Last week, I promised you running. I said I would write about it regardless of how my race went, and I suppose it was good I made that promise because otherwise I would try to pretend the race never happened. The disappointment of it would continue to eat away at me, and all of my workouts for the foreseeable future would be tinged with the overwhelming feeling of failure I had when I crossed the finish line on Monday. Maybe they still will be – I don’t know. But I’m hoping there will be some release in sharing the experience, that a few of you have similar stories and will know exactly how I feel, and that we can turn over a new leaf together.
Because, you see, after five months of training – five months that countless people made fun of me for needing (“Who needs to train that hard for a 10k?” is a phrase I could have tattooed on my arm at this point) – I bonked. Hard. But let me back up. Let me paint a picture of the week before the race. I got to Colorado last Tuesday, partly so I could help my sister-in-law get ready for her wedding and partly to adjust to the altitude for the Bolder Boulder. On Wednesday, we ran errands most of the day and then watched our beloved Rockies lose from the seventh row behind home plate while tornadoes and thunderstorms rocked the surrounding area. Thursday was a blur of bachlorette-related activities and Friday was spent tying hundreds of bows out of ribbon that all needed to look just so, followed by the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner (and again with the crazy weather! Who knew tornadoes came so far west? Not me, clearly.) On Saturday, I was on my feet from 6am until 2am. It was an incredible day, but when I had to get up at 8:30 on Sunday morning, I felt like I had been hit by a truck, and possibly one of those tornadoes. Over the course of those days, I also had to take an emergency Benadryl twice because lavender had found its way into my food (once in the form of a tea-infused salad dressing and once in honey), and by Sunday night, my stomach was so angry with me, I couldn’t sleep at all.
The funny thing was, I wasn’t even nervous about the race – not even at three o’clock on Monday morning when I was laying on my side trying to massage my belly into submission. I’d had plenty of tough training runs, days where I felt even worse – I’d still been able to push through and finish close to the time I wanted to. So when I still couldn’t stomach any food on Monday morning at seven, I wasn’t really worried. I had a Powergel with me, and a water bottle filled with Gatorade. I was going to be surrounded by happy runners; surely the adrenaline would carry me through.
If you’re shaking your head at me right now, you’re right. I’m wrong. Adrenaline is not enough to counteract a week of five or less hours of sleep a night and two straight days of barely eating. By mile two, I had given up hope that my legs would lose that leaden feeling, and by mile four when I finally saw my in-laws (the first people, out of fifty thousand, that I had recognized on the course), it was all I could do not to cry. At no point did the joy or energy around me have any effect on my run other than to make me feel utterly alone. By the time I pushed myself over the finish line fifteen minutes later than the slowest time I had expected, I had to force myself to swallow vomit. I spent the next half hour slowly making my way through a crushing number of enthusiastic racers with only one goal – find some quick sugar to restore some semblance of normality to me body. The Pepsi I finally found was warm and flat, but it helped. I was able to hold it together for another few hours while the rest of the racers in the wedding party gathered to celebrate Memorial Day in the stands.
It wasn’t until later, after my much-needed shower, when I was finally alone, that the bitter disappointment overwhelmed me. Five months of training. Five months of visualizing an exciting PR. Five months of talking to people about the race, people who expected me to do well, and to have a good time, who I had to smile blandly at because it hurt to admit just how sad I was. The people I did tell were supportive, of course. They reminded me that it wasn’t my fault, and that my training actually did kick in since I was able to draw on it in terrible circumstances in order to make it over the finish line. I appreciated that the people who love me could say that (and mean it), and probably in a few weeks, I’ll even believe them. I don’t right now, of course. Right now, I just have to grit my teeth and get back out there because I know running makes me happy most days.
That’s where Chi Running comes in. I started reading it a few weeks ago, and even though I haven’t finished it yet, I know it’s going to be the key to reinventing myself as a runner. It’s the lifeline I’m holding onto – that belief, held above all others, in the child-like joy of running. I need that right now. I need that reminder that beyond bad days and heart-breaking races, running is still my happy place. It’s still something I can do that defies the way I imagined myself as a kid and inspires me to persevere in other parts of my life. When I have a good run, it reminds me that I can do anything, really, because running is hard for me. Running is, some days, impossible for me in fact, and yet I still do it. I have failed so many times, and yet here I am, just a few days past failing big, and I want to pick myself up and start again. That is the best version of me, the version running has created.
I love the promise this book offers me. I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t been overly injury prone as a runner, but it’s certainly not effortless exercise, and if the Dreyers can offer me insight into running in a more holistic, body-affirming way, I’m all for it. It won’t shield me from the disappointment that inevitably goes hand in hand with a bad race day, but with any luck, it will assuage my limping spirit.
For more about Danny and Katherine Dreyer, go here.