiastes 3:

 1 There is a time for everything,
   and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
 6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
 7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
 8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

Although I do not prefer this stage of my running life, I am learning that the PMS I’m in now is a time of learning for me.  There can be benefits to living in this cycle a for a little while.  It gives my body a chance to heal and rejuvenate, and it has allowed me to start gaining an awareness of the natural phases of a runner’s life and see it as an opportunity to run seasonally and make the most of the free time.  Today, I ran two hard miles on the treadmill, alternating one minute at a pace of 8.0 for two minutes at a 3.5 walk.  Prior to the run, I spent 20 minutes doing some strength training, focusing on my upper body, back and abs.  I’m learning that to improve my performance, I need to strengthen my core muscles, and to continue losing weight, I need to do more than just run.  For the first time in several weeks, I’m feeling less lethargic and drained of energy.  I know it’s because I got the workout in early today.

The past month has been busy in planning for the new Upward season, and certainly the next few months in the heart of the season will not be different.  It’s a good time for this cycle of life.  I can feel that as the date of my next half marathon starts to draw closer, I am starting to find little spurts of motivation…pockets of energy sandwiched between the lackadaisical times.  Hopefully, these pockets come more and more often and last longer than not in the coming months.  I agree with the author of the blog in her statement, “Ultimately, I believe PMS is the body asking for time to heal, and when you listen and invest in it, you run away with a renewed spirit to train again.”  I’m finding that renewed spirit, day by day.  In the meantime, I’ll learn from my PMS.

The Journey is the Reward

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Last Saturday night, I slept like crap.  It was already one of those nights I knew would be a hard night to sleep.  Going into my first half marathon had been a trying time, filled with nerves, excitement, and anxiety.  Renting a hotel room within walking distance of the start/finish line was intentional.  I wanted to be able to sleep in a little longer than I would be able to if I stayed at home.  It’s about a 45 minute drive from home, not counting time to find parking and navigate the people to get in place on time, so I was looking forward to a rest-filled evening.  it did not help that some yahoo decided to run through the halls at 2:00 a.m. knocking loudly on every door…twice!  Ugh.  What I had not taken into consideration was the need to turn off the text and notification features of my cell phone.  All the friends and family sending me texts and commenting on my Facebook posts with words of encouragement coming in through the wee hours of the night were appreciated for their intent…next time, though, I think I may turn the phone off and read them in the morning.  🙂

So, after a pretty restless night, I was up at 5:30 a.m., which is WAY early for me anyway.  After some good stretching and a couple cups of coffee, we were off to the race.  A half mile walk to the start line, we remarked on how nice it was…cool but not chilly, and a little warmer than the forecast predicted, it was shaping up to be a great day to run.  We walked the site the day before, and while I knew there were 20,000+ runners registered for the event, I was not prepared to see such a mass of people in one place.  With the band playing and the excitement of the atmosphere, I can see how it would be easy to get wrapped up in the day’s events and lose focus.  As the race was starting at 7:30 with the runners at the front of the line, I was able to focus on my race, remember my preparations and training and get in a zone to set out on a 13.1 mile journey of a lifetime.

At about 8:00, 30 minutes after the initial start for the front corrals, I was off and running.  Having your mom walking alongside me outside the barrier right up to the start line was encouraging.  The first few miles were pretty easy, as I was distracted with the mass of people running with and around me.  Weaving in and out of thousands of runners while making sure not to cut someone else off is not an easy feat, and it served to keep my mind off the pain my body feels when it starts adjusting to running as I first start out.  At mile 2, I looked up in time to see your mom taking this picture of me:

STL Rock & Roll 2 Mile Mark

STL Rock & Roll 2 Mile Mark

Seeing her was the encouragement I needed to keep pushing.  At the 5K mark, my time was 39:48.  With a pace of just over 13:00/mile, I was on target to reach my goal of finishing in under 3 hours, and feeling really good.  The next three miles, I settled into a groove and hit the 10K mark at 01:23:02.  Calculating that I had slowed in that second 3 miles, I tried to pick back up to a 13:00/mile pace and hold it.  As I was in the middle of mile 9, I could see it off in the distance.  It was creeping up on me slowly but surely, and I knew it.  At mile 10, I hit it.

They say there’s a point in long distance running when all runners hit it.  For some, it creeps up sooner than later.  For others, they find it later in their run.  For me, it was at mile 10.  The wall is that mental and physical barrier that jumps up and bites you in the butt.  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  My lower back was hurting, and my hamstrings were killing me.  Even my shoulders and arms were tired, which was a first for me in my running.  I’m not sure if it was a lack of sleep, improper pre-race diet/hydration or something else that brought it on so quickly and with such force, but as I crossed the 10 mile mark, I was right in the middle of it.  I’m sure most of it was psychological, but nonetheless, I lost the battle.  I had to slow down to a walk for about half of mile 10, running every now and then, but never more than about .10 mile at a time for that mile.

In my training, the most I ran was 10 miles.  The experts say that in training, you never really run the entire race distance beforehand.  The theory is that on race day, the adrenaline and excitement of the atmosphere around you will keep you pushing and carry you through that last 3 miles.  Yeah, okay!  As I finished 11 miles, I was receiving texts from your mom and other family, encouraging me to keep pushing.  I got emotional in that 11th mile, and was able to kick it up to a steady jog for the last mile and a half.  I was disappointed in my finish, in that I wasn’t able to find the strength to finish strong.  I crossed the line pretty slowly, not with the rush of emotion and energy I’d hoped for.  I finished with a time of 03:10:02, 10 minutes slower than my 3 hour mark, but still faster than my couch.  The emotion hit me when I saw your mom.  I almost cried like a baby.  Almost.  🙂

In no particular order, some of the lessons I’m taking from this first half marathon:

  1. Turn your phone off the night before the race.  Get in your zone and focus your attention on the task at hand.  If you want some encouragement from friends, read it in the morning after you’ve slept all night to a quiet phone.
  2. Eat more than a bagel with peanut butter for breakfast when running 13.1 miles or more.  I should’ve eaten the banana too.  I had a huge carb-filled meal the night before, but that was at 6:00 p.m.  The only other food I ate was the bagel in the morning about an hour before the start.  I fought hunger from early on.  In mile 5 or so, I could start feeling the energy drop as my sugar level dropped.  Take a sports drink with you instead of water.  They’ll have water on the course, and while some races have energy drinks, you need more than water.  Take it with you.  Also, take a snack for the post-race.  I was relying on what food would be provided.  An apple and a few orange slices were not enough to carry me through the next 2 hours until we got to lunch.  As we got to the restaurant, I had a sugar crash and almost puked.  I didn’t, but came close.  Treat yourself to a nice meal afterward…feed your crave, whatever it is.  Mine was a gourmet burger and fries.  Best burger I’ve ever eaten.
  3. I need to strengthen my core and major muscle groups.  My hamstrings tightened up pretty quickly, and my back was killing me.  Strengthening the abs and back will help hold my frame up better, which will lengthen my endurance and tolerance for pain as my running posture holds up where it should be.  My knees held up pretty good, so the stretches I’m doing are working.
  4. My running stance sucks.  As the full marathon runners were passing me in the last couple miles, I would notice their posture.  Their shoulders were pulled back while their chest was pushed forward, almost exaggerated in appearance.  But their stride had bounce and energy.  I’d try to mimic it, but my lower back was already hurting so badly from my poor posture that I couldn’t hold it for very long.
  5. Along those lines, the extra weight of the cotton shirt when it gets sweat-soaked is weighing me down.  I need to either learn to eat better and lose more weight or get over my self-consciousness about how I look in the tight-fitting, moisture-wicking shirts.  They’re designed to be worn by people with fewer curves than me, and having my fat jiggle as I run is not something I’m prepared to put on display to the world.  Haha.
  6. Until I can fit in the moisture-wicking shirts, I need to apply more Vasoline to my nipples.  The sweat-soaked shirt runs the Vasoline off within the 13.1 miles.  They weren’t bleeding, but they were close.  In the shower afterward, I could tell they would have been bleeding within another 20 minutes of running.  The extra set of dry clothes in my gear bag to change in to after the race was a good call.
  7. There’s no shame in stopping to stretch for a minute when you hit the wall.  I could have used it, and I should have done it.  Looking back, I think it would have helped.
  8. Take some single-use ice packs with towels and tape with you in your gear bag.  I would have loved to have ice on my knees and ankles for the ride home.
  9. Spend the money for a good post-race massage, within a couple days.  I did, and I won’t do another long distance race without one afterward.  It works out the soreness and speeds the recovery process.
  10. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment.  With the excitement of the event and adrenaline pumping, the atmosphere can quickly envelope you into losing focus.  You have to run your race.  Do what you’ve trained for and what you know is right.  In life, it’s not much different.  The world around us demands our attention, distracts us from our race, and competes for our time and attention.  It can be easy to get caught up in it and lose sight of the end game…the prize waiting for us at the end of our life when God calls us home.

Mostly, I was reminded that God has a plan for my life.  I don’t know the full extent of His plan, or how He intends to bring all the pieces of the puzzle together, but it’s there nonetheless.  I’m moving forward in my running journey and already looking at four long distance races for next year.  Two are local, and two are within a day’s drive.  While this race did not end with the euphoric high I was expecting or the strong finish I’d hoped for, I’m happy with my effort and the result.  I set out with one goal…to complete a half marathon.  I did that.  Not in the time, i was shooting for, but within a respectable time for my overall physical condition, running history and level of training.    I can say with certainty that completing this race has been the single most rewarding personal accomplishment of my life.  Not to be confused with experiences like the birth of my children or marrying your mother…those are things I either experienced or accomplished with someone else’s effort.  Running is a solo effort.  While the encouragement and support of friends and family definitely helped me find the motivation and resolve to get through the tough times, when you find yourself in the back stretch of a 13.1 mile run, hitting a wall like no other…it’s all you and God at that point.  You either have to find the resolve from within or from above, but no one can do it for you.  There will be days I don’t know if I can do a Half Marathon.  There will be a lifetime knowing I have.  The reward was not waiting for me at the finish line.  The journey is the reward.

Love,

Dad

My Run Journal – Oct. 2011

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“It does not matter how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get up.”
Vince Lombardi

This particular post is meant to be read from bottom to top if you want to follow it chronologically. If you’ve found this post and want to go back to the beginning of my running journey, start here.

Click here to see my September Run Journal

10/28
Five days after the race, my first Half Marathon, I need to run…to maintain the foundation I’ve built. Two miles on the treadmill in 23:45, a pretty strong pace for me. I followed it with 5 minutes of jogging in the parking lot at work, just to remind my body that I can run in the cold. I feel good. I think I need to work in the coming weeks to increase my speed over the shorter distances, 2 miles and less…and then take that new faster pace and start adding distance to it. Yesterday and today, I’ve been researching and praying about my running future. There are four long distance races I want to do next year, culminating into my first full marathon at the 2nd annual Rock & Roll in October. I’m learning that the reward is not at the finish line, it’s in the journey. It’s gonna be a great journey!

10/20
Week 17 Day 4. Another easy run before the race, 2 miles in the early pre-dawn hours of morning. Still not a morning person, but I really want to run once or twice in the cold before race day. It’s in the upper 30’s this morning, and this was a difficult two miles. For starters, I dressed for the cold…shorts covered with long, swish pants and a sweatshirt over a t-shirt. I did the 2 miles in 37:30…not a great pace. I was winded nearly the whole time. There was a brisk wind, and my hands were frozen by the end. I honestly never imagined I could be overheated and freezing cold at the same time, but it is possible. I was wheezing when I finished, cold in the extremities and sweating from the core. I am not adequately equipped with what I need to run in the cold, and it will be difficult on race day. My racing bib has to be visible the whole race, so it’s not like layering my attire will be easy. When I ran in the cold rain two days ago, I wore a light rain jacket and shed it halfway through when I warned up. I was able to wrap it around my waist for the rest of the run. That won’t be easily accomplished with a racing bib. This is gonna be interesting, to say the least.


10/18

Week 17 Day 2. It’s “taper week”, in that I’m backing off the intensity and duration of the week’s running and doing easier, short runs to maintain what I’ve built up while giving my body a little time to recover and prepare for the 13.1 miles I’m going to force it to do in five days. It’s cold today…in the low 40’s and rainy. I don’t like running in the cold…would rather run in the heat and humidity. At least that was the old me. After 3miles, I’m realizing I’m not who I was when I first started this journey. Today’s run was good…41:06 for 3 miles. Not my best pace, but not my intention. What surprised me was how well I did in the cold. I was afraid I wouldn’t perform well, because in the past when I tried jogging in the cold, I’d struggle with the cold air down deep in my lungs. It was painful and hurt to breath as that cold air hit the lower parts of my lungs. Not today. Only thing I can figure is seven months of running has improved the ability of my lungs to perform under stress, including running in cold weather.


10/14

Week 16 Day 5. Long run day…10 miles. Nine days until the half marathon, so it’s my last long run beforehand. I intended to run first thing this morning, but it didn’t happen. It’s an afternoon run in what feels like a 20 mph wind. A headwind for about half of the course. At about the halfway point, I stopped at the house long enough to refill my water bottle and guzzle down a bottle of Cytomax, a power drink they’re using on the course next weekend. I’ve never had it before, so I want to test it out beforehand, make sure it agrees with my system. Also tried GU energy gel too, since it’s available at the race too. Did fine with both, and the run was good. Ten miles in 02:25:20, which included the two minute refueling stop halfway through. Burned 2805 cal with an average heart rate of 164 bpm and a peak heart rate of 187.

The first 8 miles were not extremely difficult, keeping a steady pace and pushing though the discomfort. It never hurt until about the last 3 miles, and it was my left hamstring more than anything. I started bonking in the last mile and really struggled in the last .5 mile. Just about the point I thought I was gonna bonk, my gps hit 10 miles about a quarter mile before I thought it would…and poof! I was done. I am as physically prepared as I can be at this point…next week is a “taper” week, easier runs and more rest to allow my body to recover as I come into race day for peak performance.


10/10

Week 17 Day 1. A 5 mile day, I hit the treadmill for what was a difficult run. It should be, though, as I push myself harder, longer and faster. That’s the point…to push the limits of what I imagine possible. I ran the first two miles at about a 6.0 or 5.5 pace, and then I did one minute intervals at paces up to 7.5…walking or jogging for the cool down minute, depending on my heart rate. My shins were the weakest link today…cardiovascular-wise, I pushed it hard enough to be short of breath with a heart rate averaging 160, maxing out at 177. I did the 5 miles in 01:04:44, burning over 1100 calories. That’s including a 2:30 break at the half mile mark due to equipment failure. That’s a 13:00/mile pace…not too shabby, and a personal best…to hold that pace over that distance.


10/8

Week 16 Day 6. Long run day. With two weeks to go to the race, I’m about three weeks behind schedule in my training…not where I want to be, but I’m not losing ground, so I’m content. Today, I set out for 9 miles. The route was such that I’d be running back by the house at just over the halfway point, so I had a replacement water and a fuel gel pack waiting for me. The first two miles were pretty smooth, and through miles 3 and 4, the knee pain started creeping in. In mile 4, I was focused almost solely on putting random thoughts into order in my head for a short inspirational quote of my own, and I found that it was my easiest mile. Seems I perform a little better (at least mentally) when channeling my thoughts and not focusing on my body and the race. Gonna have to remember that in the future, since not all race events allow the use of an iPod.

What’s really ironic is that my little inspirational thought had to do with finding the strength to persevere through trial. “Resolve breeds perseverance. Perseverance, strength. True strength comes when the body is pushed beyond the limits of what the mind imagines possible. This is precisely why true strength comes not from within, but from above.” God is funny, because shortly after He put that in my head, my iPod shot craps…stopped working. Ugh. I had to run just over a mile with just me and my pain…and God. While it was indeed a slower pace, and I was focused almost solely on my pain, it was nice to be alone with God…and it was in that test, and the last 4 miles, that I confirmed the truth of it. Those last 4 miles were by far the hardest of my running career to date, and in my mind, I didn’t think it possible so soon in my running life. I did the entire 9 miles in 02:12:16, burning over 2000 calories. It’s 7:30 at night as I write this…about 12 hours afterward. I am so drained of energy, I can barely keep my eyes open…and every joint from my mid back down to my toes aches like never before. My knees are on fire, even after using an icepack most of the day. Moving is a well thought out process, so as to not move more than necessary. Haha. I need to start taking ibuprofen before and after these long runs.


10/7

Week 16 Day 5. Today is a 60 minute cross-training day. Walked with mama and the boys, and did 3.1 miles up to the store and back. Did our shopping for dinner supplies while we were there. It was a nice walk in just over an hour, not including 30 minutes of shopping time. Mostly, I enjoyed the company. We need to do that more often.


10/4
Week 16 Day 2. As you can tell, yesterday was a bad day. Today was a little better. I’ve learned over the last several months that distance running is about 90% mental strength and tenacity. If you lose the mental battle, the odds are against you even more than before. Within the last few weeks, I’ve lost my mental edge…the sharpness that is required to keep pushing through the pain. Yesterday was more of a mental defeat than a physical one. As much as I hate running, I enjoy getting fit and healthy. I enjoy the challenge of doing what looks impossible…what others have told me I cannot do. I’m currently losing ground in the mental battle, but I’m making a stand. I hope to hold steady and at least not continue losing ground. If I can do that, then I can eventually get a good foothold…firm enough from which to mount an offensive and push forward again. For now, I’m going defensive and protecting in place…I will hunker down and do what needs to be done to not lose ground. Fortunately, God has blessed me with a wonderful network of friends and family from which to draw support and encouragement. It’s in times like this that I need them the most, and I’m thankful God has placed them in my life. It’s my prayer, as with all of these notes, that you draw from my experiences to succeed in your own. Learn from my weakness and setbacks and do better.

Anyway, I ran 3 miles today. Did it in 35 minutes flat, which is a 11:40 pace average. I did the first mile in just under 11;00, the first 3/4 mile at a 6.0 pace. This was my fastest overall pace for 3 miles to date, and although I would have liked to run further, I’m happy to hold ground not lose what progress I’ve made. I added the quote at the top today…after posting yesterday’s update. Tomorrow, I will face when it comes. With the help of friends and family, I will get back up from this setback and tackle this mental loss one day at a time.

10/3
Week 16 Day 1. Three weeks till the marathon. I’m not ready. I ran 2.3 miles tonight, and I’m mentally done. I hate running. Hate it. I don’t want to run anymore. Ever. My knee hurts with every step it pounds into the ground. It’s not the same pain as before. It’s moved onto the lower part of my kneecap, and it sucks. It’s hurting so much that I’ve noticed I’m changing my stance to handicap it. That stinks, because it’s asking for trouble in the form of a serious injury. Less than three weeks until the race, and I can’t go more than 3 miles. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking. I set the bar too high. Fat men can’t run.

Total miles logged in October = 52.5. And that’s October 2011. To continue this journey with me, check out my January 2012 Run Journal.

Love

Dad

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