Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hitting The Wall

From Running Planet:

"The wall is a somewhat intimidating term that is commonly used to describe the devastating feelings of fatigue and sometimes confusion that can occur in the final miles of a marathon. The wall is hard to describe to a non runner. It’s something that you need to experience to really understand. Jerome Drayton, winner of the 81st Boston Marathon, said it best: “To describe the agony of a marathon to someone who’s never run it is like trying to explain color to someone who was born blind.”
I hit the wall this week.

Saturday, my SweatSister and I were up for doing a long run in our marathon training--20 Miles.

Last week, we did 18, and I was tired and sore afterwards, but it was a good run and by the end of the day, I was feeling good.

This week...not so much.  Originally, we had planned to have this week be a short recovery week with next week being the long run.  But my SweatSister's hubby was going to be out of town so on Thursday we decided to move the long run up a week to Saturday so we could run together.

I think I must have gotten a little over-confident after our good 18 miler, so I didn't mentally prepare for 20 miles.  And I didn't eat well.  Or drink well.  Or sleep well.

So pretty much I just assumed I could just hop out of bed and run 20 big deal.


The first 10 miles were fairly uneventful (except for the big dogs that wanted to chase us.)

I did okay for miles 11, 12, 13.

But by mile 14, I starting to feel pretty crummy.  Our pace started to slow...and slowed...and slowed till we trudged into our water stop at mile 15.

All confidence went out the window.  All desire to keep running was also out the window.  Negative thoughts crept in: Why the heck was I out running 20 miles in 100+ degrees in the South on a Saturday morning?!?  THIS IS CRAZY!!!

We limped along through miles 16 and 17.

One foot.  Other foot.  One foot.  Other foot.

At this point, I was not quite coherent and I honestly couldn't even think "left foot, right foot".  It was more like "move that thing that feels like lead and then move that other one."  My vision starting getting spotty and my hearing would come and go.

By mile 18, we did something I swore we wouldn't do.  We broke my number one long-distance running rule.

We walked.   (Oh the shame!!!)

And once that mental resolve was broken, we walked again.  And again.  And again.  Until we were running short spurts and walking longer distances.  In the end, we probably ended up walking a whole mile.  Ugh.

Side Note:  Any non-runners out there probably won't understand this perspective.  But to me, walking during a run is  a sign of weakness. A failure.  I can walk through water stations and of course take short breaks at designated stops, but to walk in between the predetermined distances just because I am feeling tired, is unacceptable. Please note that this is not a judgement on anyone else's exercise style or ability...there are lots of very good reasons for people to walk.  This is simply my personal standard for MYSELF.  Nothing more, nothing less.  For me, if I don't set this high of a standard for myself, I would walk ALL THE TIME and then never reach my goal of RUNNING a marathon.

It was miserable.  And disappointing.  And definitely put a damper on my enthusiasm for being able to run the 26.2 miles of our upcoming marathon.

We finally finished--stopping a little bit earlier than we usually do.  We were exhausted.  We were beaten.

We were humbled.

Lessons learned:
  • Dehydration is not fun.  Make sure to drink plenty of water the day before.  (Duh.  I KNOW this, but chose not to follow it.  Not the brightest decision of my life.)
  • Eat a good carbohydrate meal the night before.  Eating only a small ham sandwich on a white roll, 3 slices of cucumber, and a couple of pieces of broccoli at a party the night before a long run is a BAD, BAD idea.
  • Stay humble.  Remember that I'm not hot stuff.  Even though I've been training consistently, I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go.  Maintaining a healthy respect for the long runs will make me mentally prepare better for the long haul so that I don't break my no-walking rule.  It will also force me to make sure I take care of myself physically so that I don't literally collapse from exhaustion and dehydration.
Now that I know what it feels like to "hit the wall", I am determined to avoid it as much as possible.  In 3 weeks we have a 21-mile run that will hopefully go much, much better than the 20-miler.  Wish us luck!


Jenny said...

I'm sorry to hear that your 20 miler was such a let-down! I can totally relate to the not wanting to walk (I even felt guilty walking through water stations, but I am learning to "allow" myself that 'cause the hydration a huge part of keeping ya going during the race).

I hope that next time you will be more hydrated and carbo-loaded so you can have a better experience. Those are huge keys to feeling good, you are right. One thing that I found worked really well for me was the morning of my long runs I would drink a Kirkland (not sure if you have Costco nearby, but any mix like this would probably work) chocolate breakfast shake and then a banana and toast with peanut butter. The race I didn't eat the shake before was my worst yet. I'm sure everyone's different but something that worked for me.

have you read the nonrunner's marathon trainer? It has a lot of great hints and mental tips. following their plan for physical and mental training really helped me feel and be prepared for my marathon.

good luck!! let me know if you have more questions, I'm definitely no expert but I can relate to the the balancing mommyhood and marathon training realities, it can be kind of crazy but you are a strong, determined person so I have no doubts you will figure out how to do this! :)

Nicole said...

Sorry to hear that you hit the wall but it sounds like you are making good progress and are ready to make the necessary changes to do better next time. Good luck! You are awesome. I wish I could run. I tried, didn't make it far, and sprained my ankle...ON THE FIRST DAY! Glad to hear you are back to running; I know how much you like it.

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