March 20, 2009

What is your breaking point?

Have you ever gotten too obsessed with a goal, to the point that you feel worthless unless that goal is met? Somehow, the past few years of running & training have led me to a point past hard work and dedication. K commented the other day about how "obsessed" I had gotten with this sub 3 thing. I was sort of hurt by it, until I started really thinking...

Two things happened this week that led me to realize that I have an unhealthy desire to break 3 hours. First, I got mad at something written on RWOL. This is something rare, as I do not usually care about people a) I've never met b) aren't professional runners, just a bunch of competitors giving each other advice. Something really, really struck a chord with me. It was comment on a thread called "What Does it Take to Run Sub3" or something like that. One poster indicated that if you had the desire and right training plan, there should be no reason why you couldn't run sub 3. Really? I mean, really? I think his actual words were "if you want it bad enough..." I don't know why it bothered me so much, but that one comment made me feel like such a loser. See what I mean? Obsessive negative inappropriate thinking?

For some reason, it made my blood pressure rise. I have yet to talk to, or meet, one runner that wants sub 3 more than me. I have friends that have broken 3 hours and it's like they don't even appreciate it! The reason they don't is b/c it is running, not a cure for cancer. They have a healthy approach to a hobby. I do not. I have a raw obsession that has gotten out of hand. I have honestly gotten to a point of rarely even enjoying running because all I can do is think about the time clock. All the while, I am racing slower, slower, and slower. Yesterday (at an obsessive 2:00 a.m) while I was running 3X5 @ 6:53, I literally got off the treadmill and cried. Yep, cried at 2:00 at the Courtyard Y. I was so, so frustrated with my lack of progress. Yet, contrary to what the poster said, I DID want it. I wanted it more than anything. It's not happening. Period. I am not sub 3 material yet. I'm not saying that I am quitting or anything crazy like that, but I am recognizing that I am not ready for a sub 3 race in St. Louis. I just need to come to terms with it and move on. My mind tells me that I have other good qualities besides running, but for some reason, I have placed my own self worth on some stupid time. Numbers, that's all they are.


  1. There is nothing wrong with you, you are not unhealthily obsessed. What you are is so close to that elusive sub3, you can taste it.

    About that thread, the poster who made that stupid comment about everyone being able to go sub3 is a guy. When I plug some numbers into my Daniel's spreadsheet (that has an excellent comparison section based on WAVA tables), if I plug a guy's 3:00 marathon in there (Open Class, mind you), it spits out a comparative 3:17 for an Open Class woman! So even if that guy was right (and he's not), you've already exceeded a man's 3:00 marathon!

    You are ON TRACK! Cry that you're not there yet, I'm sure I would too, but also know that you are far from washed up, lol, and you will get that goal.

  2. Look, you are going to break sub3 at some point, it is so hard to run a marathon when you think about. It is 26.2 miles and that is a lot further then the human body is designed to go. I have struggled a ton with this distance, but I keep trying; I have realized that in running sometimes you run well and sometimes you don't. Add the distance of the marathon the variables that come with it, and you have a tough task. I getting a little long winded typing this on the iPhone, but here is two thoughts:
    1. There are a ton of people pulling for you
    2. People say things on BBs that they would never say in person.

  3. I dont know who said that (though I have an idea) and you know what? They're wrong. Totally wrong. I could not in this LIFE TIME run sub 3 even if I wanted to. Nope. I mean, I've been busting my ass in a manner similar to you to hit a pedestrian 3:45.
    So no, you are not unhealthily obsessed. You have a goal and your sites set on it. Good for you. And when you hit it, I will be as happy for you as I am for myself when I hit 3:45.

  4. R, this is going to be a long one... I apologize ahead of time!

    It was the getting off the treadmill to cry thing that made me want to say something. I just want to share a few stories with you and I hope it helps to put things into perspective. None of these are meant to hurt your feelings. You know I care about you and I want you to feel happy!

    In the early fall, I think right after I started to feel "off" but before the injury really manifested itself, I was doing a long tempo run on the treadmill in my garage at 4:30 a.m. Nine miles. I was so mentally and physically drained that I had to take brief breaks every two miles, and then every mile, and then every 1K. Finally by mile 7, I stopped the treadmill, dropped to my knees on the floor of my garage and just sobbed, sobbed, sobbed like a heartbroken child. I think it was at that moment that I knew something was not right. Something was all wrong... and that my goals for the rest of the season were not going to come to fruition.

    After the 30K I ran in November where I hobbled the last 1/4 or 1/3 of the race, I finally realized that I needed to let my dreams go FOR THE TIME BEING. I went through a few days of sadness, crying on my husband's shoulders and lamenting to the gals I had trained with for last year's Boston. Finally one of them told me to get a grip. Literally. She said there were so many things I could be doing with myself right now instead of crying about not running. It hurt to hear her say that... but she was a former All-American 800 runner in college and now a very talented road racer, so for her to say that made me realize that to her I must have appeared obsessive to the point of forsaking other important things. She asked me, "How are your kids? How is your job? How is your husband?" Her comments shook me to the core, and it was after that when I refocused and was no longer sad about not running.

    I remind myself all the time that my life and running 'career' and aspirations are not over just because I suffered a set back... and just because I've gotten slower. There are many, many runners out there, professional and recreational, that take some time away from the hard training or running all together, and come back invigorated, stronger than ever! I have huge dreams in running, huge goals... but I've come to realize that dreaming about these things is the best part! My dreams for myself in this sport keep me 'in love' with it. Will I ever make my dreams reality? Who knows? I can't control the future, I can only control my outlook in the present. I'll run when I feel good, when I feel "on." I'll take a day off when I feel really "off." Allowing myself those little breaks has done wonders for my psyche.

    Last story, I promise! My old coach just started racing again after his two month layoff from running. He's slow right now, but he doesn't care. He was so depressed after his injury when he couldn't work let alone run, he said there were days when he just wanted it all to END. You know what I mean. He was done and ready to check out. His wife sensed this, God bless her, and she took some time off of work for fear of leaving him alone. She was just there to keep him company.

    He told that while she was home with him, he realized he had lost touch with all the other things that were important to him. He said, "For so, so long, for years and years it was all about my running and training. My wife always scheduled her life around MY running and training. And when I had no more running and training, I was lost. But then I woke up and asked my wife, 'What do YOU want to do? Where do YOU want to go? What can I do for YOU?'" And he said things have never been better in his life.

    He's slowly working his way back from that injury and being patient with his goals. He's spending more quality time with his wife and more flexible about the plans they make. And he's less stressed about his running these days. But he's still aiming to run in the OT again in 2012. He said he gained a lot from this down time and the brief depression that followed it. Anyway, he just ran that same 12K that I did and he managed a 5:16/mile pace which is just about :15-:20 slower than when he's in decent shape.

    Anyway, I'm so sorry I rambled... I hope I offered some kind of perspective. You are one of my running heroes, R... no matter what you do or don't do. You've got heart and you've got spirit! Don't you ever forget it!!!

  5. P.S. I'm with GIM, Preston and Dog Lb... I KNOW you'll get that sub-3, and then some! Give it time, be patient, have faith. It will happen!

  6. There's nothing wrong with obsession.

    It worked for me. Don't sell yourself short, you have it in you, it'll come out eventually.

  7. Wow! Thanks for the really resonated with me. I know I'm a guy, not a girl, so it might be different, but I'm been obsessed about breaking 3 hours in Boston myself over the past few weeks and recently suffered a setback, but until I read your post was really getting down on myself and very dejected. But now I think I realize that I really have to put things in perspective and not get so hung up on the minor setbacks.

    I think you've got what it takes too. If anything, running teaches us to be diligent yet patient. There are so many stories of people who got away from the sport or had a break and came back stronger than ever. That's the approach that one has to take to be a healthy runner.

    Besides, a marathon is really hard to train so perfectly for. It is an insanely long distance and so many factors go into the final time that it can really take more luck than skill sometime.

    I hope you find your way. Sub 3 will come...sooner or later!

  8. I second what many of the posters have already said- you are a hard worker and you have it in you. I have too many friends that from time to time throw in a little jab about how much I train, obsession, yada yada. Sometimes, though, I think they may be slightly jealous that I believe in myself the way I do and set some high goals. Continue to listen ONLY to the people you trust and respect- coaches, close family and loved ones, maybe one or two great training buddies that truly believe in you. Just smile and nod at everyone else. Or don't smile and say WTF? :) Dare to dream, trust in God, believe in yourself. It is okay to love your sport and to expect the best. Are you healthy? Job healthy? Relationships healthy? Great, then keep at it!!! As always, thanks for sharing.

  9. You have the sub-3 in you now. I saw your post about your long run followed by a 5K race. Doing a 3x5 at 2:00 am would make anyone cry. The long workouts in the last few weeks before the marathon are the toughest part, especially mentally. If you want some support or advice from someone who worked really hard to do sub-3 on Nate's training plan, I am here for you. Just ask Kristina (marathon mama) for my email address.

  10. +1 to everything said above. I am in no position to offer you any sort of running advice, but I do want to remind you that you are so many other wonderful things besides being a runner. Don't forget that. :)

  11. First – you don’t know me, I used to hang out on the RWOL forums, mostly just the Women’s BQ thread, but I would occasionally post on other threads. I don’t post there anymore, but I lurk sometimes. While you and I couldn’t be anymore different when it comes to speed and accomplishments, my reasons for no longer posting there are exactly about what you posted most recently. I don’t have any words of encouragement for you, or any advice, or any ‘you’ll do it I know it’ but what I do have for you is just a request – that you push through this and come out strong in the end, because if you aren’t able to, I don’t think I will be able to either. I have reached my breaking point when it comes to the frustrations of running, and I haven’t been racing anywhere near as long as you. Currently I sit on the bubble of wanting to just pack it in completely, and while my desire is to just get up and run a 10k at a 7:30 pace and yours is something far more challenging for you – I do look at your success as something I could possibly achieve someday if I have the heart to keep going. I realize you aren’t quitting – that would be crazy, but just continue to believe, and want, and yes, even sometimes obsess, so that us slower/newer/less talented runners know that it’s ok to do that every now and then, and that ultimately it works out in the end, regardless of the outcome….

  12. Thanks for such an honest post.
    Running marathons involves a strange mixture of sacrifice and selfishness.
    It's okay to want it so much. But who you are is so much more than how fast you run.

  13. Hi,
    I love your attitude, your passion, your achievements and your goals.
    Keep it up girl!

  14. I was thinking along the lines of GIM. You breaking 3 hours is more equivalent to a male breaking 2:45-It takes a lot more then desire to get to that point. I do think you will get there before too long. Sorry the trip has become a grind. I think a cycle of focusing on speed for 3-4 months and then returning to the marathon would do you a world of good, both mentally and physically.