“So…Georgia Death Race is a week from tomorrow” I casually said to my husband before bed last night.
“Wait, really? Wow.” he replied, and then paused before continuing “So how are you feeling? You haven’t talked about it much. That’s not like you. At all.”
It’s true. I quite literally over-share about my life, specifically running, for a living. My rambling about my race goals keeps the lights on and food in the fridge over here.
The Georgia Death Race is without a doubt one of the biggest races I’ve ever planned to tackle. It’s a big freaking deal, from the fact that it’s a Western States Qualifier, to the fact that it’s been dubbed probably the toughest race on the East Coast. Hell I’ve even been asked to speak at the pre-race meeting in front of what I’m assuming is a crowd of 300 people (holy shit) on behalf of my ACS fundraising efforts. This thing is huge…and I’ve been unusually quiet about it.
To be 100% transparent about this one, I’m feeling a little laissez faire about the whole race. Which again, in the name of transparency, I freaking hate. I want to be excited. But here we are.
I’m no stranger to burnout. In all of my years as an endurance athlete (what are we going on, 14 years since my first half marathon?), I’ve faced this emotional affliction time and time again. But every single time: it was emotional. It was a lack of motivation from pushing myself too hard, too soon, or setting goals that were just too far out my reach at that given time. It was the kind of burnout that left me throwing my hands in the air and saying “I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS ANYMORE!” So I didn’t.
But in all 14 years as a runner, I’ve never dealt with physical burnout that did not coincide with the emotional stuff. This is a new experience for me, and I can sum up how I feel about it in one word: helpless.
I feel helpless.
My body decided that it was done training. And it shared that fact by displaying a number of signs that couldn’t be ignored. An increased heartrate with very low efforts, that I couldn’t keep under control. Inability to sleep. Very slow recovery. Rapid weight gain. Irritability (sorry, husband.). I was struggling to do pretty much everything in my life, from teaching group fitness classes to simply being a good mom and wife. My body was freaking pissed. So I tried to back down on intensity and volume…and it didn’t help. Things were getting worse. The educated part of my brain – the one that is always present for my clients, but rarely chimes in for my own training – spoke up, and I realized I had two choices:
- Rest. Show up to GDR undertrained, but hopefully feeling healthier.
- Keep pushing. Risk potential serious injury or health issues. Potentially don’t show up to GDR at all.
I’m not going to lie, for the first time in my life, my brain wanted option #2. My motivation and mental game has been on point this training cycle, which is likely what got me into this predicament in the first place. I really wanted to take the risk, I wanted to push through, I wanted to see if it would pay off….and then I almost passed out teaching spin class.
On two separate occasions.
(Sorry mom, I don’t meant to scare you, I’m OK I promise.)
So I stopped training. For two weeks I did nothing but the bare minimum I had to do in order to keep teaching my classes. For the record: it’s pretty easy to fake your way through a spin class if you know what you are doing. I paid close attention to other areas of my life: sleep, nutrition, hydration. I listened to my better judgement, for once in my life. And while mentally it was really hard to do…physically it felt really good. Hell, just today I feel like a different person than I was merely 3 weeks ago.
Today I ran 5.5 miles with my husband, and for the first time in MONTHS it felt good, dare I say, even easy. Which is such an incredible relief. Yet still, I realize that my body needs recovery. I’m ready to step back for a bit, to focus on my strength training and speed over long, brutal distances. I’m ready to maybe get back to a regular yoga practice, and to let my body continue to repair and rebuild itself.
But first…I’ve got to run the Georgia Death Race.
I hate to say it like that, because I’m actually honored to be able to run the GDR, especially as a charity runner for the American Cancer Society. It truly means the world to me. But I’m equal parts nervous/pissed/sad/terrified as well. I’m nervous that I’m not going to make the cutoffs, because my training went to shit. I’m pissed that I did this to myself, I should have known better. I’m sad that none of this went as planned, especially because this race had such a bigger meaning for me than simply being able to say I finished GDR. I wanted this one so bad. I’m terrified that course is going to chew me up and spit me out before I reach the finish line.
First world problems, I know.
But all I can do at this point is show up and give it my best, and hope that my current “best” is good enough to get me to the finish line. I’m reaching, HARD, for anything to quell my anxiety about this one. I take solace in a comment an experienced ultra coach that I respect made to someone else entirely, saying that he’s seen a number of ultra runners have a very successful race after they had to miss some of the last few weeks of training (though truthfully: I peaked about 5-6 weeks ago. It’s been more than “just a few” weeks missed. I find confidence in the fact that my husband, who is always brutally honest, reminds me that I’m a tough, experienced runner who has tackled some pretty gnarly courses in the past. I take comfort in knowing that my dad will be watching over me. And it’s certainly not lost on me the significant symbolism behind the fact that I (and all of the runners) are required to carry a railroad spike for the entirety of the race. Trains were my dad’s LIFE, kind of like running is mine.
So, incase you were wondering: that’s where I’m at with the Georgia Death Race. One week from today I’ll be showing off my mandatory gear, picking up my race bib, and praying to the race gods (or bargaining with the race devil, I haven’t decided yet).
I’ll tell you one thing for sure: I won’t fucking quit.
“Only when you accept that one day you’ll die can you let go, and make the best out of life. And that’s the big secret. That’s the miracle.” – Gabriel Ba