Writing and running in Austin, TX.
There’s nothing else for it. I’m exhausted. Spent. Done in. I’ve bought the farm. (Okay, I’m not actually dead. I’ve just always liked that saying.)
I’ve been debating how to approach this post, because I don’t want to depress anyone. Also, I’ve always been the kind of person who can go from “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” to “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” in a matter of hours. For the benefit of those around me, I usually try to keep such wild mood swings to myself. (Except when I write about them on the internet.)
Anyway, knowing that I am by and large a positive person, and knowing that even if my world is ending at 11am, things will probably be fine by 5pm, I know that two to three days of a persistent bad mood mean it’s time to be suspicious.
I’ve also had some other clues that I may be exhausted. For instance, by 3pm, my to-do list at work starts to look like a blur of unchecked boxes that are going to crawl out of my computer and chase me around like that creepy girl in The Ring. Then there’s the fact that, after getting cut off on the highway the other day, my first inclination was to burst into tears. (My more normal reaction is to yell “You a-hole!” loudly at my closed windows so that guy in the pick-up who really might have a shotgun can’t actually hear me. This is Texas, after all.)
Finally, and most notably, there’s the fact that for the past three mornings in a row, I haven’t wanted to run. The alarm goes off, and all I can think is how nice it would be to just stay in bed. I suppose my Pollyanna attitude toward running was destined to slip sooner or later.
On our run this morning, a relatively easy 6-mile out-and-back, JS–yes, the shear number of J’s in my life has driven me to using two letters–postulated that we’ve hit an inevitable point of overtraining. Her theory is that this point comes in every training cycle, and you just have to survive it.
I’ve now spent 14 hours turning this overtraining idea over in my head, trying to decide if it’s true. Below are the symptoms of Overtraining Syndrome (syndrome? really??) according to the always infallible about.com:
From this list, I guess maybe I’m overtrained. Then again, this kind of feels like reading the horoscopes in the back of Glamour. (“That’s totally me! Oh no wait, that’s Capricorn…”)
Also, given that I’ve hit a dip in enthusiasm during both of my previous 2 marathon training stints, and given that this training program probably has about triple the mileage of the other ones I’ve used, if “overtrained” is a predictable state, shouldn’t I have hit it back in June?
I guess I’ll have to see how long this feeling sticks around to make an accurate self-diagnosis. For now, I think the truth is that I’m just plain tired.
The thing about running — at least the way I’m currently doing it — is that it’s not just running as in logging endless miles on pavement. It’s regularly crawling out of bed at times that start with 4s so you have a chance of getting that run in before the temperature tops 90. It’s knowing you should go to bed early because you have to get up at a time that starts with a 4, but not wanting to because you owe it to family, friends, and significant others not to become a total hermit. (After all, even with 10 hours of sleep a night, I’m pretty sure I won’t win the thing…)
It’s also living out of your car, packing your entire life into a backpack every morning so you can shower and change at the office. It’s having four different alarms set on your phone, and the latest one is set to 5:30am. It’s second-guessing every bite of food and sip of beverage you take before, during, and after a run, because the truce between you and your stomach is tenuous at best. It’s passing up soccer/volleyball/kickball/etc. with friends because you’re terrified of twisting an ankle or tweaking a knee and falling off this tightrope of healthy, injury-free running. And finally, in my case, it’s working my butt off at something that, in all honesty, I’m just never going to be that good at.
Of course all this leads to an inevitable question: Why do you do it?
Someone actually asked that at a happy hour last week, and I was surprised to find that I don’t really have an answer. (But I’ll think about it and update you later.)
One thing I’m pretty sure of though, is that even when I feel like total crap, I’m lucky to be able to do it. Recently, JS — who is at least as tired/overtrained/whatever as me — decided to take on a new huge project. She’s raising money for a former runner now confined to a wheelchair by Multiple Sclerosis. Kate Hooks has been living with this disease for longer than I’ve been running.
If you’re interested in helping, you can donate from JS’s blog. Even if you’ve already used up your giving budget for the year, I encourage you to check out Kate’s own blog post, I (Still) Remember Running. Is it sad? Yes. But it will put those early mornings in perspective.