Monday, May 18, 2015

Inconsistency 2015: Anxiety, Stress, Change and Stubborness Amongst the Miles

So the title of this post is a bit long winded much like this might be....strap yourself in as we delve into the mind of a thickheaded numb-skull. (If you haven't guessed, who that last part refers to, it is this guy. :::points to self despite you not being able to see it:::)

Since Umstead I have not written here with the exception of one entry that I have since deleted. It served its personal purpose but I felt it was not appropriate for sharing. Some of the same themes will be mentioned here so you will not have missed anything.

If you have been following my escapades this year, you know it has been a completely mixed back of results and training. Prior to Umstead, I had a second place at Phunt followed by a DNF at Batona followed by a month of bronchitis setting up a wonderful DNF at Black Canyon. I topped off that series with an epic 3rd place at Ugly Mudder losing in the last 100 meters because I lost some footing after having broke trail for the majority of the race. Not long after, I started righting the ship getting in weeks of good training and having some positive small local 5K results in the lead up to Umstead. 

Since Umstead, I've been running but doing it like a blockhead. Race wise, I've won two 10K's and the Mt Penn Mudfest 15K. However, the past two ultras have resulted in another pair of DNF's at Rock the Ridge and Dirty German Endurance Fest (both while being signed up for the 50M distance.) With Rock the Ridge, piriformis issues led to a drop at mile 23-ish. While feeling comfortable about the decision as a couple years back, I had to stop running for about a month as I pushed through a similar issue until I could not walk without a limp. Didn't want to go there this time. On the downside, it was a great course and for the most part of the day, the temps were perfect. I mention this because just yesterday at Dirty German, I dropped out after 34 miles. Primarily, the heat and my head did me in. DG is a 3 loop course run in Philadelphia's Pennypack Park. Most of the course is shaded which is a plus. However, with temps starting at 70 moving into the 80's with humidity near 100%, it made it a tough day. On my first lap, I did my best to run smoothly. I felt I was not overdoing it. I was even taking it easy on the short climbs by hiking them. However, really early into my second loop, I felt like I was redlining to keep any sort of pace. Going into such a spot so soon, mentally broke me with physically dismantled me...

For about two months now, my stress has been high due to things at work and home. Since the things are connected they have been compounding each other. Think of it as exponentially increasing stress. Factor in potential change and a tidalwave might as well hit. Each of us have our pluses and minuses. One of my minuses is reaction to change even small things like moved furniture and compounding stress. I've gotten better over the past 7 years with change. Stress is a different story. I am a compartmentalizer if you will. As a highly analytic person, I keep balance by placing each thing in tidy little boxes. Disruptions to the organization can be shocks to the system. Furthermore, being more introverted enhances the effects. It's self-analytical scrambling to put the pieces back. Now, this may make me sound rather frail. And in some ways when the weight becomes too much I am. But one of my positives is my capacity to endure. I do think that has to be a requirement to be an ultrarunner or any type of runner for that matter. 

Normally, the mere act of running would help reduce the stress. What makes this current stretch different is that my stress levels are the highest they have been since mid 2004. While running usually benefits, the timing, I believe has left me behind the eight-ball. The wise thing to have done after Umstead would be to take it easy on myself running. Yet, the presence of stress put me in a position that I needed to run. But the runs were not helping. All I would think about was the stress. Eventually, I would periodically experience some symptoms of anxiety during my runs in addition to 'daily-life'. 

This came to a head yesterday at Dirty German.....once I started having trouble, my inner-tyrant, took hold as I started to think about the non-running stressors. This brought me down enough mentally that it had a physical impact. Couple that with the heat and I was in trouble. What ended up happening was not pretty. I run my second lap at a pace 3 minutes slower per mile. I think it also was my worst 50K split. I began to worry about my ability to finish the race where I was mentally. As a result, I pulled the plug.

Now, the act of taking another DNF smarts too because it feeds a negativity the inner-tyrant can grab hold to. So right now, I have to resist the urge to cave to its whispering.

Upon arriving home from the venue, yesterday, I took a look at why I am having these results and it boils down to sheer stubborness. By putting my nose to the grindstone thinking running would magically make all of my stress manageable, I set myself up for failure. Or I should say a harsh lesson. As a result, I've come to a conclusion that right now, I need to adjust my running to alleviate stress. And that actually means reduce the running intensity at the moment. The biggest aspect of my schedule is knowing that I should not run Cayuga Trails 50 despite being signed up. (Viaduct is also possibly out.) It is a tough realization since I had to drop from injury last year. However, I do feel I could be on the border of Overtraining Syndrome if I keep going as how I have been. So my training for at least a few weeks is going to be next to nothing. Or simply when I feel like it will be enjoyable. This may mean small races or might mean no racing at all.

Take the step back to move forward.....

(And for the record, this entry is not about me making excuses but coming to a realization. I want to add that at the end of the day, I'm where I am in this because I made the decisions that led to this.)

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