Seeking balance, Part I

balance indicator

I went out today with the intention of running 16 miles, a one-mile increase from last weeks’ long run.

But I only made it 8.

I struggled to make it that far.  My heart rate went sky-high just to hold onto my normal long run pace.  I backed off.  And then I backed off some more.

Soon I was done.

The numerical data to back up my bonk is all on the books.  I haven’t run more than 40-something miles per week in two months.  I was asking my body to do more than it was prepared to handle.

I know I needed to take the last two months easy;  I needed to conserve some energy to build up again for Boston.  I knew that if I kept running 70 miles weeks during November and December that I would be injured and burned out around the time marathon training was set to begin.

So I backed way off of running, and instead found a bit of balance in my life.  Rather than chasing mileage, I organized my house, stayed on top of my paperwork, spent more quality time with my kids and attended more social events with MFP.

As a result, my life is in order.  But my fitness has suffered.

The Long Beach Marathon and its memories did a number on my confidence.  I put so much time and energy into training, missed out on fun times, let my housework and paperwork slide and generally made getting in miles the focus of my summer.

During the race, when I got a horrible cramp, and was unable to keep up the pace I had trained for, I became bitter.  I was angry that I had wasted so much time training, only to be let down by a mediocre performance.

I regretted all of those long runs in the heat, the mornings I jumped out of bed at 4:30 a.m. instead of getting eight hours of sleep, the long tempo runs on the treadmill that left me dehydrated and chafed.  Instead of working towards a goal, it seemed I  had stupidly signed myself up for summer of self-punishment.

Perhaps if race day had brought some sort of glory, anything, even a 2-second personal record, I might have been able to justify it.

But that didn’t happen.

I switched gears after that disastrous race and chased a 5K PR to renew my spirit.  I enjoyed running fast, and the change of pace, along with the less-demanding schedule, brought me back to my running roots.

Running 40 miles per week with a few speed sessions thrown in felt like a fit for my lifestyle.  I could still manage my daily life and have energy left over to socialize with friends.

MFP’s job loss, which happened around that time,  had a bit of a chilling effect on my running  as well.  I immediately examined my own daily habits, and how or if they somehow contributed to the demise of his job.  Obviously I wasn’t responsible for his company’s decision to reorganize, but feeling guilty somehow helped me to process it.

Now that he is working again, I am more conscious of how my running effects the rest of the family.

To be sure, when I don’t run at all, I am less energetic.  So becoming a couch potato is not a possible solution.

However, at this point, I am not sure I have the energy required to run high mileage and keep the rest of the balls in the air, all at once.

What I know for sure is that I will NOT be following some crazy training beginning on Christmas Eve, like so many other Boston marathoners will no doubt be doing.

I can’t.

I need to build my mileage back up slowly, and run well on the days when I have energy.  In other words, I cannot force myself to get in 12 miles if doing so makes everything fall apart around me.

Running marathons has taught me many life lessons already, but this seems to be the biggest one yet:  the need to find balance is imperative.

So, in order to become a decent marathoner and a decent person all at the same time, I am embarking on a journey to Boston that I hope will somehow result in feeling both sane and fit, all at the same time.

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