"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hey, hey, my, my

"It's better to burn out than fade away." - Neil Young, "Into the Black"

When I started to detail my running exploits of the year, I stated that I was going to intentionally push myself to the breaking point. Mission accomplished. Now I can go back and explain just how one can have decades of experience and still miss the warning signs.

One of the classic signs of burnout is injury. You get a little ache, ignore it and it gets worse until you can't ignore it and have to quit. In my case, I blew out an ankle in an accident, so it wasn't an overuse injury and I didn't think of it in those terms. Then I hurt my hip in a fall; again, it didn't seem to be overuse. The question to ask is: why did I fall? I was so tired I stopped paying attention and my reflexes were gone.

Another sign is apathy. When I quit at Voyageur, I just didn't care. I looked for signs of apathy during training, but didn't see it. What happened was that the challenge (and fright) of overcoming injuries was a challenge that kept me interested. When I knew I could race, the interest was gone.

Depression and irritability rule in burnout. Some people think I'm always a bit moody, but I should've noticed the changes earlier. There were enough things going wrong in my life, that I ascribed my bad moods to things other than running. [By the way, I decided not to complain about what I saw as bad behavior at races when I realized that everything bothered me. It was my own fault.]

Tiredness, fatigue, sluggishness, feeling of dead legs, sleeplessness, appetite change... I ignored all of these. Heavy training's supposed to be exhausting, right?!

Turning a corner

It was great running with Matt and the rest out at Afton on Friday night. The first lap, Matt was asking a lot of deep psychological questions, but by the second we were back to quoting Simpson's episodes and all was fine in the world (by the way, my all-time favorite joke from the Simpson was when they were buying a pool, the sign read "Pool Sharks - Where the customer is our chum.") There's always so many laughs out in the woods, even if they're at my expense. When I advised Helen to rest her sore foot, there was a short silence as everyone thought "Wow, where'd THAT come from?" and we all laughed that it must be serious, if I would rest.

Rest is good. I'm doing a lot of it now.

Sunday, I went out to Battle Creek to run on the trails. The thing is: I wanted to run. I hadn't felt that happy expectation for a while. So what if I'm slow and can't run very long? I'm enjoying it. I found a blackberry patch and ate berries until I thought I'd pop (at least a quart, maybe two).

Later that night, I played with a stranger's dog. Life is good. I think I'm coming back to where I'm supposed to be. Thanks to all who've put up with me while I've been extra cranky.


keith said...

very good to hear you're on the mend and have your good temperment back.

it'll be nice to feel sharp once you are back in the swing of training again.

johnmaas said...

It sounds like you have rediscovered your positive attitude.
Stay with it.
The body/legs will follow your attitude.
Stay strong,

Steve said...

Steve, we not only need to listen to out bodies, but our minds as well. Ultramarathon training takes a lot of time and can be just as tough on your mental health as well as our physical. I too have often gotten wrapped up in training and forgotten to take time and enjoy life. Enjoy your 'time off' and learn to love running again. Sounds like you're already on the right path. Get healthy for Superior!!