I’ve had one of those days.
It started with an early morning swim. If it is possible to swim 8 days a week that is what I am doing now. At first it wasn’t so bad. But string together a week of practices where the coach was consistently 5 minutes late and one day didn’t show up at all – that tends to put water in my ears. And then today for the 8th time this week we did the usual standard masters warm up; 400 swim, 300 pull, 200 kick. I think if I just jumped in the pool at the top of the hour my body would automatically know what to do. Just put a pull buoy and fins nearby.
The swim itself didn’t go so well. I had every intention of having a superstar swim. Really. I got up at 6 am. I ate oatmeal. I drank coffee. I deterred Boss from taking a dump in the house – these are good pre-swim karma things. But then I got girl cramps. And then the swim went slow. And then my lane mate pointed out that I was slow today.
Because there isn’t a giant clock in front of my face or anything.
The only thing that got me through was promise of bagel and coffee afterwards. Nevermind that I had both at home – I wanted them from the bagel shop. There is a difference. Found a great parking place. Got inside the bagel shop. And chaos exploded. There had to be roughly one million people who also coaxed themselves out of sleep, hangover, child-induced wake up call by promising a trip to the bagel shop.
I stood line for what felt like…forever. So long the guy in front of me called his wife – twice.
You want it toasted, right?
I wanted to slap him with his Blackberry. For no other reason than I was tired of waiting in this long line. And I wanted it toasted too. But just as I eyed his Blackberry when he pulled it out again – the woman behind me did something really dumb. She got to the front of the line. When the clerk asked what she wanted she said…
I don’t know.
I know - keep me from hitting you too. You did not stand in line for forever with at least 10 colored menu boards hanging large above your head with spotlights on them, stand there and arrive at the front of the line with not a clue. No. There should be a staff member assigned to take people like that and direct them to the back of the line to try again.
The line was filed with people like that. It took over 20 minutes. Boo hoo. But I got my damn bagel and coffee. Somewhere in the middle of 4000+ yards I dreamt about Vanilla Hazelnut coffee. Now it’s here. Filled my cup, left the shop, took a sip and….
It wasn’t right. If it’s possible for coffee to taste like smoking a cigarette under water, they captured it in this cup. Not that I’ve smoked underwater but you get the point. I went back to the store. I dumped the cup. I wasn’t in the mood for another risk so I selected the Celebration blend. Limited time only. With a name and guarantee like that, it was worth a try.
Back at home, I did some work. Fielded some athlete e-mails and calls. Someone had a salt tab crisis at a race expo, someone set a new 1 hour PR at an Olympic tri, someone DNF’ed, someone is getting squirrely during their taper, someone had girl cramps – you too? It must be going around.
That pulled me through a few hours then it was time to run. A run can improve any bad day – right. Right? The first 20 minutes and I knew I was in no such luck. It was 87 degrees. I was already sweating buckets. Zone 2 felt like Zone 10. And the Boy Scouts were having a camporjamboree on the only shaded part of the trail. I was stuck in the sun. Not only that but I was surrounded by grown men wearing Boy Scout shirts.
It was really creepy.
I wanted this run to go well. I wanted to feel smooth and good. But alas it kept getting worse. I wanted to barf. My left side started to cramp. My foot hurt. My head was so hot I had to stop every 10 minutes to stand in the shade. At 57 minutes into it, I burst into tears. I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t think of anything else to do.
In the quiet of the path, alarms, bells, whistles and buzzers went off in my head. Stop, slow down. First of all, coach warned that recovery was still taking place and you needed to keep an eye on yourself. Second of all, the last time you dug yourself in a hole it was because you kept pushing while ignoring cues like this. Third, you are not a failure if you stop this run.
Repeat: You are not a failure if you stop this run.
I thought about something I read recently in a book about Paula Radcliffe’s life. She said one of the challenges an elite athlete faces is listening to their body. Because for so long we have ignored its cues – we have pushed through pain, overridden the system of warning that something might go wrong. And the risk of stopping is at the cost of the voice in our heads saying “just get over your lazy self”. You are stuck in a struggle of – is it really my body or is just me being lazy? Am I slacking or is something truly wrong?
I have realized that tears are not normal. When you find yourself with no other way to cope with the workout than to cry – it is time to go home. Last time I found myself in this situation I kept pushing. I grabbed the shovel and each time I dug deeper and deeper in a hole. One bad workout a week would turn into two, three, four. I told myself that would never happen again. I would be smarter and wiser this time. So I decided to throw my shovel in the back of the car, go for Plan B and call this run done. And because of that I wasn’t any less of an athlete nor more of a failure.
I got back home; I was tired, thirsty, I needed a rest. I enjoy reading blogs and e-mails to relax. Turned on the computer and to my chagrin – the internet was down. In case you are wondering, even if you call Comcast once an hour for five hours it won’t make the internet come back on any sooner.
I have got to get out of this house. Leave it showered and clean to do something that does not involve a sport.
And then I thought of the cure = shoe shopping.
I went to REI. Someone should have warned the clerk. I am looking for shoes and have no shame in taking every one off the rack to try them on - which is pretty much what I did. The clerk was not happy. It became a game of are you done with those, do you want to see another shoe. Please shoe store clerk don’t get angry with me because I am asking you to do your…job.
I tried on over a dozen shoes. Then I found the perfect pair. I purchased them and left the store. Then I went back. I wanted another perfect pair.
You are back, the clerk said.
I’m afraid so. Get me those in a six and a half. Politely, now.
Next up to Whole Foods. It was time to find an iron supplement. My blood says so. Lucky for me there are about ten different types of iron –ates, -ites, and -ases none of which were the one I wanted. If I paid attention in chemistry I might know what all of those endings stood for. Instead I walked up and down the aisles talking to myself as I read labels on the supplements. I realized I am becoming that lady. The crazy lady that talks to herself in the store. Next up I will be checking my blood pressure in the pharmacy just to be sure I am still alive.
And I am. Alive that is. I went to the other store and I checked.
At home I ate dinner and crossed my fingers for internet. But alas it was still down. The woman at Comcast confirmed that for me. Again. So I read a magazine. Went upstairs to brush my teeth and the dump that Boss has been holding in all day – he dropped by the fireplace while I was gone. I stared at the hapless little turd and thought yes, yes finally someone has captured exactly how I have felt today.
I just had one of those days where nothing felt right – not my body nor my head. And I really couldn’t put my finger on why. I would blame girl cramps but that would be just so trite. I would blame the dog but that’s a given. I would blame husband but he was 150 miles away. I would blame the coach but it’s too new in our relationship to be that sassy. I would blame RR the last person to e-mail me but she’s on the happy blogging bandwagon so I won’t even get a snappy reply.
I would blame myself for not feeling like myself but that would be too obvious. You see, what I need is another Plan B. And so, I blame…coffee. Yes, I blame coffee today for not picking me up and making me feel good. I tried you twice today – before and after swimming – and you were not there. I blame you for not being a better friend. And if you’re not careful, I may just give you up. I don’t care if you call yourself a celebration blend.
But you know what coffee, today because I got new shoes I’m willing to let this one slide. Tomorrow is a new day and I’m willing to start our relationship anew. We’ll try again. I’ll be well rested but still in need of your perkiness to get me through my long ride. So what do you say?
And if that doesn’t work, I’m blaming the dog. Then again, I just looked at him. I could never blame anything that cute. I need a new Plan B. Hmm...how soon until husband gets home?