Monday, June 18, 2012

Getting comfortable with discomfort

I'm at home (well where I grew up home) in Northern Virginia right now!   Basically that means there are more trees and more bugs.  And lots of good friends.  Also, it is the residence of the original faster bunny, Fiver:

No of course she doesn't always lounge around like that.  She probably just got back from a 10 mile tempo run.

One more thing:  I've decided I'm going to start using ads from BlogHer whenever I get unlazy enough to install the ad code.  Basically I figure it would be nice to make a buck (literally one dollar given my readership!) off of this.  But if you hate the ads let me know.   I aim to please and stuff and don't want to make the reader experience go down the drain.  Also, I'll announce the Mizuno winner next blog entry. Sorry for the delay.

Main Post

When I was watching the Olympic Trials for the marathon a few months back, the announcer commented that (I believe) Shalane Flanagan had been working on "becoming a less emotional runner".   I remember thinking at the time "What the hell is he talking about?  Why would anyone be an emotional runner.  Running is the least emotional experience ever! One foot in front of the other, right?"

I didn't really think about this again until after the Ragnar ultra or Eugene Marathon.  I realized I spent the majority of the running part of both races making myself completely miserable.

Thinking things like "Why would I do this.  This sucks I want to stop.  I hate legs hurt so bad".  Etc.  Grimacing, making faces, etc.

This is kind of my M.O. when I race.  In the words of Mason, I am the only person he knows who "has the ability to make mile three of a marathon look miserable".

Then I read something on Lizzy's blog about enjoying the discomfort that is racing.

At that point I realized I'm a very emotional runner.  One that freaks out at discomfort, is scared of racing and hard workouts, and when things get uncomfortable I want to fall apart.  I have no doubt these internal emotional outbursts do nothing to help my race and workout times and probably steal a lot of enjoyment from my running.  I'm trying to learn to enjoy the experience that is pushing myself rather than being afraid of the discomfort and feeling sorry for myself.

Eugene? Come didn't feel THAT bad.
I've been trying to apply this philosophy to my day-to-day life as well.  I get upset and spastic about things pretty easily (you may notice this if you follow my volatile twitter), and I'm sure that getting easily upset does me no favors in my professional or personal life.  In fact, I've read various personality articles that say that people are more likely to be successful in business if they are even tempered and hard to upset.  Makes sense, right?

Work situations can be mentally tough and uncomfortable just like running hard.  Best to accept it and strategically deal with problems.  Easier said than done, of course.

In the words of Mrs. Tough love, Eleanor Roosevelt, "You must do the thing that you think you cannot do".  Or if I alter it for myself: 
"You must do the thing that you don't want to do.  Just get going and do it, damnit."  =)

So this is my new attempted life improvement for the summer.  If you see me complaining or being overly dramatic, tell me to chill.  Running can hurt, life can be tough, but if we've made it this far, chances are, this isn't the race or project that's going to destroy everything.  I'm going to try to look forward, relax, and just race.


  1. Gah!!! I feel you emotional runner....
    I think that's why 5k's are the best sometimes. They hurt like hell for 3 miles and then you are done. Plus you can race 3 or 4 of these in 2 months and it's ok. A marathon is the "whole enchilada" You can't decide at the last minute to race one. You spend months of planning, training, analyzing, and basically beating yourself up. There is so much pressure to perform. Plus stalking for the 10 day forcast. Then there is the marathon "hangover". It's really an emotional experience.
    Enjoy your Summer!! Leave the garmin at home a couple of times a week. :)

  2. Capitalistically speaking, make as much money as you can via your blog. I would if I were in your shoes.

    And in regards to your emotionally charged racing habit:

    "Don't Panic"
    Douglas Adams _ The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

    Alex R

  3. Great post! I think it is hard to balance emotions in all we do. Maybe a good way to go about things is to aim to keep things in perspective. So many times I get upset about something small and then realize it isnt worth it (usually too late). Don't lose your all your emotions,though! They are what make you you. You would be very boring without them :). No robot Margot! (ps--i love that photo of you! The happy colors with that anguished face are hilarious)

  4. I agree 100% I LOVE running but get so emotional and psych myself out on the big day! My marathon PR was a back to back race where I called my hubby at the half mark and told him I was going to "take it easy" the rest of the race! Once I let go of emotions and negativity I ran so much better!

  5. I like your altered Eleanor quote. I think it's really easy to get get caught up in the emotions of running, especially negative. I found myself doing that a lot while running so I tried to think of "positive" ways of saying things to myself instead and it worked It's different for everyone and as long as you get through it in the end I think that's all that matters!

  6. One of the best things I've learned the last year and a half as I get serious about running again, is the getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. And oh, do I get uncomfortable. Now I'm working on that emotional runner thing. Sometimes I'd even call it hateful. So now I'm working on getting out of my head. It's starting to work after over a year of giving myself little mantras. For a while making deals with myself to distract me helped, too. The last few weeks I've found myself telling my inner voice to just shut up and effing do it. Surprisingly enough, that one is working the best of all. Either just running and refusing to think...or telling myself off. Let us know how you conquer the emotional running part because once I start training for longer distances I'll need new ideas!

  7. I think there are going to be emotions whenever you do something that's competitive or means a lot to you. Being a strong runner obviously means something you as well as doing well in your career. We're not robots. I have no clue how to best manage those emotions 'cause I've had races and training runs where I hated myself.

    I do like that summer offers a bit of a reprieve to run with less pressure.

  8. I am an emotional racer. It's like I become a different person on the race course. I can push it hard in workouts, accepting the pain and bringing it along with me. Miss a split in a track workout? NEVER! But during a race, I just break down and give up so easily. It's always been an issue for me. Ugh.

    Hope the east coast is treating you well! Watch out for the bugs while you're running, unless you like a little extra protein.... :)

  9. I had a similar thought about what kind of runner I am last night while I was doing fairly uncomfortable fartlek loops with the SDTC in 70+ degrees. I am not an emotional runner, I don't think. I am a "complainer runner". I bitch about stuff in my head and to other people, but then it makes me just wanna finish it. It's weird. Being all "positive" sometimes doesn't work for me. Actually it usually doesn't. The best scenario I've seen is even when I have a huge PR, during the race I am like: "This is going OK."

  10. i think the problem is that you are in socal so your spoiled by nice weather now (almost 4 yrs not being in houston crazy!!!). if you still lived in a place with crappy weather instead of worrying about discomfort with pace/distance/etc you'll just focus on how the weather sucks.

    i love the above comment "70+ degrees". that would feel artic to me these days hehehe :D

    and yes i realize i dont have too many more months to complain about the weather! then ill have normal ppl problems like which froyo place is best!

  11. I love your bunny! How much does fiver weigh?

    Id like to think im pretty flat line emotionally most of the time, but races get under my skin in good and bad ways. It seems the mind is the toughest thing to control during long races. One little thing goes "wrong" and the rest of the race spirals out of control.

  12. I love this post. I don't know if I am an emotional runner or not, but I HAVE struggled with mental doubting of my abilities. I hold myself back for fear of not getting it done...thanks for posting this, I will keep it in mind next time I am being an ahole to myself!

  13. Know I'm late to the game, but I love this post. I think that's why I struggle with the marathon - too much time to think and get emotional and such.