Sunday, February 22, 2015

Embracing the Suck

Marathon training requires endless schedule shuffling, weather obsessing, mileage counting, and face stuffing.  I find some of those things quite enjoyable, particularly the face stuffing.  But this weekend, the weather obsessing and schedule shuffling nearly got the best of me.

With a weekend full of Cub Scout events, our family calendar had few openings for my scheduled 18-miler.  I needed 3 hours to complete the miles, plus a little extra to stretch, refuel, shower, etc.  This left my only window of opportunity early on Saturday morning; I needed to be finished by 9:30.  No problem.  But Mother Nature had other plans: a winter storm descended upon our area dousing the city in a mix of freezing rain, sleet, and snow.  In the wee hours of Saturday morning.

For a moment, I considered braving the roads, but I knew I'd never forgive myself if I wound up injured from slipping on ice.  I've been training steadily for 11 weeks; I couldn't throw all that away on one run.  So I embraced the suck and launched an 18 mile run on my basement treadmill.

Pulled out the big guns: I wore my Sparkle Athletic skirt
to inject just a bit of fun into the monotony of 3 hours on the treadmill.
I tried my hardest to frame the run in the most optimistic terms.  Instead of feeling angry that I was confined to my basement for hours, I told myself that I had the privilege of spending a Saturday morning watching Netflix.  Rather than watching each second tick by on the display, I covered it up and measured my run in show lengths.  I stopped to fuel after each 40-minute show, only looking at the display at those intervals.

Considering I spent 3 hours running nowhere, things went remarkably well.  I texted my sister before I started and found a reply from her during my first fuel stop.  We exchanged texts at each break, with me updating her on my progress and her cheering me on.  At my third break, I was all done.  I'd bested my previous treadmill distance PR and wanted nothing more to do with the hamster wheel.  I felt defeated, but she reassured me that I could finish.  Though I lacked her confidence, I returned to the dreaded contraption anyway and soldiered on.

Read past my tired brain's mistyping: "forgot" should be "for your".
(Surprisingly, "Hanks" is not a typo; that's how we say thanks around here.)

In the final miles, I could not maintain my resolve to keep my eyes off the display.  I tried focusing solely on Netflix, but my mind couldn't stop thinking about how far I still had to go.  My glutes were tired, my low abs hurt, and my toes ached.  Most of all, my brain no longer cared to embrace the suck.  At mile 16, I told myself that if I ran to 17, I could walk the final mile.  When I got to 17, however, I knew there was no way I'd walk.  I wanted to GET OFF the treadmill, and the fastest way to do that was to run.  I pushed hard the last three miles, steadily increasing the speed so I could end the torture.

When it was all over, I was sure I'd cry.  I'd felt emotions welling up as I dug deep to finish those final miles, and I was sure the flood gates would open with an ugly cry spilling over.  To my surprise, I just felt extreme elation.  I was happy to be done (obviously), but I was also so.darn.proud of myself for attempting such an overwhelming task and chipping away until it was finished.

I've often worried about miles 20-26.2 of the marathon.  Will I be able to conquer those miles?  Do I have the mental and physical strength do it?  After yesterday's run, I have to believe that I have the mental strength required.  Though I have no scientific proof, 18 miles on the treadmill MUST be harder than an equal number of miles on the road.

Yesterday, I stared down 18 miles on the treadmill.  I faced the suck, I embraced it, and I conquered.  Come April 12th, I hope to be able to say the same about 26.2.