I know I'm writing this out of order, and I do have weeks 19-21 in draft, but this past week of training was intense. It is important to me that I get this down before I go out for my next attempt at 20 miles tomorrow morning. Yes, my next attempt. I don't mean to imply that I won't finish tomorrow, just that I didn't finish last time.
If you follow me on Instagram, you already know what happened. The other runs during Week 22 were unremarkable bordering on not great. It has been hot and humid here, and I do not run well in those conditions. I've been feeling banged up, physically and mentally. 22 weeks of training wears on a body, and that is to be expected. What I did not expect was the resurgence of my anxiety. It used to be crippling, many years ago, but with medication and a lot of personal hard work I have it well under control.
In recent weeks, I've been getting anxious ahead of my longer runs. The weekday runs are manageable, I worry a little about how I'll feel but I attribute it to being injured for so long and being able to finish a run of any length was not a guarantee. The more I think about it as I write this, the more I wonder if anxiety crept in through the crack in that door. Eased himself in so casually that I didn't even know he was there. Until he shat all over my long run last Saturday.
I found a telling comment in my training log from my run on Thursday evening. I'd had a massage the night before and it was hot out, so I didn't give this comment the thought it probably deserved until after the fact: "very relieved when it was over. hoping my legs feel fresher for Saturday or I might just sit down on the trail and cry." SERIOUSLY? Seriously. This was my mindset going into a 20 miler. Full disclosure, my last few longs run have been challenging. I've been running in the same place for weeks, at the same time, and feeling increasingly worse. I chalked it up, again, to being deep into training. That I just need to gut it out. That EVERYTHING IS FINE.
And in some ways, yes, everything is fine. That is the worst part of anxiety. My mind has chosen to latch onto something, anything, that is vaguely important to me that it can manipulate. I am not injured. I have finished all of my long runs. I haven't always felt like a million bucks but I've done the work. I've been pretty damn consistent this training cycle. Anxiety doesn't care about the truth. It doesn't matter. Anxiety can make me believe that I am too slow, that it's too hot, that the ache in my knee is really an injury, that this race is a mistake, that I am not capable, that I have too far left to go and it will take way too long so just STOP. Quit. You suck, you're embarrassing yourself and your coach. You're probably her slowest client. Go home.
All of these thoughts and more cascaded through my mind at mile 11 last weekend, hands on knees and sobbing on the side of the trail. Nine miles to go and no idea how I would get them done. I knew I would hate myself for quitting on this run but finishing felt impossible. I had a brief respite when a fellow runner stopped to check on me. He was doing 17 miles and asked me to join him. "Are you *sob* slow *sob*" I asked? And he was going a little faster than I had been but he convinced me to get moving again. I only spent a mile and a half with him but he talked to me and he kept me going to my turn around point. I wish I could say that his kindness snapped me out of it and gave me the perspective I needed to push forward. But I can't.
I covered the 1.5 miles back to the water fountain where he had picked me up, refilled my pack, and tried to get my head straight. It wasn't working. Last week I didn't know how I was going to finish 18 miles but I just kept pushing and I made it. That gear was nowhere to be found now. Making it back to my car would put me at 15 miles and I told myself that was it. Just get there. Screw the last 5. This isn't worth what you're feeling right now. I do have some aches and pains and at 13 miles into my run I was feeling them. But they weren't at a point where the rational person would stop. They were just tired sore legs. My mind was the problem and my mind was broken. I texted Nora to let her know I was done. I'd already sent a few panicked notes and this made it official in my mind.
I dragged myself back to the trail by my car, stopped my watch, and broke down. I was so tired and angry, frustrated and sad. My heart hurt. I felt like I'd sold myself out and created a dangerous precedent. I had the exact number of days until my race pounding in my head and this was all the proof I needed that I wasn't going to finish. 28 days away and you're fucked, kiddo. Never mind the money you wasted on the registration fee, the hotel, the plane ticket. If I cannot finish 20 miles, how will I finish 50k? I didn't know, and I still don't. I went home and sat on the living room floor. I talked to Nora about what happened and we discussed what I can do moving forward. We have some options but this is not something that is fixed in one conversation, one run, one day.
I can't tie this up neatly in a bow, and I have 20 miles on deck for tomorrow. I'm still anxious. I don't know why the anxiety is coming back after years of quiet. I am going to show up tomorrow for my run, as I've shown up every Saturday this year. I have a mantra. I have a plan. I want to finish. I want my mind to shut the fuck up and let me do the work. I want to believe in myself the way others believe in me. I have months of evidence that says I am capable AF. When it is you versus you, how do you win? If I figure that out, I'll let you know.
Week 22 summary:
Miles scheduled: 48
Miles ran: 43
Time on my feet: 8:40:45