So I’ve technically been back to marathon training for two weeks now, and to be honest, it hasn’t been great. I envisioned loping along snowy streets, clicking away miles, and happily building up miles. Running that was pure bliss. I have been all out of sorts since my race in October and I felt that a lot of that had to do with my lack of schedule and purpose. So, naturally it would be made all better with some real training on the calendar. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.
The truth is, I’ve been bored the last few months and that hasn’t really gone away, even though I’ve registered for a Spring marathon & have big shiny goals to look forward to. But it’s more than boredom or lack of desire. It’s depression and I’m not facing it – at least not properly. Some times depression and anxiety isn’t cured by getting fresh air and exercise, despite what all those memes tell you. Some times it is a lot more stubborn and can make your running suffer.
Of course there are always catalysts: my husband & I didn’t have the best week including a conversation where the awful D word was thrown around, followed by everyone getting sick including my daughter with a 105 fever. There’s also the bills to pay, the chores to do, the cat that ran away, the work to comply with, the house to build. It never ends and there’s always something stressing. I tried to use the Fall as a space to slowly build up my mileage and get the Long Run to be long again, and perhaps do a few shorter races. But there was always an excuse to not run, to skip lifting, to not register for that 5k, to cut the LR short. I ran boring 5 mile aerobic and easy runs on the same boring courses. I just didn’t care anymore.
My 18 week training plan officially started 14 January, and I was set on being dedicated. I was all in and I was going to get fast and strong, damnit! But I ended up cutting the very first workout. I should have run 4 miles at half marathon pace (10 miles total with warm up and cool down) but instead I crawled through 3 miles at barely marathon race pace (8 miles total). No worries, it was only day one. I’d get through this. But, I haven’t gotten much better. I struggle to control the pace. I feel wildly out of control. I feel like I am horribly out of shape. It all feels like so much more work than it should be.
Since I was getting pretty good at tearing myself down, I figured why not give myself a pop quiz, a pre-assessment of sorts, to see where I am starting from. So I signed up for a 15k road race and went at it. The goal was to lock on to half marathon race pace (around 6:30) and hang on to it for as long as possible. Sadly, this didn’t work out. I took a gel before the race which gave me a wicked sugar rush, followed by a devastating sugar crash, leaving me dizzy and fatigued at mile four. I took the first mile down hill a bit too aggressively and suffered for it later on. From mile four to the finish I struggled to keep marathon pace, but I honestly didn’t care, and that was the worst part about it. My head wasn’t in it and it was keeping my body from being in it as well. I tried to pull it together in the last mile, but I’m not gonna lie – it wasn’t a strong finish. I finished second, which won me and elite finisher’s rain jacket (this will come in handy!!) and my time was 102:32, a moderate 6:42 pace. I know I used the hills, the muddy road, the reaction to my nutrition all as excuses, and maybe they are legit, but I also know that I didn’t run with heart, and I haven’t been since I crossed the line in Hartford.
So, if I’m going to go after this sub 3 hour marathon goal, I am going to have to figure out how to care again. I’m going to have to wrangle in my depression, make amends with my family, and run like I mean it. I’m not in a bad position to start a training cycle – my weight, base miles, nutrition, training plan, everything is all looking good and is right where it ought to be. The only big excuse I have right now is myself.