Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The point of freaking out about it

So I'm doing the things, running eating hydrating cross-training planning scheduling gel-ing, getting up at the crack of dawn and plotting my every breath on garmin-approved electronic stationery- in short, I am marathon training...

And it feels like it's getting worse.  


I don't know why I'm surprised, there's a *reason* I chose runonthesun to house my blog, and although a different reason I call it "I, Phoenix, Running", the image is still apropos. 

Because this is running outside, anytime after 3am or later than, say, May.
Actually, this may be an actual picture from my canal run last weekend that took over three hours...

Every year I go through the surprise and denial, surprise redux then depression, then iron-fisted determination and finally tear-stained, mercy-begging whimpering surrender of the summer season here- it's the Arizona version of the old reliable stages of grief.  Except, there's no "acceptance" at the end, not for me.  Just crying and the sad-sack admission of defeat.  And I've been through it 34 times, so it seems stupid to be surprised-

Except that's one of the stages.  So I guess I should just get on with it. 

Summer hit a little late this year, and when it started to get hot in June it did startle me, bc I was lulled into believing that life could go on being pleasant, as can be imagined in winter here.  It can get seriously nice, 40s and 50s and 60s without a cloud in the sky, nary a natural disaster to raise your heart rate while friends are shovelling their driveways just for the priviledge of getting to work.  I do feel lucky, then.  Then 100* happens and I'm surprised, but not thrown- denial happens pretty fast the first time around.  This year I kept finding myself outside thinking, "wow, it's June, and while it's what I would call "hot", I could run for a while in this and be okay." And I would.  And a bunch of times I checked my thermometer after these little present-moments and found it was 100*!  Elated!  I must finally be acclimating like my mother always says I will!

NO.  It's the denial.

I am fine! I am awesome! I can run forever! I-  wha?!

I got some good training in during June, but the lack of humidity coupled with it being the easiest part of marathon training- *the beginning*- led to some denial-related unrealistic expectations.  So as the humidity of July crept northward, I started to slow down, overheat, generally struggle...and not have any idea what was going on. 

If I had, like, lived here all my life, I might have recognized that this is a normal part of the progression, but noooo- and even when I do realize this is a factor, it doesn't seem to matter.  How can a little humidity be SO BAD when the rest of the country has it so much higher-??  I never have an answer for this question.  Surprise, the redux.

Over the last couple of weeks, some hard runs got the best of me.  Being that I'm already one of the slowest (*cough* by far, shut up *cough*), it's hard not to notice when something drags me back even farther...and while I acknowledge I made several mistakes in one of my ill-fated runs there were enough others where I was just dragging ass that it's started to feel like a pattern.  Welcome to depression.  Irrational?  Probably.  Is it still enough to convince me I'm screwed and everything is fucked?  Yeah, it totally is.

That happens here all the time. You get used to it.

And, just like with the stages of grief, the process is messy and I vascillate into and out of stages, making progress and regress by turns.  After last weekend's also-dismal long run, where I actually called nT and made him talk to me as I lumbered through my eleventh mile, I rallied and ran a six-mile hill workout on the treadmill *two days later*, even though my schedule called for five.  (I was thinking five apart from the warm up/cool down. Doh.) And even though I'd already sworn off running outside after two weeks of miserable long runs, I whipped out my iron-fisted determination for a recovery run in the park at 6am last week.  

but- what if I'm already outside?

That's one of my favorite quotes from this week, though it doesn't really up the ante on running here in the summer.

So, after another huge struggle of a treadmill run yesterday where I once again fell short of my mileage and a bit of an anxiety attack fretting about it all day, I emailed my coach.  Basically, I said "I totally suck and I'm pretty sure I can't do any of this and if you're some kind of wizard now would be the time to work your magic bc otherwise I'm so screwed.  Also, thanks."

Super luckily, my coach *is* a wizard, and she said all the right things:

Hi Tara,
Much of the challenge you are experiencing may be due to building miles during the hottest and most humid time of the year. Much like altitude, running in hot, humid weather is a lot more demanding on the body, especially when you are a beginner and building miles for a marathon. You have to work harder to cool yourself, and often you'll notice heavier breathing and a higher heart rate, even at your normal running pace. Worse, in humid weather, sweat doesn't evaporate efficiently and your body really struggles to cool itself.
Be aware that hot workouts take more out of you physically and require more recovery time. It sounds like you are not recovering between runs.
But you will acclimate given time. The easiest way to train is to run by your effort (how you feel and your breathing) and use your watch as a secondary source of information. In other words, when you head for your next run, instead of running at your normal pace, run at the effort that feels like your normal pace. It will be much slower, but you'll get in a solid workout.
Goal is to run at a pace that keeps your core temperature from overheating. You may have to walk/run and that is JUST FINE!!
Please don’t stress about this. Each person adjusts and adapts differently. We will make as many adjustments as needed to get the training just right for you!! Keep your attitude positive. Please do not worry about what doesn’t work for you. Let’s put effort into what WILL work for you!!!
·         For the next 4 weeks, run each workout by time, not miles.
·         Take the miles on your schedule and x by 10 minutes and that is the amount of time you need to run that day. Run at a talk pace, EVEN if you need to walk/run!!
·         For example. This Saturday we are running 12 miles. You need to run/walk 120 minutes or 2 hours. Run out one hour and back.
·         This will make it easier to schedule workouts in each week and it is easier mentally.

Take a deep breath, remind yourself that you can do anything and that you are willing to be flexible and let’s carry on!!!

Relieved.  I mean, I'd have to say I sort of knew this already, but having someone else be the voice of reason was exactly what I needed.  Plus, having her blessing to downgrade and knowing I can still be on track for November = insanely necessary.  Now all I have to do is nut up and keep the faith.  And resist the urge to freak out or break myself against August.  Arizona, you win.  I give.  Uncle!!

"Hot AGAIN, Phoenix you bastard?!  I DON'T LIKE HOT!!  And I'm wearing a SWEATER! A fucking sweeaaterrhuhhuhhurrrarrrgghhhh whyyy...."
And, if I'm still here next year, maybe yall can remind me what I'm in for when I start in with the surprise all over again.


  1. Omg, this totally made me laugh, despite knowing that you are in genuine freak out mode. Hey, of you don't want me to laugh at your expense, don't be funny, just sayin.

    We all could learn from Susan. She's like the best cheerleader ever. Maybe one of those little hand held battery operated fans will help. Something to think about...

  2. making fun of it is the only way to get through freaking out. otherwise i take it all wayyy seriously and that just gets scary.

    she totally is a great cheerleader. sometimes it just stuns me and i'm like, i can do nothing but follow mutely in the wake of your total positivity and hope some of it gets on me!

    don't think i didn't think about those disneyland fans!! i already bought a clip-on one for the treadmill, i hope it makes things a lot better- at least reduces the amount of time i'm on the phone, complaining to the front desk so they turn the air up more more more!