Just Do It.

I am a procrastinator.  Or, if you want to be even blunter about it: I’m lazy.  I love spending my weekends sleeping in, with moving from the bed to the couch (for TV watching or curling up with a great book) being the primary activity of the day.  Want to know the funny thing, though?  I also love to have a full schedule!  When I was in middle school and high school I participated in as many activities as I could (yearbook, softball, tennis, musicals, chorus, etc.).

By the time I got to college I was pretty burned out and focused myself on a handful of my favorite extracurriculars, but by senior year I was back to my old self, bouncing from class to my part-time research job to choir to RAing to Matt’s and back again.

My “sure, I can do it all!” mentality hit an all-time level of crazy while Matt and I were engaged.  Not only was I working full-time (40 hours a week, at least), I was finishing graduate school part-time, wedding planning and trying to lose a large amount of weight.  Then, I had the brilliant idea to train for a marathon on top of it all!

I came to my senses somewhat and decided to run a half-marathon instead, but it was still ridiculous on top of ridiculousness.  I was overworked, stressed all the time, and couldn’t give anything on my plate the attention it deserved.  My procrastination/laziness went into high gear, especially with my half-marathon training.  Long runs were the easiest things to put off: it was winter in New York, miserable weather for outdoor runs (my half-marathon was in Phoenix in January), and who can run 10 miles on a treadmill?  Not me.

So, I got to the start line of my first half-marathon with my wedding three months away (but almost fully planned, thankfully), my graduate degree finished, but only one or two 8-milers under my belt.  I started out strong, was having such a great time, then BONKED harder than anyone in history (at least it felt that way).  From miles 9-13, I was hoping I’d pass out, just so the ambulance could take me to the finish line instead of having to walk the rest of the way there.  It was awful.

*Side note: “bonking” is one of those weird running words, like “fartlek“, that sound much more pleasant than they are.   Actually, scratch that: fartlek doesn’t sound pleasant at all…*

At long last (3 hours and 24 minutes later), I crossed the finish line.  One of the wonderful race volunteers came over to me as I was catching my breath and put my finisher’s medal over my head, and it truly was one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life.  Despite my training setbacks and complete exhaustion, I felt like a real athlete that day.

I promised myself that I would train properly for my next long race (and lose a few more pounds) so I could cross the finish line feeling strong and proud, and that’s exactly what I did.

Or not.

My next half-marathon was eight months later in Virginia Beach, and even though the wedding was over, graduate school was over and I was closing in on my goal weight, I couldn’t find the time in my busy schedule of being lazy to get in some necessary long training runs.  This time, though, I had a secret weapon: a husband to cheer me on from mile 9 until the finish! 🙂  It was an amazing feeling to see his proud face in the crowd of spectators, but it unfortunately didn’t make running 13.1 miles in late August that much easier!  I still managed to shave a respectable 12 minutes off my time (that I attribute mostly to losing a few pounds between races) and earned the peanut butter cup Dairy Queen Blizzard that followed the race.

Just three short weeks after my decent showing at VA Beach, I ran my third half-marathon in Philly; I caught the racing bug BAD!  The combination of lovely fall weather, a very friendly downhill course and increased confidence after my last half made this my best race yet, and I broke through the 3 hour barrier.

Unfortunately, I think the barrier fell on me as I crossed the finish line, because I COULD. NOT. MOVE. a few minutes after I was done.  The hotel where I was staying with a few friends was about a mile and a half from the finish line, and it literally took me an hour to get back there.  Did I mention I took a cab most of the way?  Oh my, it was a mess.

Thankfully, a hot shower and a giant Gatorade made me feel a thousand times better, but I was hurting, again thanks to my lack of proper training for the distance.  But did I learn my lesson?

No!  Of course not!

I had one final half-marathon on my schedule for 2008: the Richmond Half in November.  For whatever reason, this race is sponsored by McDonald’s, and it remains the only race t-shirt I’ve ever thrown away.  I was down to my lowest weight ever in late September-early October, and really optimistic that I’d have another PR at Richmond.

Then, my birthday hit in mid-October and I had a meltdown, the first of many that fall/winter/spring.  I was unhappy at my job but didn’t know where I could go, and, on top of it all, had to spend my entire birthday alone.  The one co-worker I was really close with was out of the office that day, and Matt didn’t get home from work until after 9 or so.  I couldn’t stop thinking about all the frustrations in my life, and by the end of the day I was inconsolable.  That day was a turning point for me, but not in a good way at all.

After my miserable birthday I stopped working out for a few weeks, content to go straight home after work to hang out with the dog and eat snacks on the couch.  It didn’t help that it was the most stressful time of the year in my department; stress on top of stress on top of stress = lots of emotional eating.  When I got to the start line in Richmond a few weeks later, I was up 5 lbs. from Philly and not at all prepared for a half-marathon.

I told myself to take it easy and just walk the course, but my competitive side took over and I ran right from the start.  I could barely finish the first mile without stopping — it was pathetic!  The race just got more and more painful from that point on, and by mile 8 I felt worse than I did at the end of Philly (dehydrated and exhausted) and Phoenix (bonked beyond belief) combined.  I had to stop at a gas station, buy a granola bar with a sweat-soaked dollar bill, and ate it while laying on the grass on the side of the course.  Not my proudest moment.

I knew I couldn’t just quit — I’m way too stubborn for that — so I shuffled along as best as I could for the rest of the race, struggling mightily.  FINALLY, I crossed the finish line and was handed my medal.  With the freakin’ McDonald’s logo on it.  Ugh.  As it turns out, I finished this race only a few minutes slower than my first race in Phoenix; considering how horrible I felt the whole 3 hours and 30 minutes, I’d call that a victory!

So, what have I learned after all of this?  Well, for one, race training schedules are not just fancy pieces of paper with random numbers on them — they are incredibly important fancy pieces of paper with random numbers on them, and  you should follow what they have to say!  Your body — especially your legs, lungs and feet — will thank you for it in spades.  I’ve already got my 18-week marathon training schedule printed out, and I plan to follow it to the letter.  Or number, I guess.

There’s no place for procrastination when it comes to training for a long run.  You can’t do nothing for six weeks, then run 10 miles 5 days in a row and be properly prepared for a half-marathon.  The work has to be constant and consistent.

I was reminded of this today when I saw Kath’s post about regrets.  She mentioned that she’s never regretted a workout, and I completely agree.  Not only do you get an immediate benefit from exercising, but every mile you run, every class you take, and every minute of cardio you do builds a base of fitness that you carry with you always.

So what are you waiting for?  Don’t procrastinate or overthink it — get out there and run.  Just do it! 🙂

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One Response

  1. You forgot to mention that after the Richmond half you drove to Charlottesville to see ME!!

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