Monday, May 16, 2011

post-marathon malaise..

I wasn't going to post about this here, but I may as well stay honest about my training/running in my running blog, right?  And marathoning is a mental sport as much as it is a physical one, so I may as well share the downs as well as the ups.

That thing is happening again... that terrible post-race letdown that I got after the last marathon.  It doesn't happen like this with half marathons, weirdly.  But after the last full marathon I got really depressed, and I kind of forgot that happened, until I started feeling like that again today.  

Today was harder bc it's the first race recovery day I've spent alone, too.  Usually my friend Sam has a day off work or I have something to occupy myself.  Today all I did was lay on Sam's sofa watching dvr all day while he was at work (I came over here because I could tell this morning at my apartment that I was feeling depressy so I thought a new environment would be a good choice).  I have no energy and I just feel like laying around like a pathetic lump.  My body hurts and when I get up to do stuff I feel like I have no energy to even do simple stuff like make a bagel with PB or something.  Usually when I feel depressed I try to remedy it with a run, and guess what I can't do today?  Yeah.  

It's like there was all of this buildup and preparation and all of this training and a trip to Cleveland and everything else to get me to that single moment of running the race.  And now the race is over and I don't know what to do with myself.  There are lots of things that I need to do... even HAVE to do... but when I focus on those things they seem extra terrible and overwhelming and unpleasant.  It's like with the big running hole in my life now I can't cope with the other stuff that stresses me out.

Add to that the fact that I'm not super-happy with how the race went yesterday and well... yeah.  Earlier I felt like a complete failure, like a person who can't even set a goal and work toward it and achieve it successfully... which is a bit of an extreme overreaction to just not running the race I'd hoped, which was even due at least in part to weather conditions beyond my control.  I realize it's irrational and I ran a freaking marathon and I should feel better about it.  But feeling like a slug who just wants to lay on a couch isn't exactly helping those feelings go away either.
Mostly it's like a huge feeling of loss or vacancy or something.  Like... what now?  And do I really want to put all of this energy into training again and face failure again?  It took so much out of me.  This will be in the race report, but the first half of the race went so well... i passed the 5 hour pace group, I passed the 445 pace group, and built a decent little lead on them... I was on pace to finish in around 440.  Then when I got somewhere near mile 16 they caught up to me... I hung with them for as long as I could but I couldn't keep up when I was struggling so they moved off ahead, and I completely fell apart crying.  Really tough of me, eh?  So I'm running along crying (at least I kept running)... just feeling like I went through all of this training and stuff just to fail, all of this investment and I still just can't do it.  That moment of getting passed by 445 was basically the race-ruiner for me because I wasn't mentally tough enough to hold my shit together and keep running with a positive attitude.  I felt like giving up, and I'm not sure I pushed myself as hard as I could have for the next 3 miles or so.  I rallied at the end when the 5:00 pace group caught up to me because I was NOT going to let them pass me... for the final 3 miles I was running at a pace that felt far in excess of what I could handle, with them at my heels, just fighting and clawing to keep ahead of them so I could run a sub-5 race.   That was kind of a little mini-comeback and refusal to COMPLETELY fail... but I'm really pissed at myself for being so fragile and discouraged when 445 passed that I couldn't keep going as well for a few miles.  Between the crying and being so incredibly cold and wet from the rain and everything else, I just let myself get weak.  I still feel like I don't have a super-clear perspective on some of this, though.  Parts of the hard miles are a little foggy and blurred together as I reflect on them.  I felt TERRIBLE during miles 17-23 and I can't be sure ALL of it was mental and not hitting physical limitations too.  The two are just so tied together it's hard to separate them.

And during the race I was thinking about how I can't do races like this if it's going to give me more reasons to feel like a failure.  Running has always been a joy to me because it gives me something to feel good about even when the rest of life is unpredictable.  I don't want running to become a source of negativity.

I think I just spent a lot of energy yesterday, physically, mentally, and emotionally, so everything I'm feeling is just all confused.  I don't know.  

In any case, the marathon is over and I am exhausted and feeling vacant and empty like this thing I worked up to since January is now gone.  I forgot about how depressed I was after the last race... I think that time I was still on a marathon high for a few days before these mopey feelings set in, at least.  Recovery from Marathon #2 seems to have an accelerated timeline, both mentally and physically (since I'm not as sore or limping as much as I was last time).
It's still rainy and cold outside today/tonight and anytime I even contemplate the idea of going out there I can barely stand it.

Yes, there are new goals.  I'll probs be doing a half in just 3 weeks... I have mixed feelings because I don't think I'm at a point where I can run a sub-2:00 half yet so part of me is just kind of, what's the point.  But my half PR is 2:15 and I think I could solidly beat that now, maybe I could run a 2:07 or something.  I don't know.  I should be making new goals and focusing on them so I feel positive, but the lingering negative feelings from not performing how I wanted yesterday along with general tired malaise are making even that seem like too much to handle.
I'm done being whiny now (and if you think this is whiny, you should've seen the pathetic mess i was yesterday from miles 17-23ish...)

So yeah, delayed race report... working on it once I feel a bit less pathetic and mopey :\


  1. Wow, if one of the key points of therapy is getting it all out, you're well on your way to recovery. So, you're feeling sorry for yourself. You trained hard, you had high expectations that didn't work out, probably due to a combo of the weather and maybe going out a little too fast?

    Seriosly, give yourseld a day or two. Rest, fuel, recover, then pat yoursrlf on the back for a job well done in spite (italics there if I could) of bad weather and going out too fast. You're awesome. You will be back to do whatever you want to do. Really.

    PS it took me 5 marathons to get to where I wanted to be. I say that not to scare you, but to let you know it doesn't always come easy, but, if you want it enough, it is possible.

  2. How are you feeling now? So much of what you say is, I think, a normal response to completing an A race, and one that in its very nature pushes you to your mental and physical limits. In terms of whether you pushed to your limits, I guess that's why people race the same distances over and over again, to always be testing their limitations, and see whether they can get that little bit more out of themselves. That's why running is (or can be) a life-long endeavour I guess. Remember that you are still very low down on that learning curve, and can only make a limited amount of changes each time you train and race. So don't be overly hard on yourself for not running the perfect race. Instead, think about the things that you *did* get right this time, or improved on from last time. That's the deal when it comes to appreciating your success.

    Plus you ran it in awful conditions!

    As for whether you *do* want to carry on with this, I can definitely identify with the sentiment that setting demanding goals in your private life (in what should be fun time!) is just another way to put pressure on yourself, and potentially fail. I'm hoping that that feeling has since passed, as you've refuelled and slept a bit more. This is also a really stressful time of year in the academic calendar, which can't be helping. It might be worth considering only running autumn races in future, from that point of view?

    Anyway, I don't know if any of that is any help -- I just kinda let rip. But I really do hope you can feel proud of having gotten through that race at some point in the future, even if not now. It sounds like it was so tough on you, and the fact that you finished, under those conditions, *and* PRed, is something I really admire.