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From Mailboxes To Miles. My Journey To 26.2 Part 3

Monday, July 23, 2012

That wet and miserable first race on Thanksgiving day 2009, was the race that started it all.  By December, my road running was all done, unless I felt like dashing through the snow.  Being poorly equipped, I wasn't in the position to try cold weather running so the treadmill became my only option...ugh. The mental grind was enough to drive anyone insane. 2 miles felt like 6.  The treadmill was a better than a sharp stick in the eye but not by much. 

By the time Spring 2010 rolled around, I was chomping at the bit to get out there.  My first runs were pretty much an obstacle course trudging through slushy areas and being ever so thankful for the bare spots.  I learned quickly that time spent on the treadmill over the winter only slowed down the decay in running endurance. It didn't help that my slush dodging endeavors left me feeling like I had run those miles across the tops of BOSU balls but I was determined and worst of all....stubborn.

"Discretion Is The Better Part Of Valor" - Cicero.

"There is a fine line between determination and stupidity" - ME.

The perils of overtraining.....

My enthusiasm had really reached its climax when I plunked down some cash to get my very first ( first of many ) running gadgets. This little marvel, the Nike+ wrist band and shoe pod promised to revolutionize my running. Now I could know how far I cool... and it even downloaded the data into a gnarly looking chart that changed colors as you progressed in your mileage, ooooh double cool....I love my shiny objects.

I couldn't wait until I took this newly acquired technical marvel out for a run. It did not disappoint. As I plodded along, I looked with glee as the numbers racked up on the display. I kept pushing, pressing forward, digging deep to see yet another big number pop up. I hit 10 miles... I HAD to keep going...I HAD to...finally I gave out. I reluctantly pushed the I QUIT button. I had logged over 12 miles.

I could barely move.

When I got home, I literally crawled on hands and knees to get up the stairs in my house. The furthest I had run/walked prior to that was 6 miles since Spring. I had doubled my mileage recklessly and now I was going to pay...dearly. I was certain rigor mortis was setting in.

The morning after was about as graceful as a slow motion train wreck. After several days, I was getting alarmed. I wasn't bouncing back like I normally did. I had a 5k race in Eagle River, Wisconsin coming up in 2 weeks and I was seriously having doubts. Nothing felt right. My joints felt "loose", like there was no soundness. I felt wobbly and not strong at all. In my zeal, I had over taxed my system well beyond what it was truly capable of and now payday had come.

I signed up for the race in Eagle River for one reason....bling. It was the closest race that had a for real, honest to goodness, finishers medal. I had scanned the  race details and my eyes lit up when I saw the word M.E.D.A.L... Well, actually they glazed over....

Now, my first race for bling was in jeopardy because I had pushed too hard trying to prove Lord knows what. I managed to recover just enough to squeak through that event without having to be carried off the course. It was only a 5k but with a body that was severely mistreated by me, it may as well have been a half marathon. I walked far more than I ran because I couldn't take the pounding.

After I collected my medal at the finish, I hung around. Some of the distance runners were coming in and I was really curious to see what the "real" runners looked like.  The fist marathon runner I ever met in my life was a kid who, I believe qualified for Boston. I never got his name because he was too busy screaming from leg cramps and was being massaged face down on the ground because he couldn't get on the table.... Wow, will that happen to me if I try a marathon?

I never gave it much thought, half and full marathons are for the guys that are in shape and a 10k was all I could do and even that was a stretch after my little stunt.

Two months rolled by before I could really get it together enough to attempt a run for more than a mile or so. My workouts at the gym were torture. Everything hurt, all because I wanted to see a big number and to feel like a real runner. After all, the chart I printed out said so, right?

I had a lot of time to reflect on my foolishness. Just because you can do more mileage does not mean you should.

Finally the day came when my body began to respond. I proceeded with caution with my newly earned wisdom. Pain is an expensive teacher. I learned to respect my body. Being a successful runner seems to be a balancing act. A tightrope between pushing too hard and not pushing enough.

Respecting the body's limits and being patient with yourself is key to successful training. The ability to not allow ones enthusiasm override ones common sense is a rare gift and over zealousness is a mistake common to all.  Adaptations to the stresses of running come slowly over time and with careful development.

At this point in my journey, I treat training schedules like the picture on a frozen dinner... Serving suggestion. This is only my opinion but hear me out. Just because a training plan promises to make us a marathoner in XX weeks does not mean that it will.  We may need MORE time to adapt. We may need to take more rest days. We were not all punched out of the same cookie cutter and we may be at a different level than the next runner that is following the same plan. It pays big dividends to be patient, develop a proper mileage base, and take the time to recover.

Coming next... Life beyond 10k.

Previous Blogs In Series..

Part 1

Part 2

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