A slice of humble pie

[I am still on my tropical vacation in mid-MO but wanted to squeeze in a post while I'm here. I guess my desire to blog has returned!]

I freely admit to being a perfectionist. I'm competitive and Type-A and can be my own worst critic at times. I absolutely hate to fail. Hate it.

Last Saturday I failed miserably and I just can't seem to let it go. So why not blog about it, right? I've already overanalyzed everything a dozen times over but I'm hoping you readers can help me move on and 'jump back on the horse' if you will. It would be just as easy for me to ignore this event on my blog because it's pretty embarrassing, but I feel that I need to be truthful to my readers. And so I will swallow my pride and admit to sucking it up big time.
Saturday was our 15 mile run during our trip to mid-Missouri. To say that it was a bad run might be the biggest understatement in the history of the blogosphere---it was pure torture. I almost died and I'm not even joking. I seriously considered making a pit stop at one of the local hospitals to beg for IV fluids but that would have consumed too much energy I did not have. Would you like to hear more?

Here is the cliff notes version: The first five miles were great---no problems at all. Mile 6 and 7 started to suck and by mile 8 I asked Nate if we could walk just a minute. I couldn't catch my breath and I was completely out of my tiny bottled water. We started to run again and I had a minor panick attack: my brain would not shut up! All I kept thinking was, "I cannot do this, I'm going to die, we will be stranded in the middle of nowhere and I'm going to pass out." But then I'd think, "This is only a few hours out of the day, it's going to be over soon and I'll be proud of myself for finishing. It's just a stupid run, suck it up. Pain is temporary, pride is forever. Just do it." [you can see that good advertising comes in handy during a long run] It might qualify me as schizophrenic because I talked to the voices in my head for a good few miles before caving in to the negativity.

At 11.5 miles I asked Nate to walk again. He looked over at me an noticed that I was no longer sweating, then he pulled the plug. " We are walking the rest of the way. You aren't even sweating anymore, your body is so dehydrated you could start cramping up. It's not worth gettting hurt over, Julia. It's just a stupid training run. I know you are mad at yourself but it's not worth it. It's okay and I love you."

I tried to plead with him a bit, claiming that I just needed to catch my breath and then we could run the remaining 3 miles. But he wouldn't buy it...and that is another reason why I love him so much:) Even walking those last 3 miles was painful and by that time Nate felt it, too. When we arrived at the car I couldn't decide if I was going to vomit or pass out but all I wanted to do was sleep. I couldn't even force myself to drink water which is very bad. Arriving back at the house was an ordeal because I couldn't talk at that point, and promptly laid on the couch and slept for 1.5 hours while my dad informed me that I didn't look so good. I felt much better after that power nap and even regained my ability to speak!

Three factors played a part in this Death Run:

1. Poor hydration and nutrition
2. Poor timing/lack of planning
3. The Katy Trail=outdoor treadmill from hell.

[1] Since we did not leave Milwaukee until 5 p.m. on Friday night, we did not arrive in Jefferson City until 1 a.m. I purposefully decided to drink very little water during our road trip because I didn't want to stop and pee every hour. I also declared that fried cheese curds and a Diet Pepsi would be my preparatory dinner for the next day's run. I told Nate that the cheese curds were like tiny balls of energy that would propel me to a victorious time the next day. And I realize now that I am an idiot. Stupid Culvers and their mouth-watering delights!

[2] Since we didn't get in until 1 a.m. and we had to stay up chatting for awhile, we needed to sleep in a bit on Saturday. We finally awoke at 9 a.m. but of course, we had to eat breakfast and chat some more, fully basking in our vacation glow. By 11:00 we figured we should probably get dressed for the dreaded run even though neither of us was too excited. The local news continuously exclaimed, "The weather is amazing out today, nice and cool at around 85 degrees for a high." Yes, 85 degrees is much cooler than last week's triple digit temps but in Wisconsin's book, it still ain't 'cool.' And let's not forget that Missouri always manages to throw mad humidity at your face when you walk out the door, even when it's only 85 degrees.

[3] The only trail in my hometown that does not involve a hill set at a 45 degree angle is the Katy Trail. It's technically a bike trail, made of gravel, that stretches across the whole state. We ran 10 miles on it a few years back and I remember it being very scenic and relaxing. I WAS WRONG. The Katy Trail is a narrow, uneven path, amidst tons of boring trees. I swear that every bush and every leaf were clones of each other. The scenery never changed and generally sucked. Nate said it best when he said, "We might as well be running on a treadmill right now." In Milwaukee, we are spoiled by the gloriously open lakefront, full of people and varying landscapes. So staring at the exact same path surrounded by hot and sticky shrubbery is my new idea of hell.

So the way I see it, I have two options: 1. Quit now and avoid future failure. Maybe I should stick to half-marathons anyway. Maybe my mind and body simply cannot handle these extreme distances. Or, 2. Learn from this experience and vow to do better next time. I know that the second option is what I should do but it's scary, people. What if this happens again? What if I am too much of a headcase to stay mentally focused?

I realize that running is 90% mental and I must admit: I haven't been in the right state of mind for the past few weeks. I've been burnt out and crabby and negative about a whole lot of things. Nate called me Miss Bad Attitude and the name suited me well. I'm sure this played a big role in my craptastic run but now that I've had a break from everyday life, I'm feeling more like my old self again [thank goodness!]

I know we need to start taking these long runs more seriously. No more boozing and pizza slamming the night before a 15+ mile run. I need to drink water like it's my job, I need to stretch a lot more, and I need to figure out a way to become mentally tough. Two and a half months of intensive marathon training has taught me that my body can do this; but in these remaining 6 weeks I have to start training my crazy brain.
So readers, I ask you this: what inspires you? What keeps you going when you want to quit? And to the runners specifically: how do you push through 'the wall' and silence your inner demons when the run seems bigger than yourself?
Because we have a 16 miler coming up this weekend and I'm slightly freaking out...


  1. Although I've never had a run longer than 4 miles (I'm new this stuff) I find that just getting through little bits helps. I tell myself ok..only x amount of miles, only x amount of time, only x amount of songs to get me to the end. I know that you have it in you to do the run this week. You're amazing! Look at how much you've accomplished already!

  2. Hi! I'm not sure if I have ever left you a note before but I have been reading your blog for a while. I have been training for a 4 miler run at the end of August and I know that it doesn't seem like much but before this training I don't think I had ever completed a full mile of running. It has definitely been hard for me but I have honestly realized that my attitude has about 99% to do with how my run goes. Yesterday I ran on the track with my mom and it was so hot outside and I said to her "wow, this is going to suck." And then I found myself only thinking about how hot and tired I was instead of concentrating on finishing my run. I have found that if I go in with a more positive attitude it really helps me, as crazy as that sounds. Also, I never hydrate or stretch enough and I know that it's really bad and I especially need to start stretching more because now I am running more than 5 miles and it's just getting bad on my legs if I don't take the time to stretch. I know I am rambling but I just wanted to tell you to keep your head up and keep going! You have come so far and are doing an amazing job. I think the mixture of a lack of water, lack of sleep and lack of good food before your run definitely had a poor affect on your run so I think next time it will be much better. Keep it up, you can do it! :)

  3. Julia, julia. You are amazing and this is nothing to be embarassed about!

    You've got all of the knowledge you need, coupled with the endurance, now it's just a matter of acting on it.

    Even if you didn't run your full training run, you still finished it and that says something to me. First, you're stubborn. :) Second, you want to do this.

    Miss Bad Attitude needs be no more, successful runs will banish her, but you can't have a successful run with her . . .

    I think it's also huge that you realized that your body needs more from you in preparation right now.

    You are my inspiration to make the jump from 1/2 to full, don't bail on me now! :)

    Plus, you look HOTT in your skirt.

    This is also all babble like the pp, but my actual only advice someone passed on to me once was to have a subject for every mile and that's what you think about for those 10 minutes or so.

  4. Running may be 90% mental, but it seems like you sure didn't do much to help that 10% that's not. When your body is going into panic mode from not enough nutrition or water, of course your mind is going to follow! I think if you treat your body better prior to these runs, you'll feel a lot stronger and you'll be able to make it. It seems like a bunch of negative things just piled up all at once. I'm so sure you can do this!!

  5. Having completed a marathon (feel no need to do another, half marathons suit me just fine), but also being a runner, I have come to this realization. There are days when running just sucks. Your body doesn't want to play, you have a bazillion other things on your mind, and you just don't want to do it. Now, hydration/nutrition/sleep all play a part in it as well, but I have become a firm believer in one bad run doesn't mean I can do it. There are days I go out for a run and within 10 minutes I am done. It isn't that I can't do it, it is just that my body is telling me that I need to take it easy. Listening to your body (not your mind) is the key. And don't get down on yourself for one bad run. You will have those...you can't prevent it. Just move on from it and tackle your next run with a clean slate. It is definitely do-able (you are much more dedicated to training runs that I was) so take it easy on yourself. Don't push yourself too hard on your next long run and your confidence will return. Good luck!

  6. Hey Julia, it sounds like you've experienced your first major "bonk" :). You know why, though, which is good. In addition to everything you said, I'd also suggest bringing some calories with you on your long runs, like gels or those new block thingys. I've read that any run longer than 70 minutes merits some food along the way.

  7. My first thought? DON'T QUIT! You've hit your first stumbling block and there's nothing to be ashamed of. There's no way you will feel a sense of accomplishment as you cross the finish line in a few weeks if this has been easy as pie.

    Hang in there! Everytime I attempt something that is hard and forces me out of my comfort zone I just tell myself "If this was easy, EVERYONE would do it".

  8. My first thought? DON'T QUIT! You've hit your first stumbling block and there's nothing to be ashamed of. There's no way you will feel a sense of accomplishment as you cross the finish line in a few weeks if this has been easy as pie.

    Hang in there! Everytime I attempt something that is hard and forces me out of my comfort zone I just tell myself "If this was easy, EVERYONE would do it".

  9. You're so cute, Julia - it wasn't THAT big of a failure, it was one bad run! They can't all be perfect or even great.

    It's been a few years since I trained, but I will say that I hydrated really well and did not drink or eat poorly before a long run. But you seem to have learned that already!

    It's dorky, but reciting little mantras to myself to the rhythm of my running really kept me going on my long runs.

    "I feel good, I feel great, I'm gonna run a mar-a-thon."

    "It's just me and the road God gaaave me. It's just me and the road God gaaave me."

    "Just keep running! Just keep running! Just keep running, running, running!"

    And telling myself to calm down and breathe slower and get into a groove.

    I feel your pain, though. I went for a run last night and I felt like I was going to die after just two miles. It's hard to get back into that running mindset. I actually thought about you and your training and told myself to suck it up!

    I want to come watch you in October, so no quitting! :)

  10. I'm so impressed that you ran as far as you did. That really is amazing. Don't beat yourself up. Everyone has off days.

  11. You guys are so right on many accounts. Yes, I'm incredibly stubborn and we did finish the 15 miles [although we had no choice because our car was parked at the end]. In fact, before I ran my 4 miler today [it went fine!] I turned on my Garmin to see that we ran/walk 15.34 miles in 3 hours exactly. Not TOO bad for bordering on hospitalization, and walking at least 3 of those miles.

    I love all of the advice so far and may have to print some of these off and read them before my big runs. Does that make me a nerd? :)

  12. You do realize what happened to the first guy to ever run a marathon right?!?

  13. Don't beat yourself up about it. It happens to everyone! You should grab a few of the Clif Bar shot blocks for your long runs-- they will definitely get you going. Have you tried running with a water belt? I haven't, but some people swear by them. Also, think about the fact that your ultimate run will not be in the heat that you were just running in, so hang in there! Yeah, for my fellow skirt wearer... you rock!

  14. First of all, you looked so freaking cute while you thought you were going to die! I think it is so amazing that you are able to even run that far...it is a serious accomplishment. My brother runs cross country for his college and he loves it! It shouldn't be making your miserable and grouchy. If you hate it...it might not be for you! However, you have come so far in a short amount of time and I am sure that you can do it if you truly want to do it. GOOD LUCK!

  15. Julia, as everyone has already said: it was one bad run. And I can see why, considering the lack of fluid, good food, and sleep you'd had. Don't be so hard on yourself. Just learn from it, and keep going.
    You have done so freaking well! You are inspiring a lot of us, and I think you should go back and read what your hopes were before you started training... I bet you'll feel pretty proud of how far you've come. Keep it up; you're kicking butt!

  16. "If you fall seven times, stand up eight." ~ Japanese Proverb
    Listen, you......You are being entirely too hard on yourself. Look at what you DID accomplish, not what you did not. Not everyone can do what you did. Take me for example. I decided last year that I would start running (mostly because I found some super cute running skirts, and wanted an excuse to wear them), however, after a few weeks, and a combined total of approximately 3 miles, I gave up. My excuse is that it's just to darn hot here, and perhaps when I move to a cooler climate, I'll give it the old college try again. Yeah, ahem, that's it.
    Hold you head high and repeat after me.....'I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, my fellow bloggers like me!'

  17. I vote for not giving up. You have come this far, and it sounds like you did some poor eating/drinking/sleeping beforehand, so of course it ended up being not so great. I am just amazed you could get through 12 miles on that little water bottle. Maybe this weekend, before the run, hide some water bottles along your path, just in case you need extra.

    For me...when I need a little inspiration, I pretend I am in the Olympics (how appropo for right now), in whatever sport I am doing at the time. So, when I was kick-boxing, I imagined that the Olympic judges were watching me, and I had could not give up. So, maybe when you are running, you could pretend that a zillion people are watching you and want you to win the race.

    If you get dehydrated again and you have done everything right, though, there is no failure in just walking it out for a while. Nate is right...it is not worth damaging your body.

    And about your bad attitude...you have some things going on right now that you probably wish were different. And being a perfectionist, it is hard to deal with things out of our control. Try to remember that God is in control and think about the really positive things about your life and life around you. Maybe that will help your attitude a bit. Oh, and watch a really good Olympic event (like the 4 man swim relay)...that is bound to put a smile on your face.

  18. Prep~LOL at the 'good enough' quote. Love it!

    n~I SHOULD read back on why I wanted to do this. Nate always reminds me that this was my big idea:)

    Abbie~I have been using those sport beans for my long runs and really like them. The blocks are my next purchase for sure. Unfortunately the beans did not reverse my bad run on Saturday but they were still yummy!

    Lauren~at least I looked cute, right?! And to clarify, it wasn't running that made me Miss Bad Attitude---it was all of the other junk in my life bumming me out.

    Ronee~you are right, I need to focus on the positives more often and not feel like I have to control it all. And I like the idea of the Olympics....the actual race will, in fact, include many onlookers cheering me on. So it's not THAT far of a stretch:)

    You girls are fabulous cheerleaders and a great virtual support system. I could comment about each one of your suggestions but I really shouldn't spend my last few hours at home on the computer!


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