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Overcoming My Demons: 18 Miler - Geek Turned Athlete

Overcoming My Demons: 18 Miler

Today was extremely hard.  My ego and body are still recovering from the events of this morning.  Let me start from the beginning…

I woke up this morning absolutely exhausted.  I tossed and turned all night.  I think that I have anxiety about long runs for some reason.  I only thought about it once or twice, but I just couldn’t go to sleep.  I lied in my bed for 3 hours before I turned on my light and decided to read.  I was frustrated that I couldn’t get to sleep and read my book for another hour until I managed to drift off asleep.  That is until I woke up and hour before I was supposed to get up and just lied there again for an hour.  I watched my alarm go off, and I hobbled downstairs to the kitchen.  My legs are still sore from weight lifting two days AGO!

I decided to fuel my 18 miles with a bowl of oatmeal with 2 egg whites, a banana, and some peanut butter.  I sipped on some green tea in the hopes that it would wake me up and make me more peppy to hang out with people for the run.  It didn’t.  I sang in the car on the way to meet with a couple friends, and I felt more awake at that point.  I kept thinking to myself, this is going to be a good run.  This is going to be a good run. Little did I know what I was getting myself into…

Miles 1-4:  My legs were so stiff here.  I can’t believe it took almost 5 miles for them to warm up!  Renee and I chatted while Katie ran ahead of us.  Katie is a lot faster than both of us, and it was great to at least see her for a little bit of the run!  My breathing was labored even though we were running at a 9:30 pace.  It was a this point that I realized that I forgot to take a couple puffs of my inhaler.  I keep forgetting!  Dang it! (I don’t have asthma, but I’m still wheezing a little from my pneumonia.)

Miles 5-7: I finally found my rhythm on the trails.  Renee ran right in front of me, and I just focused on her calves guiding me over the uneven sheets of ice.  One foot in front of the other.  Practically dancing.  If the rest of the run feels like this, I am golden!

Miles 8-9: My right foot decided to go numb.  It wasn’t from the cold.  I think it just went to sleep.  I wiggled my toes vigorously to try to get the blood moving.  It didn’t work.  Oh well.  I don’t need toes, do I? Keep running, keep running!

Miles 10-12: The ice was bad here.  I tried to find my rhythm again, but it was very sporadic as I was jumping over large pieces of ice.  Our pace slowed considerably because of it.  I was still taking in my nutrition, and felt a little tired, but I just kept telling myself that we only had less than an hour left.  I could do an hour.  My breathing was still more labored than usual, but no problem.  Katie stopped running here at 12 miles, and our friend, Leah, met up with us on the run.  Only 6 more miles.

Mile 13: Renee and Leah moved in front of me.  I looked down at my Garmin, and I was running a 9:30-9:45 pace.  They were running much faster than this.  They slowly started to pull away, and I let them do their thing.  My body couldn’t move any faster even if I wanted it to.  How am I supposed to run an 8:45 pace for Paris if I can’t even maintain a 9:30?  What is wrong with me?  Don’t think about that.  Just run! The ice that we had encountered at the very beginning of our run was starting to melt and the path turned into mud.

Miles 14-15: I could see the girls up in the distance talking.  I was alone.  This was fine with me because I never want to be the one to slow anyone down.  I looked down at my watch, and I was running a 10 min/mile pace.  Sad.  I tried to pick it up, but I couldn’t.  I said, “Come ON!” out loud.  I was alone anyway so nobody could hear me talking to myself.  I started grunting like the creepy men in the weight room that I was talking about earlier this week.  This is when my demons came out. You are never going to finish this.  What were you thinking training for a marathon?  You are too slow.  You can’t do this.  Look how far up they are compared to you.  You are never going to catch them.  They are probably talking about how slow you are. Then, Break the Chain by Fleetwood Mac came on my ipod.  I got angry.  I was ANGRY that I was so slow.  I was ANGRY that I got pneumonia and had to miss 2 weeks of training.  I was ANGRY that my feet hurt.  I was ANGRY that my legs were aching and were not listening to my commands.  I was just ANGRY.  Tears started streaming down my cheeks.  I looked down at my garmin one last time and realized that I was sprinting and crying at the same time.  SHUT THE F*&K UP!!!!!!!!!!  I CAN do this!

Mile 16: I turned around with the girls and almost started crying again, but they said it wasn’t allowed.  They are great supportive friends.  I’m so glad that I have them in my life.  I commented on how much my feet hurt, and Leah said not to think about that.  My feet feel great!  My big toes don’t feel like they are going to fall off at all! Yes, I was trying reverse psychology on myself.  It didn’t work, but at least I didn’t feel hopeless anymore.

Mile 17: Still in the mud.  I started pulling on all the things that I tell my students in spin class.  Accept the suck!  Accept the pain, and move on!  Once you accept that it is going to hurt, just work through it!  Don’t fight it.  Use it.  Hammer this out, Nicole!  You can do this!  Your mind will give out before your body does. None of them worked, but at least it kept my mind off of how bad my feet were hurting.  I have no idea how fast I was going.  I was sick of looking at my garmin, it mocking me with it’s slow times!

Mile 18: This was all uphill.  Renee likes to sprint the last mile, and usually I do too, but I just let her go.  Leah stayed behind to cheer me on.  I’m guessing I did not look well.  I started trying to talk to her.  “So.  Gasp. How.  Gasp.  Are.  Gasp.  You?”  She retorted, “Stop talking!  Conserve your energy!”  Okay.  Good thinking.  Almost there.  Almost there.  I just want to walk.  It would feel so good to walk for just a little while.  You are not walking!  Focus!  One, two.  One, two. Your mind will give out before your body does…

We finally made it, and I started crying again.  The girls gave me a huge hug, and Renee started laughing at me.  I started laughing at myself.  I have no idea why I was so emotional today.  I’m not on my period (sorry for the honesty, but we all know that could have been a factor 🙂 ).  All I know is that I struggled a lot today.  I read a quote once that said that (paraphrased since I can’t remember exactly) it’s not your good training days that define you as an athlete.  It is the days where you have to struggle to overcome those demons that define you.  I believe it now or at least I hope that is the case (if it isn’t, I’m screwed!).  I fought with myself today, and the positive side won out…barely.  I hope I remember that when it comes to race day.  When I hit my wall at whatever mile, I’m going to think back to today and how much I wanted to give up, and know for sure that I am strong enough to work through the pain and finish what I started.

The Aftermath:

Mud!  The only day I don’t wear my trail shoes, this happens!DSC06017


Compression sleeves to the rescue!  I swear, I have shorts on.  I just have abnormally long legs for how short I am!DSC06022

Have you ever worked your way through something you didn’t think you were going to finish?  Happy Running!

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Tasha - The Clean Eating Mama February 20, 2010, 5:25 pm

    Oh hun – I am so proud that you made it the entire 18 miles! Running is the greatest things but sometimes it really brings the worst and best out of us. I have never even ran close to 18 miles but I know after a long distance running is more mental training than physical. I think that’s why I enjoy it so much – not only do I get a great physical workout I can work on my mental strength. You are such a stud!
    PS – I left you some love on my blog! 😉 Have a wonderful weekend!

  • Natalie February 20, 2010, 6:53 pm

    I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!!! good job woman, i knew how badly you wanted to conquer this! AND YOU DID IT! congrats again, drink some good wine tonight and get some rest. way to kick ass. 😀

  • Sarah (Running to Slow Things Down) February 20, 2010, 7:38 pm

    Great job on that run, girl! 18 miles is intense and gives good reason to be emotional, in my opinion. 😀

    I’ve had a couple long runs that I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it through. I kept repeating “Define Yourself” and pushed mind over matter (way harder then it sounds, I’m realizing 😉 ).

  • Heather (Where's the Beach) February 20, 2010, 7:44 pm

    Girl you rock! I’m so impressed. I don’t really consider myself a runner at all because I just can never see myself running like that. My max has been about 6 miles and I was DONE. I’ve never had that runner’s high. Yep, I’ve had to push myself before – during a race. I kept arguing with myself about whether or not I’d make it or if I was going to have to walk. Sometimes you gotta kick your own butt though and just get it done.

  • Allison (Eat Clean Live Green) February 20, 2010, 8:22 pm

    You inspire me 🙂

    Congratulations on the 18 miles!!

  • Abby February 20, 2010, 11:36 pm

    Great job on that run!!! I know it’s such a mental battle–not that i’ve run 18 miles before, but is still really hard! 🙂

  • 'Drea February 21, 2010, 2:06 am

    Way to hammer it out!

  • Tiffany February 21, 2010, 2:38 am

    Way to stick it out, hon! There’s nothing more self-determining than getting through something you deliberately and bluntly told yourself you wouldn’t get through. Long runs can definitely be a mind-f&%*; with the amount of time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears, it’s the mental toughness that gets you through it. Again, way to go! 🙂

  • pen February 21, 2010, 1:01 pm

    Great run! And, I love “accept the suck” what a great message! 🙂 I needed to tell myself that yesterday!

  • Leah @ Simply Fabulous February 21, 2010, 9:41 pm

    Hey girl, where do you get the compression socks?? The bottom of my legs are so swollen these days (by the end of the day) and I think they might actually help….do you use them because of water retention? Or??

    • Nicole February 21, 2010, 10:47 pm

      The brand that I use is zensah. I LOVE them! I use them to decrease recovery time (muscle soreness), and to help with blood circulation after long workout sessions. I want to buy some full pants from zoot, but they cost $150-175! These were $40, but they are worth it. Not sure what they would cost in pounds. They would definitely work for you to decrease the water retention!

  • LindsayRuns February 22, 2010, 3:29 am

    You pushed through, so proud of you! Long runs like that definitely bring out the demons we have. 🙂 Have a great week! You deserve it!

  • Samantha February 22, 2010, 3:52 am

    There are a lot of long runs I do that I don’t think I can finish, so instead I just think of tiny mile markers to finish the way. Such as if I have 3 miles left I think of it like, man this is only a 5k, that’s not much. For some reason just putting it in a different form helps me haha even if it’s the same distance.

    I also have the same purple zensah sleeves!! LOVE THEM! I really want to the yellow ones too haha

    • Nicole February 22, 2010, 7:58 am

      I was thinking the same thing! I was saying to myself, if I can just make it to the turn around at mile 15, then I will have 3 miles left! Ooh, the yellow ones!

  • healthy ashley February 22, 2010, 2:17 pm

    What a tough run! I love how you pushed through before the run and during every mile.

    I love your quote. Completely agree!!

  • Gelareh @ Nutritious Foodie February 22, 2010, 7:21 pm

    First off great job running 18 miles… wow
    I love your quote! You are right anyone can train for anything but it is does days that we have to battle our demans that are tuff.

  • Heather @ Get Healthy With Heather February 22, 2010, 11:21 pm

    18 miles is so impressive! Good job girl! Woo woo!

    That’s so amazing that you have great friends that help you and motivate you through your tough times. I just ran a 9.1 miler yesterday and had to walk a couple of times. After reading your post I wish I would have just pushed through it. Those 9.1 miles seemed so much harder than the 1/2 marathon a month ago… Hills kill

  • Andy M. February 23, 2010, 5:13 pm

    Great run! You are absolutely correct. These are the workouts and training sessions that will help mold your season as it goes along. I know my hardest workouts i completed before the Ironman was a full marathon and a full centry ride. During the marathon there were parts towards the end that I had to walk on and I questioned whether or not I would finish. On the century ride I was almost to the turn around point, but I knew that I would have to climb back up a mountain if i went all the way to the turn around. I did it… but if you were in my head at the time, you could see that I definately was not happy about it!! Muddy workouts are fun!

    • Nicole February 23, 2010, 9:33 pm

      Muddy workouts ARE fun! I just wish I was in the right frame of mind to enjoy it at the time! 😉 You are such a badass for doing an Ironman! I want to do one by 2012!

  • Nora@LiveLifeEatRight February 25, 2010, 8:08 pm

    I’ve seen a lot people wear compression sleeves…what are the benefits?


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