Martini Fridays: Incontinence and the taper

I am deep in the self-doubt and recriminations phase of my taper for May 3’s Pittsburgh Half Marathon. I’m also hot off AMR Retreat in Little Rock, which means that I’ve had five amazing days full of running, talking about running, and Action Wipe-ing after running, with a side order of not sleeping or hydrating nearly enough. To say that re-entry has been rough is an insult to rough things. I’m experiencing what I’ve had more than one psychiatrist refer to as “emotional incontinence,” which means I almost burst into tears when, say, the foil lid on my yogurt tears weirdly when I open it.


Good times in my neck of the woods. Good times.

Take that bit of information and put a pin in it. I’ll circle back around.

So the Retreat — I won’t talk too terribly much about it because it’ll make all y’all who couldn’t make it jealous. The Capital Hotel has an orchid in every room, including the bathroom, which tells you something about their commitment to fresh flowers. Coach Christine, Cassie Dimmick, Sage Rountree, and the Trigger Point chicas were informative and fun. There was so. much. good food, including an evening of locally sourced eats at Dunbar Gardens and a pizza and beer extravaganza that included a bratwurst bar. Yes, a bratwurst bar.

But, for me, it was all about the running. It’s actually spring in Arkansas, unlike in Upstate New York where we’re expecting snow again this week. Their trees have leaves on them. Their air is warm and damp and feels rich with life. And the paths! Paved and well-signed and scenic as all get-out.

Since I flew into town a couple of days early (and boy were my arms tired) to lend a hand, I was able to cross the Big Dam Bridge for the first time on Wednesday during a solo four-mile tempo run while SBS and Jonna ran zippily on ahead to scout water fountains and bathrooms. My easy three-miler two days later was with a bunch of Retreaters. About six different pace groups were hooked up with local “run-bassadors” for a scavenger hunt through the downtown area, including a lap around the Clinton Library and across its bridge. I was also an item on the hunt, which is yet another job description I can add to my resume.

Jonna and I at Mugs Cafe after our scouting run. Photo bomb by Ron Swanson's mustache.
Jonna and I at Mugs Cafe after our scouting run. Photo bomb by Ron Swanson's mustache.

Saturday’s run, which could be broken in to 3-, 6-, 9- or 12-mile segments depending on how long any given mother runner wanted to run, took us all up and over the Big Dam Bridge. According to my training schedule, I needed to run 11-13 miles. I split the difference and planned to do 12.

The first six were great. Slow, yes, but I knew going in that there weren’t any in my pace group who needed to do 12. I also had to make some on-the-fly changes to my route for reasons that are too silly to go into — but all of that made finding someone else to run with for some of it untenable. Still, the first six were great — especially when Dimity herself was at the six mile stop with a cooler of ice water, some Gu, and 6-feet-4-inches full of enthusiasm.

In the middle of the Big Dam Bridge. And, no, my thumbs aren't freakishly long. Weird camera angle. I hope.
In the middle of the Big Dam Bridge. And, no, my thumbs aren't freakishly long. Weird camera angle. I hope.

Mile seven is where the suck started.

I was the last runner by design. I knew I’d be out there for a loooong time and could sweep the path for any mother runner who’d fallen by the wayside. None did, thankfully. Despite how much I usually love running solo, I started to get lonely. And hot. And the humidity jumped about a 1000 percent. And I’d run out of water. Mile 8, just as I’d crossed the Big Dam Bridge, is when my brain decided to get involved.

Here’s the thing — I’m mostly comfortable with being a slow runner. I own it. For me, any mile that clocks under 12 minutes means I’m really hauling heinie. In the clear light of the April afternoon in which I’m writing this, I’m proud that I run at all. But, reader, these weren’t clear April light conditions.

I knew there was a little mother runner party at the end of the run and that someone would wait for me with a nice cold NUUN and a breakfast burrito. I was also completely convinced by mile 9 that every single other runner had come in and that I was making people wait for me. The idea that I was inconveniencing anyone felt like a 30 pound bag full of guilt strapped to my back. But by that point, picking up the pace wasn’t going to happen. Not even a little.

My brain was chock full of thoughts about how much I suck as runner.  Then I started mentally comparing myself to every  runner at the Retreat, all of whom are faster/thinner/stronger than me. They’ve never had such thoughts on a run — and I was having them because I’m such a Loser McLoserpants.

How I spent my post-long run afternoon. I love you, Pro Compression socks. I love you so much.
How I spent my post-long run afternoon. I love you, Pro Compression socks. I love you so much.

I don’t generally compare my body to other women, especially athletic other women whose strength and speed vibrates from beneath their skin, which includes each and every woman I’d been hanging out with. I know any of them would have backtracked to run with me had I had the sense to ask -- but when you’ve really got a good self-pity spiral going, it’s hard to derail it with reason.

I spent those last two miles — I only made it to mile 11 before giving up — fixated on my fat belly, flappy upper arms, and cottage cheesy thighs. It’s not a great headspace to be in, which I’m sure you already know. That outlook has lingered into my re-entry into my real life. When I look at pictures of myself from the weekend, all I can see are my imperfections, rather than the joy.

So, upside, I guess, is that I got the run done and have learned yet again to not be such a knucklehead about carrying enough water. In my delicate emotional state, which I’m hoping stabilizes after I catch up on sleep and paperwork, I’m not quite ready to stop beating myself up about my body, my pace, and my bona fides. This, too, will pass. My emotions will once again be continent, given enough time.


I’ll leave for Pittsburgh in a week. Nope, I haven’t even started to think about the race itself yet, other than a vague panic that hits when I look at a calendar.

I have, however, thought about the AMR meet-up, which will be Saturday, May 2, at the Bravo on McKnight Road at 5 p.m. Drop an email to [email protected] so that I can gauge how many swag bags to pack. Can't wait to meet the other mother runners of steel!

49 responses to “Martini Fridays: Incontinence and the taper

  1. Love reading your posts. I can relate as a very slow runner (what some people used to call “jogging”).
    Go get it tomorrow!

  2. I’m glad I got to meet you at the retreat – you’re just as funny and witty in person as in your posts. I absolutely would’ve gone back to run with you! Don’t beat yourself up about pace – you’ll rock Pittsburgh!

  3. AM-
    Cannot wait to finally meet you in person on Saturday with The Tribe. There will be a rowdy gang of us in purple shirts. We will be loud. You’ve been warned. And yes, I believe, our dear Miss Laura did RSVP for our 9 already.

    And, sister… A mile is a mile, no matter what pace. You just get it done and be proud of each step of your 13.1. Many shy away from the challenge. YOU ARE RUNNING IT! xoxo

  4. Finally made it here to say “I get it” and “I hope you’ve stopped this!” to see that you’re doing better. I cannot wait to hear about your Pittsburgh PR! Thank you for your honesty.

    Only notices the faster ones too,

  5. I just finished my first marathon and kept thinking how slow and big I was. I know I would have rocked it so much more if I could have kept things positive in my head and realized how awesome I was. It was only when my friend said to me after I finished ‘How do you feel?! The correct answer is- like a badass!!’ I was like ‘Hell yes!’

  6. Oh my gosh. The past couple of days got away from me and I just now had a chance to read all of the comments. You BAMRs are so amazing and supportive and wonderful! I can’t even capture with words how amazing and supportive and wonderful you all are.

    I seem to have pushed past my pity-party (for now because there always seems to be another that sneaks up on cat feet when I least expect it) and am deep into my eating-all-the-carbs-ever state of taper. Oh, carbs. You are awesome, too.

    A few of you I’ll see on Saturday evening for pasta and laughs. For those I won’t see, I will hold each and every comment close on Sunday morning on the streets of Pittsburgh. My one true goal is to finish before the guy in the pierogi suit who seems to run every year — and to remember the joy.

    Thank you all so much.

  7. Oh, right on! Maybe why I enjoy her posts so much– been reading her stuff for years without realizing, ha!

  8. Please know that right now, I love you as much as you love those compression socks. And now I also want a pair of those socks. I am a back of the pack runner and somehow I have gotten even slower this spring than I was last year. I didn’t know that was possible. I’m pretty excited when I hit a sub 14 minute mile lately. But, I also have to acknowledge that as a fat kid, I didn’t run at all. I didn’t start until about 2 years ago. Finishing my first half marathon last summer was a big life moment for me. I’m hoping to repeat this summer.

    I appreciate your honesty and willingness to put your vulnerability on display. It makes me realize that I need to give my rotten inner mean girl a kick in the shins when she starts in on me.

    Good luck in Pittsburgh!

  9. Cheryl, I think maybe you missed the purpose of this space. It’s not a place where we diminish someone’s concerns.

    FYI: Adrienne is an educator, a mother and an author (among with having once had the distinguished position of item on scavenger hunt). I’d say she knows how to handle herself just fine when “something really stressful might happen several times a day”.

  10. Adrienne – You’ve got to know that so many women look up to YOU and also look forward to your posts (and pictures). I see laughter, passion, and this-will-not-defeat-me-dammit in your face. Please know that. Dimity said in a recent AMR No Limits podcast that we should never say something to ourselves that we would not say to a friend. I tried this on my long run yesterday, it took some practice, but it did help…as does hydration and SUGAR (such an addict, I am). Good luck on 5/3. I’m looking forward to hearing about your success during a recap!

  11. I’m nodding my head as I read. My running buddy and I tend to keep the negatives away, when one of us is down the other will focus on our accomplishments. Most times we’re too busy yapping and laughing and the miles fly by. But when I’m running solo my inner self can be quite a harsh critic. My mantra to counteract this situation has become “comparison is the thief of joy”. Sometimes it works, sometimes I just feel sucky and move on …. but at least I’m moving! Good luck at your upcoming race, you will be awesome:)

  12. Loser McLoserpants! Good thing I wasn’t drinking anything when I read that. I hope you have silenced (or at least quieted) the voices of doubt by now. You are a rock star runner. We all are. Even we slower/fatter/weaker ones. Go enjoy Pittsburgh! I am tracking you and will shout for joy when you finish.

  13. I think the heat and humidity of LR Played a HUGE role in your 11 mile slogfest. You are awesome! What makes you awesome is you get out there and get it done. I have short, tree trunk legs and more back fat than I care to admit. But I’m awesome too, because i get out there and get it done in spite of the short legs and back fat. I can’t wait to meet you in Pittsburgh. P.S. it’s supposed to be hot there too. Ugh!

  14. I have to tell you the truth (It’s a character flaw): When I saw that very first photo – before I read the rest of the story – I thought how great you looked (and I’m more than a little jealous of your rack – I’m very flat, so that’s my envy some days). I am also running Pgh next weekend and my 12 miler last week was less-than-stellar. I’m trying to work out a way to meet at Bravo (I live an hour North), just so I can meet you. You are, truly, inspiring.

  15. You are awesome Adrienne! I would have loved to run with you but you’re probably too fast for my 13:50 long run pace and that’s pretty good for me. I always tell myself forward is a pace but even then it can be hard to shut down the negative voices. Be kind to yourself and remember how far you’ve come.

  16. Just so you know, I was miserable during that run, too. It was humid as hell, I had very little sleep and I walked the last mile. I probably should have quit at 7.

    However, you were one of the people I most looked forward to meeting and I am so glad I did, you are so clever, quick and funny, and you proved what it means be a BAMR, which to me isn’t about how fast you go, or how you look in your running shorts, but getting out there and doing it to take care of yourself. I haven’t figured out how to shut up those negative voices in my head yet, but I am getting better at telling them to f-off. Good luck in Pittsburg, you are going to do great!

  17. Every Friday I look forward to your inspiring words, your self-deprecating humor and your dedication to running. Please know just how talented you are, BAMR!!!!

  18. Ev. Ery. One has been there. Running is 80% mental. I too have a tall, thin, gazelle runner friend (sensing a theme) and could spend all my time lamenting how I’m not as tall, or thin, or fast. And I have. Finding the peace that comes with running is something I work on every time, and I’m getting there thanks to Ms. Gazelle. Thanks for keeping the humor alive!

  19. I am slow and blame myself for my weight gain. Fair blame. But the truth is I wasn’t so fast when I was thinner. And the last time I weighed this much I would never have run. So yay for slow and steady and whatever we look like today!

  20. I can totally relate about crashing after an amazing trip, I’ve been there.

    Mental demons are the worst, I am slower than slow, most times I’m good with finishing in the back with ‘my people.’ That being said, I do dip into self-pity, comparing myself to other runners frequently. It’s hard not to sometimes when I am so much bigger and taller than these tiny little girls who run twice as fast. I often tell friends to be nice to themselves, they wouldn’t say certain things to friends that they say to themselves. As always I need to take my own advice. I’m still not convinced we can banish these thoughts altogether, though, still trying.

    I will see you at the Pittsburgh meet up!

  21. Great. Now you made ME cry without a faulty yogurt lid.
    I can *so* relate to your thoughts. I am not a fast runner at all, and while I’m faster than some, it still really gets under my skin when I hear about another woman who runs her first half marathon and is sub-2. I would have to train for YEARS to be that fast.
    Two of my good friends are super thin. And fit. And, come to think of it, I’m not even sure why we’re friends.
    I jest.
    But it is hard when they’re talking about getting to their goal weight of 120 and I’m like, “I’m almost out of the 180s for the first time in a year!” o.O
    But…and you KNOW this…I am most content with myself when I only think about how much stronger (emotionally and physically) I am now than before I was a runner. About how, even though I have horrible veins (no, really…they’re BAD) on my legs (THANKS, KIDS) and how I’m so much slower than all my friends (and my gazelle husband), I thoroughly enjoy the thrill I get when running feels good.
    Anyway, I think you’re the bee’s knees. Or whatever that phrase is. I would have LOVED LOVED LOVED to have run the 12-miler with you. It killed me not to be in Little Rock or Boston that weekend. I had to stay off social media b/c it was not good for my jealous attitude.

  22. Well, I don’t care what you think about yourself. Because I think that you are awesome and amazing, a great writer, a great runner, beautiful inside and out, and so dang eloquent, that you can sum up all of us mother runners so beautifully! So quit talking bad about our friend!!!

  23. Martini Fridays make my week and I can’t wait to meet you at the Wineglass Half. All of my runs lately have made me feel like a fraud. Remember there are Coffee Crisps in your future as a reward for your ability to say what we all feel.

  24. I thought I was the only one who drowns in self doubt! I have a race next weekend (a half-marathon relay–my part is 7.35 miles) that I am going to royally fail because I haven’t run more than 4.5 miles since last summer and all I can think about is what I loser I am. I don’t know why we do this to ourselves! But I take heart knowing that I am not alone and I think that someday we’ll learn to not hate ourselves so much. I don’t know how that’s going to happen, but it will. Hang in there!

  25. Great job! By the way, this skinny-looks-like-a-runner-gal still has so many of those same negative thoughts. I have been actively researching positive mantras to write on myself. Or record them and play them on a continuous loop while I run, “You are strong, you are capable, people like you”…

  26. I think this is a definite sign of taper crazies…and I am experiencing them myself. I’m running my first marathon on May 10. I ran in to someone the other day who is running the same race and she asked me what my goal finish time is and then told me hers…which is nearly 1 hour faster than mine! Of course, since then all I can think about is how I’m too slow to run this many miles, too fat, too laughable, etc.

    Come race day we’ll both remember how badass we really are.

  27. You’re a great writer, very funny and honest. I could beat you in a belly flab completion any day, so don’t think you got that in the bag. Just sayin. Now is the time to PRACTICE possitive self talk (again and again). Think of that pesky cheerleader friend on your shoulder, but she has your voice. Go slay that race Adrienne.

  28. I love reading your posts and you are an inspiration to me. I am also a “last corral” kind of runner and am usually OK with it too. I can imagine all those lovely, thin, fast runners would cause me to compare myself too much too. One thing I’ve gotten from this group is that even though I’m slow and definitely do not have close to a runner’s body, I am a runner too and there are many, many like me. This is one of those rare places where I feel no one is judged and everyone belongs. You rock, Adrienne!

  29. I took years of piano lessons growing up. At the end of each year was the recital in which students would perform their pieces from memory. I was a terrible memorizer. My fingers could fly but that’s all I was relying on- muscle memory. In the middle of one of my pieces the memory quit. I had to have my music passed up to me so that I could finish. After the recital was over, I fled the music room. My teacher, a great tall man who had to fold himself up in order to fit under the keys was someone I never thought to actually care for my feelings, sought me out as I waited beside our car to go home. He told me that I shouldn’t run away from my performance, that many people wanted to congratulate me, that these things happen and that I still played well. I dismissed all the good for the singular bad. I should not be ashamed.

    I think we think fighting these thought-devils is wrong. That we shouldn’t be thinking them at all. That’s lying to ourself. Dwelling on them without solution of what we are going to do about is wrong. Give them their space; if not, it’s just going on muscle memory and that will fail (I eventually became a piano teacher!). What makes you a stronger, more insightful runner, one who can dig deeper when needed is not faster splits, but one who has answers because you worked through it during training.

    Thus endeth my sermon. (Mom always said I liked a good soapbox.)

  30. Thank you for your brutal honesty. I really enjoy reading your posts and those of many other contributors on this site. While I too am guilty of beating myself up, I have been making a concerted effort to be nicer. You are so right that when the pity party begins, it doesn’t end quickly. A long time ago a coach said something very wise…think about your self-talk. What would happen if you said the things you say to yourself to your best friend? I was 18 at the time and it was a wake up call.
    I hope that you can look back and think about the amazing accomplishment of the training run, the trip and look ahead to the upcoming race. At the end of the day, we all do this for ourselves and I think it is very easy to forget that. When you finish the half marathon, while there will be runners who finish before you, you will have run 13.1 and guess what? Many people across the country will still be sitting on their bums that morning.
    Good luck Adrienne!

  31. The retreat sounds so wonderful! I really hope I can make it to the next one.
    And if we’re both there, I will run with you without you even having to ask, Adrienne! Best wishes in Pgh! I’m hoping to be able to cheer a bit on the course, but I’ll miss out on the meet up because it’s my daughter’s communion. :/ Good luck!!

  32. Adrienne! I’m so mad. I’m the mother of a teen girl, a slower runner, so unhappy with my body image some days I just want to strangle the entire advertising sector of the English speaking world, one by one. It’s not you, it’s THEM! If we lived in a different era, we would be celebrated for anything close to the Rubenesque ideal. I’m a larger, slower runner with pugilistic tendencies toward self-image, but hearing you unhappy with yourself is just heartbreaking. I can identify, and it makes me mad that we are doing this to ourselves. My body is doing a great job at the age of 51, and if I were a cavewoman, with limited access to food, I would be the subject of many paintings as in, “look, she’s still alive even though we haven’t given her food for years”! Look how well I store nutrition! I’m like the world’s best human pantry! I hope you can work yourself out of this quickly, and I hope I can too. We have to help each other, and you just have, by sharing your feelings so openly that I feel as if I am right next to you. We are strong Mother Runners, all of us, and we are beautiful! Now go rock your run!!

  33. Why oh why do we say things to ourselves that we would NEVER say to anyone else? I’m working very hard to be as kind to myself as I would be to others. It’s not easy but the results are more enjoyable! So you’re not an elite, moves like the wind kind of runner, eh? Most of us aren’t. Those elite runners only get to enjoy the races for at most a couple of hours. We normal folk get hours and hours and hours of enjoyment on the course. Ha, poor them! They’re missing out! That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.
    I so enjoy your writing, particularly your word choice. Today’s favorite: emotional incontinence!

  34. It’s just a run. It’s just a half marathon. Where no one is going to care about 1.) your time 2.) what you look like.
    Glad you aren’t in any work position where something really stressful might happen several times a day! Get a grip please!

  35. I’m really glad I read this especially today as I sit here with puffy eyes and a heavy heart after overreacting to something a friend said and spending way to much time crying about it. I also am glad I read this because I started taper on Monday and since then pretty much all my runs have been painful and harder than they’ve been in months which then lead me to look at my body and my self and say doubtful and mean things which are very similar to your remarks. Firstly I’m glad I’m not the only one. Secondly I’m glad my coworkers love me despite being a puddle of emotional goo. Perfect saf for this particular article! Thank you and we will both succeed and run hard.

  36. Adienne, in the words of Cher in the movie Moonstruck, “Snap out of it!!!” I think we all have post retreat blues but I’m so glad I was there and I’m even happier that you were too. One of my running friends once said to me, unless you are an elite runner, everyone is faster than you. Speed is relative. Your slow is another persons fast. And I love your long thin legs, said the mother runner with the “freakishly short legs”. Even though I was totally done when we reached the park and I even stopped at mile 9.90 instead of making it an even 10, I would have come back and run with you had I known you wanted company. You are a beautiful BAMR!! Have fun in Pittsburg and give my friend Lisa a hug for me.

  37. I always look forward to your posts! There are so many of us out there that are not the super thin runner stereotype. It can be lonely and definitely shakes your confidence.

    Best of luck on your race! You’ll rock it!

  38. Your post really resonated with me. I am a mother runner that just completed my 7th half marathon with a PR of 2:40, an average pace of 12:17. I also own that I am slow. I have bouts of emotional incontinence (which now I have a name for it – thank you!). But what I really mirrored – unfortunately – was looking at the pictures of my 17 year old daughter and me in front of Cinderella’s castle during the recent Disney Princess Half and instead of remembering the joy of that experience, having feelings of disgust at looking at the size of my thighs in that sparkle skirt.
    Thank you so much for sharing your experience and helping me realize I am not alone!

  39. Adrienne! This makes my heart hurt. Spending time with you was one of my very favorite parts of the retreat. And no, I’m not just saying that! You are interesting and smart and funny and your strong legs are envy inspiring. I really wish I could have told you this in person, on the Big Dam Bridge and maybe interrupt the self-pity spiral. Because I’ve been there too and it sucks.

  40. ‘Emotional incontinence”, I love that term. The picture of the yogurt cup sums it up perfectly!

    Best of luck to you and all the mother runners at Pittsburgh.
    Next up, the Cooperstown BASE race???

  41. I love your posts. Your so darn honest-and ya know what? Who has thought they were a loser mcloserpants? Your posts make me feel normal. Good luck in Philly!

  42. You’ve no idea, actually yes you do know, how good it was to read that you are a slower runner. I am also excited if I see my pace drop below 12:00, especially on a long run. I’m also a thicker runner mother, but having never been an active child growing up I remind myself it’s a miracle I can get this body out there moving at all. It’s why I’ve adopted the motto “I’m a completer, not a competer.” for my races. 🙂

    Thank you so much for your posts. Today I needed to read something I could relate to with regards to my running abilities.

    Have a great weekend!

  43. We’ve all been in that headspace. It sucks. Just know you are not alone. I’m in taper right now for marathons on May 2 and May 3 and I had just as suck of a run last Friday. Ah, Virginia heat, thanks for showing up just in time for my last run.

    You got this. You are going to rock it. I can’t wait to read your race report. Have fun!

  44. Thank you so much. At 46 years of age, I am 2 weeks away for the first race of my life, I keep thinking they will close down the race before I finish. I am the 12 minute/mile jogger who is terrified of race day.

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