"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.
Aid Station: Eugene Curnow
2 days ago