Last month I ran the Tinker Bell Half Marathon to kick off the 2014 race schedule. I pretty much had a terrible time. I mean it’s Disneyland and Neverland and family fun times so all of the elements of fun were there but when it comes to the running, I had a terrible time. Due to circumstances sort of beyond my control I got a total of 6 hours of sleep in the two nights leading up to the race. That’s 3 hours of sleep the night before a half marathon. I don’t recommend it.
I love waking up with Brad on a race day. While making coffee, Brad makes jokes about how painfully early it is and I flit around the hotel room like a demented fairy, getting nervous for the impending 13 miles ahead. But this morning I just felt tired. SO tired. Deliriously tired. It was difficult to flit around. Pixie dust meter on empty. The thing about waking up at 3:30 am to run a half marathon is that no matter what time you went to bed the night before, you’re always going to be tired. Looking at your alarm clock at 3:30 am will always make you very very sleepy. So on this particular morning I didn’t register that I was more tired than usual. I just felt a malaise. The thought that entered my head was “I’m not really feeling it.” That thought is kryptonite to someone who’s about to run a half marathon. You have to, at the very least, feel it.
We got dressed. I decked out as Smee and Brad my Crocodile (the hat for the Croc being the culprit for my staying up until midnight. Stupid Krazy Glue!)
Stumbling out of our hotel room at approximately 4:15 we make our way to the starting line. The energy surrounding me is as per usual for a runDisney event. Electric. Thousands of runners surround me, many seemingly first time half marathoners. I’m excited. I am. A detached sort of excited. I register my detachment and try to brush it off. This is exciting! It is! Next to us I see a runner dressed as Rufio from Hook. How awesome is that?
5:00 am approaches. The national anthem is sung. The singing of the national anthem usually brings a tear to my eye. This morning it does not. Fireworks ignite the air. The announcers inspire. All of the elements of a fantastic runDisney morning are there and all I can do is continue to suppress the little minion in my head repeating the mantra “I’m just not feeling it.”
Ever feel like you’re in a fog? Like you’re going through the motions of your life, surrounded by things that should make you happy yet they fall upon numbness? Like you have a front row seat to observe your life from the outside? Inside you feel, just, nothing? I’m fortunate that I’ve never been seriously or clinically depressed, but I’m told the sensation is similar. If that is in fact the case then I can tell you that running 13 miles through Disneyland at 5:00 in the morning on 3 hours of sleep is much the same as being clinically depressed. Add to the mix some guilt. Guilt for not being happy at a runDisney race (it feels like sacrilege). Guilt that I paid so much money to run an event that “I’m just not feeling.” Guilt that I coerced Brad into running the same event. Though luckily Brad looks pretty happy. Brad appears to be having a good run. Phew!
Around mile 6, about the time when I’m just wishing the whole damn thing would be over, I start to panic. Am I falling out of love with running? Am I falling out of love with Disney? Are runDisney and I going to have to break up??? No!! Sheer panic. Why do I feel so terrible? Why isn’t Tinker Bell making me happy? What is this malaise? Why am I not feeling it? I still had not put 2 and 2 together that 3 hours of sleep the night before miiiiight contribute to my lack of excitement.
Brad runs with gusto. He is, as I said, having a great race and clips along at a good pace. I can’t hold him back in my fog. He takes off around mile 9 and continues on to have a fantastic final 4 miles. I just try to make it through.
There is one characteristic emotion of mine that can’t seem to be anesthetized, no matter my state of exhaustion or malaise, and that is my lovely stubbornness. Even though I’m tired and struggling and should really just take it easy if I ever want to enjoy running again, for some reason I decide that I want to finish in under 3 hours. I push it hard the last few miles to ensure that will happen and I cross the finish line feeling, for the first time, pretty damn good. What I soon discover is that since I hadn’t really been feeling anything the entire race, not excitement or joy or determination, I mistook these final emotions (extreme pain) as “pretty damn good.” I suppose I was just relieved to be feeling anything. Since a popular runner’s motto is “my sport is your sport’s punishment” let’s just say it’s not uncommon for a runner to mistake pain for pleasure.
I cross the finish line, find Brad, take our picture, get some water, and feel relieved the race is done. About 10 minutes later I feel everything a runner dreads. Nausea, extreme exhaustion, dizziness, chills, irritability. Damnit. My stubbornness caught up with me. Lactic acid comes rushing in.
Somehow I make it through to the other side of this episode. We find Mom and Dennis and head to Denny’s for breakfast. The thought of food makes me feel like I want to die whilst vomiting, but Mom insists that it will make me feel better. I suspect she’s right so I go with them to Denny’s even though all I really want to do is collapse. Mom orders me a chocolate milkshake and you know what, it was like magic. That magic guilt-free chocolate milkshake I downed at 8:00 in the morning perked me up and settled my tummy. Ice Cream really is the answer to everything. Best chocolate milkshake ever.
After breakfast we walk back to the hotel for a much needed nap, and now that my brain feels a bit more attached to my head I can start to think clearly again. I start to ask questions. Why does this happen to me? Why is it that sometimes I have a great race and sometimes I feel like shit? It can’t just be training. I’m actually pretty well trained for this race. Why does lactic acid seem to attack me only on some runs, and takes pity on me others?
By this point I’d gotten smart and realized that sleep deprivation no doubt played a major role in my malaise. After the milkshake cleared my head I had a light bulb moment and said “Ooohhh. THAT’S why I wasn’t feeling it.” Amazing it took me that long to figure out. I took this as a comfort, knowing that it’s something I can control. Next time I’ll just get more sleep. But this lactic acid question lingered and bothered me. I don’t feel as though I have control over its presence in my running. It seems to rear its ugly head when it wants to, other times a sleeping dragon. After our nap I set out to do some research on this evil foe. I want to understand how lactic acid really works in the body. Why in the world does our body produce anything that would make us feel so terrible right at the time when we need our body to work FOR us, not against us? The answers I found astounded me.
I discovered that lactic acid is actually meant to work for you, you just have to know how to use it. Mind blown. Suddenly I feel like if I can understand this villain of mine, perhaps we can be allies. It’s just as Honest Abe Lincoln once said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” Lactic acid and I are about to become bffs.
I’ll impart my research on lactic acid at a later date. Before you roll your eyes, I promise that it’s interesting! I’ve got more studying to do however before I can write a worthy article. As far as Tinker Bell Half Marathon 2014 goes, I found myself in a foggy runner’s malaise and turned it into a teachable moment. And that’s why I run. Because although I briefly panicked that running and I were falling out of love, the great thing about a healthy relationship is that you can always work it out. Running and I, we’re working it out. We’re learning about each other.
Sunday afternoon I went for a breathtaking 5 mile run on the beach. I pushed myself. I philosophized. I worked through some mental cobwebs that had been bugging me. I felt centered. I felt grateful for my feet.
Running and I. We’re rekindling the flame.