Friday, December 28, 2012

The importance of bad runs

The illusive "terrible run" is not as uncommon as I would like. Sunday was the epitome of a terrible terrible run. Sometime's I know what went wrong and sometime's I don't. In this case, I have no idea why everything broke down the way it did. Well, that may not be entirely true. I didn't fuel right. I had done runs like that before where I go out with less than I should have so that I train my body to run more efficiently on less and tap into my fat reserves sooner. Usually, I just bonk earlier, get though it and by the end I'm tired but nothing is actually painful.

Not the case on Sunday. My 27 mile run ended up being a 20 mile run, one mile shuffle, and a 6 mile hike/death march. It was an out and back course I set for myself and on the way back I came to a field and took a break. The day had started out very cold and windy and overcast. Just an overall grey day, perhaps that helped with my misery. By halfway through the run, the weather hadn't changed any except the clouds had dissipated. When I reached the field on my way back I didn't want to run anymore. I didn't want to walk anymore. I've had times where I've felt rough on runs but I'm not sure I have ever felt this bad. My feet felt like they were being beaten by mallets even if I walked. My legs wouldn't function at all in any sort of forward motion.

I just found a grassy spot away from any prickers and I lay down and stared at the clouds. It was warmer being level with the ground. I found solace from the wind among the tall grasses. I wasn't far from the trail but just looking up, I could have been anywhere. The sky was as blue as it had ever been and it reminded me of the bluebird days in Colorado right after a massive snow storm when everyone is in a good spirits and there's more than enough powder to go around. Staring up, even though wind is invisible, the effects of it are quite perceptible. Stray leaves danced around, following the drafts and truly riding the brisk breeze. I stared silently and so intently, I swore I could see the streams of air flowing. Planes littered the sky, largely due to my proximity to Dulles airport. And their contrails told stories of where they had been and the places they were going. It seemed like everything was moving quickly by air travel, the leaves, airplanes and stray objects of the woods. Except for me.

I was dry by this time. It had been awhile since I had stopped sweating. Though, I'm still not sure whether it was due to dehydration or the lack of quick moving. Probably a bit of both actually. After a little while, I'm not entirely sure how long, I decided I had had enough of everything flying around my motionless hollowed out corpse and I figured I should probably get up before I got too cold. As I got up, my imprint in the grass stayed like an inviting bed, and all comfort left me. The last miles were going to be hard. I knew that but I decided not to care about anything except making it back to the car. It was a classic run-turned-hike and I had come to the conclusion that I should just enjoy it as a hike instead of be disappointed that it wasn't a run.

My mentality changed everything. I had been discouraged because I was doing so horribly but once I didn't care, it was great. I was able to see parts of the Bull Run-Occoquan trail that I hadn't before or at least not in a long time. I realized that you can see parts of the trail that you can't in the summer from farther away. Hiking is also a very important part of long distance running. If you're in the mountains, sometimes the fastest "runner" out there is the one that can power-hike the fastest. It saves energy, and is often more efficient on the super steep stuff. Though there may not be anything on the Bull Run Trail that is close to the mountains, a little hiking practice never hurts.

The wind didn't ease up so I was still quite chilly because I was dressed to run but overall it turned into a beneficial day based solely on how I perceived what I was 'supposed to be doing' out there. Perception is what I took away from this not-quite-as-horrible-as-I-thought "run."

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