Friday, August 22, 2008

The Anchor and The Moth

Are one in the same.
I am always the moth but lately, this week, I am also the anchor.

And this isn't some obscure attempt at metaphor. I mean it literally. I am a weight that sinks.

To be sure, I am not an anchor in the sense that "holds it all together" but rather one that holds things back, weighs things down. Specifically, one that sinks swiftly to the bottom of a lake and gets stuck in some logs or some of that mysterious bottom of the lake creepy debris.

This always happens and I've known it was coming. I've been on a streak of good training pretty much since my disastrous last marathon in the spring. Training that for the most part has been pain free.

And yes, I admit that mostly that is due to the fact that I was running around 40-45 mpw instead of 50-60 mpw. My body rewarded me with things like being able to get out of bed in the morning and walk-- just like everyone else-- down the stairs; forward, not sideways and gripping the railing for support. A railing, it should be noted, that needs to be screwed a little tighter on the wall after enduring my weight for the past 3 years I've been running marathons. It is just a disaster waiting to happen. Ryan, get on that for me. You know, when you get back from the beach.

And I have responded to my body feeling good by doing what I always do: piling on the miles, little recovery, getting lazy about stretching, not going to yoga, not icing the calves, not being vigilant about ice baths, drinking too many post run celebratory beers or wine instead of re-hydrating with water, forgetting to eat enough-- you know all the same stuff I did last year that led to the most miserable winter training ever and calf injury that still haunts me.

It is doubtful that I am going to change. Like a moth to a flame I am committed to doing the same thing over and over again. I know that doesn't make me sound too smart but what can I say? I like to train. I don't like to rest and do all that good for your body crap. So I don't.

And because of that I will probably continue to have days like I did Wednesday.

Wednesday was the day where I was the anchor. I held people back, I struggled and let myself down. It was humbling and now has me quite worried about this upcoming half ironman.

So worried that I had a nightmare about the race last night. I dreamed that it was race day and I was setting up. Steph wouldn't set up next to me and told me to go to this other rack. I was surrounded by what looked like really out of shape old men. It was then that I realized I had forgotten all my nutrition. I didn't even have water. I told Steph about it. In real life Steph goes on every ride with enough Gu and electrolytes for 4 people. But in my dream she had nothing to share. She couldn't even spare a single Gu. The guy next to me on the rack though had an extra Gu and offered it to me. I ate it right there. Then I went off to scrounge for more food, water and Gatorade. While one my search the race started.

I gave up my search and ran to the water's edge. The last wave had just gone out. I dove in the water which started out as a pool but then changed to a lake. A very dark lake. I was trying to pass people but I couldn't. So I started to do the butterfly. I butterflied over all the swimmers and finished the race in my goal time.

One guy, after the swim, tried to get me disqualified argueing that doing the butterfly in a triathlon was "illegal".

I raced around transition trying to find my bike but it was gone. And then I woke up.

This dream is the direct result of a conversation I had had yesterday with Steph. She pretty much told me my planned 600 calories for the HIM was ridiculously low. She thinks I need close to 2000. I just don't know I am going to consume that much. Clearly, my subconscious is very worried about.

And as I mentioned the dream is also related to Wednesday's disastrous ride. I met Steph and Doug and also called Neal to join us for a ride through Roswell. Steph said brick. I said yay, though said I would be very slow since I was certain my legs would be tired from my hard 21 mile run the day before. Steph said that was fine since her speed is slow.


We all met and I was thinking we were going to ride 30 miles top and run 3 or 4 miles. I figured this was doable since a few weeks ago the day after running 21 miles I rode 43 miles in Roswell. Wasn't fast and wasn't easy but I hung.

But Steph said she had to work, unlike the rest of us schmucks, on Thursday. She wanted to ride 40 and run 6 miles. I figured well, okay. Why not.

Well, let me tell you why not. Because the day/night before even though I took an ice bath I did not eat very much and I drink maybe a little too much wine and not nearly enough water. Anyone who has every run 21 miles in 85 degree heat will tell you that water? Might be a good idea. But I figure if Jesus turned water into the wine then wine must be better for you than water.

This is not so my friends. Not so at all. At least not after a long run.

The ride was hard for me the whole time but I did have this period where I was feeling strong and I wanted to mix it up. So we rode some extra hills and as it turned out, extra miles.

I began to pay for my exuberance dearly when we got down by the river--the easy part of the ride. Steph and I got stuck on a turn by some traffic and the guys got ahead of us. I knew I wasn't going to catch them but figured Steph and I would hang together. But then Steph blew past me. Let's go Natalie!!! She yelled.

I was DYING of thirst and was just sucking on my water bottle and trying to catch her. I also realized at this point that we probably still had an hour or so to go. I decided to go ahead and have the ONE gel I brought. My plan though-- yeah, I did have one, not a good one but I had one--had been just the Gatorade and water I brought. I don't know why I thought that would be enough for a 40 mile ride and 3 mile ride but that is what I thought.

I felt defeated having that gel and anyone who has ever done any endurance stuff knows that once the wheels come off it is almost impossible to put them back on. Too little too late.

I had my gel and sucked down the water. And hoped for some magic to happen. Steph wasn't that far ahead of me and I saw where she met up with the guys. Luckily they got stuck at the light and it changed right as I got there and we all went through it together.

I thought, whew back with the group! I am good.

But then they dropped the hammer and apparently it hit me on my foot because I looked up and they were way, way ahead. I pedaled pedaled pedaled and my quads hated hated hated me. Then my calves started saying knot knot knot.
Who's there? I asked.
Cramp, biyatch.
Garmin said I was doing 21 mph in my desperate attempt to catch back up to the group and get in the good graces of the draft but the cramps in my calves said back off or get locked out.

I backed it down and figured I was on my own. But nicely they had waited for me before we did the climb up Eves Rd. Gotta admit. I kinda wish they had dropped me.

Neal, took pity on me and blew smoke up my ass about how strong I was and how much improvement I'd made and how he liked my pace better than Doug's pace. I told him I was much more comfortable with the ridicule most people dish out to me. His kindness made me feel he was being facetious. People, I explained, just aren't that nice to me. And then I went on the complain how hard the bike was for me. Neal is a nice guy and I appreciate his encouragement very much but yeah, I know I suck. Eventually, maybe, I will get better. If not? Well, I'll just keep running.

So I made it through the ride by the grace of Neal's tire. Draft draft draft and I don't mean beer. I wish though.

I will say by the last 5 miles everyone was pretty beaten down. It was a head tucked, no talking ride by the end. We ended with 47 miles at a 16.5 mph pace. Neal bailed out on the run. Steph was still maintaining her 6 miles and I was in for 3. Doug was just quiet but came along.

It was probably close to 90 degrees as it was well after noon. The first mile came off terrible as usual. I was burdened by tummy cramps. They came and went. Steph was behind me the whole way yelling "Too fast! Slow down! 10 minute miles!" And I would try but I just can't nail that pace. So I would forge ahead and then be halted by the cramps and chills that often accompany such tummy distress. Then they would disappear and I would run on, pass Steph and Doug again. Rinse, repeat, run on. Finally I was in the last mile and knew the faster I ran the sooner I was done and could have some water. This little 5k run that took me 28 minutes felt infinitely worse than any single point during my 21 mile run the day before that I ran almost a minute faster per mile. And yes, it does make me feel a tiny bit better than both Steph and Doug called it done at the 5k too.

The rest of the day I was a total waste of a human being. I even made the kids do their homework with me on the couch. And it was only after they called me lazy did I get up and fold a little laundry, clean a bathroom, make some dinner and then resume my horizontal position on the couch. I can't recall ever feeling that wiped out after any race or any training day. Just ridiculous.

However, while laying prone on the couch I planned my next day's workout. A 10 mile run. Easy pace, no watch, I thought. But 10 miles? I could do that everyday.

Apparently not though.

I woke up not wanting to run, bike or swim. I think when they dropped the hammer down at the river I dropped my mojo. All I wanted to do was just wanted to lay on the couch. But I hate sloth. It eats me up inside. I hate not sticking to my plans.

I talked myself down to just 6 easy miles. The 6 easy miles then became just a walk. A walk, I said. It will be okay. Everybody needs an easy day. You don't have to run 50 miles this week if you don't want to. It'll be okay.

So I went for a walk and it was nice out. Little warm but less humid and there was breeze. The effects of Hurricane Fay I guess.

So I rallied and headed out for a 6 mile run. But then I started to feel pretty okay and turned off on my 10 mile route. Then I realized I was a bit thirsty at 4 miles. Still dehydrated I guess.

So I stopped and had some water at Walgreens. The air conditioning? Awesome. The water? Cold and refreshing. I couldn't get enough of it. And this was water fountain water. When is that ever good? Again, very dehydrated.

I stepped outside of Walgreens and was immediately overwhelmed by the desire to not run. But I had to get home. Again, I tired to rally with just 6 miles. No. And I turned on heel and headed back the 4 miles I had just run.

At least this will be easier I thought-- it being mostly 4 miles down hill. Yet some how I found myself walking. I was dying for a glass of orange juice. Orange juice was all I could think of. What is this walking about I asked myself? You can't walk down a hill.Who does that?
Nothing hurts, so there is no reason not to run. Run.
But if you run you can lay back on the couch and drink your orange juice sooner than if you just walk.
So I ran home. But I didn't like it.

And yesterday, while I laid on the couch and drank my orange juice, I thought tomorrow I will just run 6 miles and swim 2000 yds. Just put the distance in, don't worry about the pace. Saturday will be your big training day.

Today I woke up feeling much better. But I bailed on my swim. Just couldn't do it. I did run though. 7 miles on the Leita Trail. The weather was just too pleasant to pass up a day of running. And I have been less slothlike today so I have a tiny bit of optimism for tomorrow's 50 mile bike 6 mile run brick. And hopefully I wont have to be the anchor tomorrow. But yes, I will still be the moth to the flame. I am always the moth.


  1. You are not the anchor! You were tired from Tuesday's run and didn't bring enough fuel. Those are both fixable problems.

    Notice that Doug was sucking it at the end of the bike ride too and I wasn't much better. I could have run 3 more miles but only post-potty break, if you know what I mean.

    I'll post about the calories - promise me that you will read it. Fueling is not admitting defeat - it's about making sure you have enough to get the job done. Even the pros do it.

  2. hmmm-Are you a Luna moth? oh- I think I've got it! YOU'RE A LUNA TIC. much love, Lala

  3. I thought everyone in their mid 30s walked down the stairs sideways. Is this not so?

  4. Oh man. I know you don't feel like it, Nat, but you are a rock star. Seriously. 21 miles the day before? It is 75% nutrition and I need to listen to my own advice after bonking my run today. You are going to be fine at South Carolina - you can't fumble through it without a true nutrition plan.

  5. Thank you for sharing this beautifully written post. I know it was tough for you - especially having to live through the experience - but, selfishly, it just really helps me to know that even an amazing runner like yourself has bad days and you get through them. Between my work schedule, fear and laziness, I've found that I am desperate to somehow work my way out of a 25 mile/week - but your post reminds me that I need to take my time in doing so, lest this happen to me:

    "my calves started saying knot knot knot.
    Who's there? I asked.
    Cramp, biyatch."