If there is one thing I've learned from the past year I've spent working to shave 35 minutes off of my marathon time in an attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon, it's that there is no one way to describe the pain train.
In the beginning, it was totally shocking. I had NO IDEA that stepping that far outside of my comfort zone would be ridden with so much pain and doubt. But after months and months of hard work and thousands of teeny tiny wins, I learned how to make the conscious decision not to suffer (a feat in and of itself). The secret to getting faster and running stronger lays in your attitude. WHO KNEW!?!
And with time, along with my new physical strength, I discovered that I'd developed resilience and mental toughness as well. Instead of feeling terrified and intimidated about my goal and subsequent workouts, I started feeling confident and capable! Where I once approached everything with a, "There's no way in hell I can do this" attitude, I found myself saying, "I don't know if I can do this, but I'm excited to see what happens". I know, it sounds insane. Ludicrous. Impossible. Far fetched even!
Only, it's not.
Running down a goal requires time, patience, tenacity, and perseverance but if you keep fighting, you'll discover that those pre-defined limits you once placed on yourself were holding you back the entire time.
BUT HERE'S A CURVEBALL!
Even after you cross that "self confidence bridge" as Dr. Bob calls it, you'll still have to fight because there's about 100,000 bridges to go.
Introducing, panic bridge!
Today, I had a 4 mile progression run.
1 mile warm up. 1 mile at 8:00 minutes/mile. 2 miles at 7:40 minutes/mile. 1 mile at 7 minutes/mile. 1 mile cool down.
I wasn't panicked. Or scared. Just ready to bang it out with one of my favorite people to run with, Caitlyn. I asked Caitlyn if she wanted to run with me because I love to talk about life and the running industry with her and I knew I could chase her down if I fell apart.
And good thing she came because I totally fell apart.
The best way I can describe what happened during the last two miles of my progression is kind of like a small panic attack.
Now, I've experienced three serious panic attacks in my life and while what I experienced on my run wasn't an actual panic attack, that is exactly how it felt.
The first 3 miles were great and we were ahead of pace. We were having fun, chatting about life, laughing, and crushing our workout. Then, about halfway through the second 7 minute 40 second mile, I started to feel like I couldn't take in enough breath. Then I felt my vision narrow and my effort level went from 60% to 100%. I felt nauseous and started dry heaving.
Caitlyn, being the amazing partner in crime that she is, kept helping me along. Encouraging me every step of the way.
I wanted to tell her to go on without me so I could stop running and catch my breath, but I knew I wasn't actually having a panic attack, I was just having a bad two miles.
Honestly, it's hard to explain what happened because even though I was panicked and winded, I knew that if I could just focus on my breath and form, and on moving towards Caitlyn, the panic would recede. But one or two minutes later, the panick would return and the start again.
I remember last year when this mid run panic happened to me for the first time, I didn't know what was happening and it totally freaked me out. It was so much more than just pain and discomfort, it was an overwhelming sense of I can't breath, I can't do this, and something is seriously wrong. It was terrifying and overwhelming and it was the first time I found myself fighting the urge to quit and forget my goal to BQ.
I don't know what kept me going, but I remember Josh explaining to me that when it happens, I need to figure out how to stay calm because even though it feels like I'm going to die, I need to relax because I'm not going to die. (That sounds dramatic but mid run panic can feel really scary.)
And just a disclaimer, mid run panic isn't something I experience every time I have a hard workout. I've noticed that on the days when my stress level is particularly high, it sometimes creeps into my workout. Today was one of those days. It's not fun and it always turns an already difficult workout into an impossible one, regardless of how hard I try to push through it. BUT, pushing through it is always the best option.
On the one hand, I'm grateful that it happened because this was the first time I was able to really understand what was happening as it was happening; and trust that I could catch my breath and work through it, even though I knew that the panic wasn't going to end immediately. But on the other hand, I'm embarrassed that it happened in front of Caitlyn.
I don't think that anyone should ever feel ashamed to hold someone back, but honestly, I was totally embarrassed that I couldn't push through the workout and have it be picture perfect. I was embarrassed that I couldn't keep up and that I almost quit. BUT, that being said, I know that there's nothing to feel embarrassed about. All runners know what it's like to have a tough day. It's ok to feel embarrassed, it's just not ok to let your embarrassment hold you back from trying again. And had Caitlyn not have been there, I probably would have stopped.
#BadAssLady gang for life.
Today was a tough workout but hey, I fought through. And now I know that if something goes wrong during the London Marathon, I know I can work through mid run panic. So that's a win.
Not every day is going to be a perfect day. It's perfectly fine to feel a little disappointed in yourself or even embarrassed. It means you're human. Just brush yourself off, celebrate the win, and move on.
Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.