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.
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.
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.
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!