Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fox, Milwaukee and Build Up

It's not Thursday, but I have three "things" to talk about, nonetheless!

It was about 6:45 last Wednesday morning and I was out for an easy six miler on my normal residential running route. I noticed an animal run across the street so I stopped running. I'm paranoid about being chased and bitten by a dog, so whenever I see an animal running near me, I stop dead in my tracks, so as not to provoke them. I quickly realized that this wasn't a dog or a cat, but a fox. I tried to slowly walk away from it, but it followed me. I walked in another direction, and it continued to follow me. I started getting scared. I almost screamed for help.

The fox looked a lot like this one.
There was a long driveway that had a car with its lights on, so I walked toward that, and waved at the car. The fox still followed. I motioned to the driver that I wanted to talk to him, so he rolled down his window. It was a 16-year-old kid on his way to school. "Is that a fox?" I asked? He said it was. "I'm scared. It's following me. Is it going to bite me?" The kid said it shouldn't bite me and that I had nothing to worry about. I almost asked him to drive me up the street, but I didn't. The car left and the fox was still there. I slowly put some distance between myself and the fox and then sprinted away as soon as I felt like I had a decent head start. The fox didn't follow, thank God.

My husband and co-workers later told me that foxes don't bite unless they have Rabies. And they should be afraid of humans unless they have a lot of human interaction and become domesticated. It seems like this neighborhood fox might have had a little too much human interaction because it certainly took an interest in me.

The Milwaukee Lakefront marathon is this weekend. I ran that race last year and it was disastrous. I was in the best shape of my life, fully prepared to run between a 3:30 and 3:35. All of my training runs had been solid, particularly the long runs. I had just run a 35:53 8K, so I knew my speed was there as well. The weather was great for racing and everything was in place for a huge success. And yet, at mile 9, I knew my race was over, despite a conservative start. I actually had to start walking shortly after the halfway point.

Milwaukee Lakefront 2011, before the crash
This race was a turning point for me because it made me realize that my streak of marathon bonks were due to anxiety and stress. Physiologically, everything was great. But I put so much pressure on myself to perform well at a marathon, and I felt like so much was riding on it, that I would lose a ton of energy by stressing out the week before the race. I tried to addresses this issue at my next marathon, Shamrock this past March, but telling myself to " just relax" wasn't doing the trick. If you're anxious about something and feel that you have a lot riding on it, and you've had a lot of disappointment in the past, then you need to work through it rather than just saying "I'm not going to stress." That's the tough thing about self-fulfilling prophecies.

Shamrock was also a bust. I didn't even finish the thing. I dropped out at mile 13 and spent the rest of the week feeling as if I had expended the effort of a full marathon. I've run many half marathons faster than that pace and have only required 1-2 days of recovery. Again, a strong indication that something was seriously off.

Why am I dredging all of this up now? In addition to being the 1-year anniversary of Milwaukee, my sports psychologist is having me work on attaching emotions to the process, as opposed to the outcome. Ironically, I was in peak condition last year at this time, but didn't have it together mentally. Today, I feel like I've made huge gains in the area of mental strength, although physically I am very far off from where I used to be. Anyway, to help tie emotions to the process rather than the race result, he asked me to take a close look at my last four marathons and re-review them. He wants me to find sources of accomplishment, pride, excitement, happiness, satisfaction and enjoyment.

I won't go through this entire exercise on my blog, but I will point out a few things about Milwaukee that could have brought me these emotions.

  • Accomplishment: I finished the race. I wanted so badly to give up. Everything hurt and I was crushed emotionally. At one point I even lied down on the ground. But I pushed on, through run-walking, and endured it until I crossed the finish line. Finishing, in and of itself, was an accomplishment.
  • Pride: My training cycle was awesome. I was in fantastic shape, and all of my training runs indicated that. I was really proud of the hard work I put in on the track and on the weekend long runs. I had also incorporated pool running and swimming into my training, as well as core work. This was new for me, and I felt proud that I worked so hard.
  • Excitement: I don't really see anything to be excited about. Maybe the fact that I traveled to a new city.
  • Happiness: I wasn't happy. I was crushed. Where could have happiness come from? I just don't see it.
  • Satisfaction: I was anything but satisfied with this race and I don't see anything that could have made me feel satisfied.
  • Enjoyment: Even though I felt "off" early in the race, I enjoyed the first 8 miles. It was fun to be running somewhere new. I love the race atmosphere. I did enjoy the scenery during the last 4 miles. The weekend as a whole was enjoyable. 

If I were to run the same race again today, I don't know if I'd be able to focus on positive, process-oriented things. But I've committed to working on being more positive, so I would try to.

Build Up
I've now been running for about a month post-mono. I'm pleased to report that I feel 100% recovered. I think that the illness is behind me now and I no longer fear relapse like I did when I last posted two weeks ago.

I started by jog-walking and I've finally removed walk breaks. All runs (except one) have been "easy", endurance-building, zone 2 runs. I'm focusing on building endurance now, so that I can build speed on top of that later. In summary, here is a look at the last few weeks:

I didn't try to make it such a "perfect" progression, but I do love seeing this! As I said above, all of these were heart-rate based, zone 2 runs, with one exception.

On Tuesday, I decided it was time for an "easy tempo".  I know, an oxymoron! I did 2 x 1.5 miles at Lactate Threshold with 1/2 mile recovery. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain really hard, so I used a treadmill. I set the treadmill to 7.0 (8:34 pace) and did the workout. This felt tough, but not "tempo tough". It truly was an easy tempo. Had I been outside, I am sure I would have run faster, but I overheat very easily on a treadmill so I was conservative.

Yesterday, I ran 10 miles at an average 9:57 pace. I didn't take walk breaks, but I figured I'd have to stop for traffic lights anyway. Of course, on the one run where I want to stop at a light, they are all green. I don't think I ever have a run when all the lights are green. But they were yesterday, so I ran straight through and felt good the whole way. Huge progress from last weekend when I ran 9 miles and mile 9 felt like mile 20 of a 20-miler.

I'm not making any judgments about where I am at fitness-wise. As shown above, I'm progressing every week and I know that no one single run can determine what kind of shape I'm in. I'm going to run all my planned races this fall. I probably won't race them all at full effort (some I will), but I don't want to shy away from races that I am fully capable of participating in just because my time will be slow. It will be a true lesson in trying my best and having that be good enough.


  1. Foxes that don't run from people worry me also. I'm not that worried about a normal animal bite, but when a wild animal doesn't run from me, I fear rabies.

  2. Your Milwaukee flashback is a perfect read for me right now, because I always put too much stress on myself to perform well too.
    My favorite part of the post is that you were proud of your training leading up to that race. Training is months of effort, the race is one day. I think being proud of the training is as good as being proud of the race.

  3. We have a family of foxes in our neighborhood. They are such jerks. They come on our yard and roll around as if they're our dog, they hang out in the park and watch and I have to scoot them off. They look at me, as if I'm really annoying them and then very slowly, like a kid that doesn't want to go to bed, they'll saunter away. They are not afraid of humans and are quite beautiful, but definitely think our neighborhood is their turf.

    I agree, you trained so hard for Milwaukee, and I think that you enjoyed the training for it part!

    YAY, on your return to fitness and a great run! It comes back quickly!

    PS. Thank you for your kind words!! :)

  4. Eee a fox! They are very cute and I wouldn't worry about them. We have way too many deer that are habituated to humans and I have to run around them when they decide they want to stand in the trail to eat the apples or whatever from a tree.

    I'm so glad you're getting yourself healed and back from the long mono misery!