musings on running, life, and everything in between

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When you fall out of love

With running


The usual

It’s been a long hiatus. And to be honest, I’m not sure how often I’ll keep this updated either. It’s tenuous lately. My resurgence of interest in running and such. And the school year is starting, which for some parents is glorious, but for me means the startup of my regular work calendar again. So…here’s a stab.

The last couple of months have been rough. I’ve been pretty straightforward about my ongoing struggle with depression, but it reached a pretty bad low point a few months ago. I think what further compounded it was the fact that I felt like I was doing every possible thing I could to deal with it, but it wasn’t enough. It feels unfair that I have to be doing so much more to stay afloat or feel “normal” (whatever that is) than the average person. Is it a chemical imbalance, family trauma, psychic wounds, blah blah blah? I don’t know. But I cringe every time someone asks me if I exercise or sleep enough or whatever, because I want to scream, “All of it, I do all of it!”

And actually, the last couple of months, even the running has fallen by the wayside. Yes, I’ve been trying to get myself to grind out at least a run or two a week. I had been hating even that minimal amount, though, and was mostly doing it to stave off the creeping weight. I eat ALOT, and mostly run to eat. When you’re not marathon training, it begins to catch up with you. And while it really is probably just 3-5 pounds, it was enough to make me feel worse physically and emotionally. And I realize that nothing was giving me pleasure. I wasn’t interested in anything. Maybe sleep. More B horror movies. Escape. Not life, not my kids, not my writing. Definitely not my running. Nothing that required me to engage.

So I’m trying some new meds and starting to feel better. I’ve even begun ramping back up my running. I’m actually watching the Olympics track and field events. Hitting double digit long runs. Thinking about races. But it’s still a struggle. The new meds make me tired, so early runs have been difficult. I’ve had to play around with dosage and timing to figure out what doesn’t make me feel like I need a 3 hour nap at 10:30 am or that I’m treading mud at 3 pm. Which means running alone and in the awful heat and humidity. I’ll say that running while playing Pokemon Go has helped motivate and distract me (and give me excuses for stopping).

I’m not 100% sure if I’ll stick with these meds or need to get back on that merry-go-round, but for the first time, I’m being pretty open about my struggles with folks. Even the fact that I know a couple of my students read this blog, and I’m talking about this is something. My less-than-perfect behavior has probably been most indicative of my struggles. I’ve had alot of impatience, crankiness, and general snarl near and far. My ability to have any emotional reserve in response to life has been about nil. I’m sane and grounded enough to know (mostly) when I need to make amends for that behavior, but it’s still not fun. It would be better if I just didn’t do it to begin with. And I’m still leaning towards isolation. My general belief of, “If I don’t interact with people, then I won’t have to act out and apologize later” isn’t really a great one.

On the road back from this cycle of depression, I’d realized that I had slowly been socially isolating myself. Other than kid-oriented activities or running with friends, I was engaging in almost no social activities. A friend took me out for dinner in the city, and I realized it had been literal years since I had done that. Years. How did that happen?

So I’m not saying I’m cured, but I felt the impulse to write today. So that’s something. But one could say it’s something for any of us to show up in life today and engage. To do what you can. To try your best. Even watching the Olympics, I thought about all the athletes at the back of the pack. The ones with no chance to win a medal. How do they motivate themselves? How do they push to keep going? How do any of us? But we do. Onwards and upwards friends.


Back in time for cold weather running

So…it’s been awhile. Within that time, I finished another turn around the sun and wrestled through a bout of depression. It was a more serious and longer run of depression, but I’ve gotten a bunch of tools to work through it and good people around me. And I’m back. Here’s what I’ve been up to.

I celebrated a birthday on Friday the 13th. It was a 3-cake birthday 🙂 Mr. Sometimes Runner was out of town for a training on teaching sex ed to kids in our church (yeah, we’re Unitarians, that’s what we do) so I was flying solo for the weekend with the kids. Fortunately, my awesome friends stepped up and we did a small, fun little celebration with multiple cakes (including a flourless one because my friend knew I was trying to cut wheat, an ice cream cake I brought, and a homemade mix cake), awesome Indian take out, and good conversation. I realized how lucky I am to have such good friends.

Running wasn’t very much fun the last couple of weeks. Everything felt heavy and slow and hard. It was a chore just to convince myself to get outside, and I couldn’t have sprinted if a wild bear had chased me. But I finally had a good run last week. The great weather helped for sure. It was balmy and perfect running weather in the low 50’s. I wasn’t able to do my long run Saturday since I was solo with the kids, but I got to go Monday morning. I ended up running 11 miles–something I wasn’t originally planning on, but it was so good I kept going. I have to say it was a relief to break the bad mojo after so long, so this picture from the run is pretty symbolic of that feeling.

I’ve actually been using a therapeutic light box in hopes of combatting the depression in a variety of ways. I think it’s been helping, but being out in natural light is good too!

I was also in Minneapolis this past weekend for the National Council for Teachers of English conference, so I got to escape the drudgery of the everyday for a short while. I stayed downtown and did a 10 miler along the Mississippi. I got to see this awesome old ruin (called Mill Ruins Park–I think it was part of an old flour mill? I say that because there was a repurposed condo right there that was a former Gold Medal Flour factory and a Pillsbury Flour factory across the river) right by the riverfront. It reminded me of the ruins that you’ll find smack in the middle of Rome, modern alongside ancient. This is obviously not quite that ancient, but it was still pretty cool to see.

It was cold, like 18 degrees (“real feel” of 10 degrees), and I was barely dressed warmly enough. This is me crossing the Mississippi. No filter! Rosy cheeks thanks to the blistering wind.   

I got to run the University of Minnesota campus, and it reminded me so much of Illinois’. Ironically, they were playing each other that day (which explained the random mascot on a flat truck that passed me, and the tailgaters). Graduating (for my PhD) from an urban school and working at a much smaller regional university, I haven’t been on a Big 10-type campus in a while. I realized I miss the big old building, campus flyers plastering kiosks, and downtown campus cafes.

I was bummed that a big chunk of trail that ran alongside the river was closed. I liked this shot, though, of the spiraling frozen water dripping alongside the banks of the river. I ran into an old acquaintance who lives in Minneapolis now, and she said you have to be an outdoors person to live there. I have to say that the wilderness-y aspect of even downtown was nice. I had a rough idea of my route, but I did have to do some clambering over trees and such when some trails/paths were closed. It was fun to just get out there, though.

The conference, itself, was fun. I saw some academic friends I only get to see at conferences, and I haven’t laughed so hard or acted so silly in a long time. It was really liberating to be so goofy (and childless!). I got to sleep in my own bed, with no little bodies screaming at me for something (like to look at them while they are crammed next to me in bed), or screeching demands for piggy back rides. I ate, slept, read, and talked like a real. live. adult. AH-MAZING.

The hotel I stayed at (a Hilton) did not have a “B” or “LL” button for the lower level. It was marked “-1.” I found it odd. 

I did find it ironic that I came back from Minneapolis, a city that has so much cold there are above-ground skyway systems so you don’t have to go outside, which had gotten no snow to Chicago, a city that had gotten 4-7 inches (and was just as cold).

Finally, just when I thought I was free of Boston for a bit, Jen, Patty, and I have decided to go with the free training plan offered by the BAA, which started LAST WEEK. It’s a 22 week training plan, which seems insane to us. But we also feel a bit driftless without a plan to follow, so there’s that…

Have you been to Minneapolis and seen the Mill Ruins?

Ever seen an elevator with -1?

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When you’re feeling burnt out, crispy, and wondering what this whole “running” thing is about after all

I know…it’s been ages. I’m still alive. Perhaps barely, at least in the running sense.

Before I did Ragnar Great Rivers, I had gone in to see my doctor about my constant fatigue and growing depression. I wanted to check my iron, ferritin, vitamin D, and thyroid. They ended up turning out all ok, but an article about “overtraining” had come across my Facebook feed that same day. After seeing it a couple of times, I decided to click on it. Bingo.

I had avoided clicking on it previously because it had seemed frivolous and silly to think it could possibly apply to me. Yes, I was marathon training, but I was hardly an elite, and I was doing the LOWEST Advanced Marathoning training plan. It seemed pompous of me to think I could possibly qualify for that term. However, this training fatigue/depression seemed different than before. You are almost always granted at least a short point in a training cycle where you hate it, wonder if it’s worth it, and get bitter/angry/etc. At one point, I posted this sign in my office:


It’s part of training, especially when you’re peaking, that you’re tired, hungry, and stressed (trying to get everything done and all your mileage in).

This was different. Almost every run was vaguely dreaded. I had trouble hitting any of my time goals in my speedwork. I was chronically exhausted. Not just tired, but bone-deep, soul-crushingly exhausted. I felt like I had no emotional reserves to deal with anything. I was on edge. My legs felt heavy and not quite recovered in between runs. Not every run was horrible, but I wasn’t walking away from very many runs feeling fantastic. Maybe not ANY runs. And my husband, who is incredibly supportive of my running, uttered the words, “Maybe you shouldn’t run so much” because I was complaining constantly. He immediately backpedaled when I turned my death stare on him, but he did encourage me to think about whether I NEEDED to continue in the manner I was.

Reading that random article and some further Googling, I found a few things that confirmed I indeed might be over-training, some that said only elites could over-train, and a host of various remedies. Mostly involving rest–but again, ranging from a few days to a few MONTH. Others involved massive changes in diet, sleep, and activity. In short, the jury is out. In fact, that is part of the reason I took so long to write this article. I wanted to read as much as I could and provide a pithy Reader’s Digest version of all I found.

It became too much, though. There’s not enough known, and not alot of this is really familiar to traditional general doctors. And while some articles recommended testing for things like cortisol levels, others provided a short mood/attitude check-in.

My own primary care doctor seemed to think it a possibility, but also indicated little familiarity with it. She did point out that the last couple of years, I had started coming in around the same time (June/July) complaining of fatigue. In one case, my ferritin levels were on the low end of normal, and I’ve been taking iron supplements since then. Talking it over, I think it is a matter of 1) crashing from the frantic pace of the school year and 2) ramping up of marathon training. THIS school year was particularly difficult, and my training has definitely been much more intense, so it would make sense that this cycle would be harder. Talking to Bill, my running coach from last fall, he pointed out that I basically haven’t stopped since last fall. I ran 3 marathons last fall, 1 this spring, 2 Ragnar’s, and have 2 marathons slated for this fall. I think if I were not chasing a time on those, I would actually be ok. However, I think my near-constant speed training since last summer and the intensity of the training this cycle in particularly has really pushed me to the edge.

I’ve done enough self-care work and know enough about mental and physical burn-out that I did a few things immediately.

  1. I talked about how I was feeling and reached out to friends about what was going on.
  2. I took two back-to-back days off from running and have cut down my mileage a bit.
  3. I’m trying to be much more protective of my sleep time. My Fitibit is actually really helpful for point out how much ACTUAL sleep time I am getting versus time in bed. In other words, I need to be in the bed for LONGER than the amount of time for which I need sleep.
  4. I re-evaluated my running goals and how I felt about running. I did a self-check if I’m addicted (I don’t think I am. I’ve cut down runs and don’t feel compelled to run everyday, etc. And I LONG for this training cycle to be done). And I’m trying to make peace with whatever happens at Geneva. Whatever the outcome, I’m going to take some time from “chasing the unicorn.” The pressure of running for time and training so hard has taken all the fun out of running for me. I enjoy training, but this is a different beast. It feels way more individual and I miss the camaraderie of running with whoever shows up and not who can keep pace.
  5. I’ve been good about keeping up with the massage therapy sessions, not so good on keeping up with the yoga, cross-training, and stretching. I am TIGHT, and Bill told me that will contribute alot to a sense of fatigue.

So, my friends, Got 14 tempo-ish miles for the long run. Wish me luck. T minus 14 days…or 13, depending on how you’re counting.