Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lessons Learned by Losing

So, the DNF. Here's what I learned, following my unfinished Turkey Trot.

1) Sometimes, you have a bad running day. I always hear about this, but when other fitter runners describe this, I always imagine a "bad day" for them being only 6 miles instead of 10. Oh, boo hoo, Mr. 2% Body Fat. The fact is, every run for me is difficult, or at least strenuous. So I wasn't sure what to expect. But yeah, it was a bad day. After the initial adrenaline-fueled push, I crashed immediately. No power, no energy, no enjoyment. It was weird. I just ran out of gas as I approached the end of Mile 2. This is partly a lack of training, because let's be honest: I've been ridiculously lazy. But it was also a bad day.

2) I gave up on myself. Once the fatigue began to set in, so did the doubt. I had the spirit-killing thought, "I'm not going to make it. I'm not able to finish." Instead of destroying this thought, banishing it from my head, I allowed it to hang around, and it began to fester. As I trudged through another mile, and then another, the thought remained. It became part of my rhythm, just like my footfalls and breathing. I'm not gonna make it. I'm not gonna make it. I'm not prepared to finish. I'm not gonna make it.

I convinced myself that I couldn't do it. So I finally threw my hands up and gave up, about halfway through Mile 4. The medics on bikes and the cops in patrol cars had been shadowing me for about a half-hour. I finally said, "When we get to the corner, I'm done." We got there, passing a cheering group of volunteers who then realized that I wasn't continuing, so they turned and started packing up. The medic radioed to the sweeper van, who said they were close. So I waited. And waited. And waited. The van wasn't close, after all.

The shame of quitting became too great, as I saw the side-long looks of volunteers. Finally, I told the guys, "I'm gonna start going, tell the van to find me." The van finally caught up to me about 20 minutes later, another half-mile or more further. The van guy then couldn't get me back to the finish, due to construction, so I still had to hoof it a few more blocks. And then a quarter mile beyond that to my car.

So apparently, I could have finished. Not quickly, not easily, but I could have done it. I just didn't believe in myself enough to gut it out.

3) I actually wasn't prepared. I could have finished, yes, but much slower than I should at this point in my training. I've been lazy, I've been stupid, and I haven't been vigilant on my diet or fitness. And as I'm now nine or so weeks from a half-marathon, I'm...well, terrified. I don't know if I'll be physically prepared to participate in February. It's going to take more willpower and commitment than I have in me right now. My emotions and mindset has been all over the map lately, and I am worried that I'm not physically or mentally strong enough to really buckle down and train. (I recognize this is an excuse.)

I was planning on taking part in a five-mile Jingle Bell Run next Sunday, but I'm just not fast enough to do it, so I didn't sign up. I'm going to cover the distance on my own, or as close to it as I can. Next week, I'll give 6 miles another go, but I really have needed to make running a daily thing, and it hasn't been. I've grabbed on to every excuse possible, and all it's gotten me is that much closer to raceday with nothing to show for it.

As soon as I can finalize a work document tonight, I'm going to ignore the hunger pangs and go to the gym. 40 minutes on the track. No compromises.

(Even as I type that, I'm imagining just going home, eating something easy and bad, and just going to bed. This is the battle I'm fighting right now--how much I even want to try anymore.)

I'll keep you posted.

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