Monday, March 26, 2012

Countdown: 20 days. "Hanging on by my fingernails"

Date: March 26
20 Days until the Boston Marathon

Three weeks out from Boston and I'm back at this difficult, yet familiar place: the "I'm really tired - is it over yet?" place.

With fatigue setting in from week after week of heavy training, my mind and spirit are beginning to feel the strain.  Yes, I recognize this feeling well.  Legendary ultra-runner Bruce Fordyce refers to this state as "the Fordyce Prima Donna Syndrome".  It's a place that many endurance athletes arrive at after weeks of pushing their body further and harder to strengthen it for race day.  It's can be summed up in two words: total exhaustion.  

There are many challenges associated with the fatigue that comes from heavy training.  Sleep becomes more illusive as my "restless legs" keep me awake through the dark hours of the night.  I've lost the patience and attention span for normal social interaction, and crave quite time to myself.  I dread my training schedule, and drag myself through workouts that my body is just too tired to do.  Grumpiness overtakes me as, day after day, I convince my lactic acid laden legs to keep moving through short runs and long rides on the bike.  

How does one keep going when everything in their body is screaming to just go to bed and stay there for about two days straight?  The first time I went through this, I worried a lot.   I would lay my head down at night wondering how the hell I was going to run a marathon feeling as weak and tired as I was feeling.  I still recall that rainy day in 2010 when I was 15 days out from race day and on my final long run before my two week taper.  I had 34 kms on deck that day, and about 28kms into the run, I crumbled.  Feeling utterly spent in every way, I sat down on the side of the road and cried in the cold, spring rain.  After 10 minutes of sobbing, I picked myself off of the curb and pushed myself to complete the 6 kms home.  

I had a similar experience this weekend.   I set out on Sunday for one of the long bike rides that I do on the weekend to replace the long runs that I WOULD be doing if I wasn't injured.  With 100kms as my goal distance, I was already entertaining thoughts of quiting by 15 kms into the ride.  With more than two and a half hours of cycling left to do, I came face to face with the difficult question: how bad do you want it?  Sure - you could go home and sit on the couch and pretend it doesn't matter...or does it?  

The difference between last weekend and that rainy, spring day in 2010 is that today I know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I can muscle through the tough times knowing that this is all part of the process, and that my perseverance will be rewarded.  Sometimes, in running and in life, we feel like we're just hanging on by our finger nails.  Sometimes we need to dig deep and ask ourselves "how bad do you want it?".  Training for marathons has helped me see that, just when I think I'm at my limit, I have "6 more kms" in me.  I think we all do - if we want it bad enough.

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