I’ve spent the better part of 2018 struggling. I haven’t been able to muster lasting motivation. My energy level has been low, at best. The Spring was a mixed bag of training, between breaking an arm and running Boston with a long run of 15 miles under my belt. When I regained consistency in training, I didn’t feel that my fitness was improving AT ALL. In fact, I have often felt that I was loosing ground with my fitness. Even thinking about the simplest tasks caused me great mental fatigue. The hope that I felt from my initial workouts after Ouray recovery quickly faded. And over the last few weeks, I have felt increasingly weak, mentally and physically. So much so, that I have seriously questioned whether I should continue endurance training and racing. Seriously.
I haven’t blogged all year. I did manage to throw a post about Ouray together, but that was the first post since Brazos Bend 100 in December. I have had intentions of writing many posts, but when I finally found the time, the task of writing was simply overwhelming.
It’s hard admitting there is a problem. I try not to engage in negative self talk. Plus, I don’t EVER want to sound like a whiner. That’s the double-edged sword of social media, right?? It really isn’t that I am trying to hide the negatives in my life. I just don’t want to be a complainer. And, at the time, I couldn’t mentally handle the discussion. that would ensue. (At one point, I became so overwhelmed with responding to notifications from simple posts that I considered shutting down all social media.)
Sometimes the journey to enlightenment takes a few detours
A new day is dawning since I received some much needed information yesterday. But first, I’ll discuss the road I’ve been travelling this year.
I made excuses for living (yes, LIVING) on the Struggle Bus. Initially, I was coming off of Brazos Bend 100 and I was understandably fatigued. Training for and running my first 100 miler in December took its toll. Instead of taking 2 full weeks off, as originally planned, I convinced my coach to let me get back to running just over a week after the race. So, in January, when I was still feeling tired and unmotivated, I chalked it up to returning to training too quickly and assumed that I would work myself out of my funk.
Except the funk just kept getting funkier. By the end of January, I had accepted that it was due not only to the fatigue caused by the 100 miler, but also to post-race blues. And I’m sure that I did have some post race blues. How could I not? I had a STELLAR 2017, which started with qualifying for Boston, then running my first 50k and progressing to 100 miles. I mean, you have to come off the mountain top sometime, right? I felt like what I was feeling was totally normal, so I allowed myself to embrace the funk, knowing that I needed to work through emotions in order to move forward.
Add to the mix having a player on a national-level volleyball team and all the practices, extra practices and weekend tournaments that come along with that, plus trying to work full time — I had some great excuses as to why I felt like crap. Winter seemed cold and rainy (to me, at least), which didn’t improve my mood at all. I missed the sun. It was always cloudy. I was SURE that when the time changed, I would be able to improve my mood because of the increasing daylight.
So all this time, I was supposed to be training for Boston but my heart wasn’t in it. I wasn’t completing my workouts as with the consistency that I once did. I tried not to skip completely, but sometimes, with volleyball, it happened. And sometimes, I cut workouts short. I tried to tell myself that I was just upset that I wasn’t training for trails. I tried to force myself to embrace the training cycle because running Boston is such an honor, but all to no avail.
During Spring Break, I decided some trail running was in order to help with the mood. My trail brother and I went to explore a new trail and I fell and broke my arm. It actually worked to increase my motivation in the short term, because being so close to not being able to run caused me to be thankful for the runs that I was able to get. (Thankfully, my orthopaedic gave me a soft cast and the green light to continue running.)
Boston came and went and I survived. The rain and cold didn’t affect me (Luckily!) and I am so glad that I was able to embrace the experience, because it was absolutely wonderful. Just a month later, I ran a 50 miler and managed to finish it. It wasn’t pretty, but I did it, enjoyed it, and was kind-of OK with the result given the amount of training I had under me.
Finally, I found myself on summer vacation. Volleyball was still in full swing getting ready for Nationals, but at least I had time to get my workouts in and take a nap in the afternoon. Still, I felt that my fitness wasn’t coming along at all. Running was harder than it should have been and seemed to get harder with every workout. But, I was in the build phase of training and it was supposed to be hard. Ouray 50 was next on my schedule at the end of July. I knew that I couldn’t build the type of fitness needed to finish with the amount of time I had to train, so getting halfway before being pulled for time cut off was a win in my book.
I came back after Ouray recovery feeling reasonably good – the short break was needed. But I slowly started questioning my fitness again with each consecutive workout. I had long been wondering if I had developed Exercise Induced Asthma. I sometimes felt like I was wheezing during workouts, but that was usually related to a high allergy day and the wheezing wasn’t consistent by any means. Believe it or not, I am pretty in-tune with my body, even though I don’t always listen right away. I knew, in my core (subconsciously, anyway), that I was having problems oxygenating my blood (the asthma theory kind-of fit). I couldn’t complete even my short workouts without feeling out of breath and completely exhausted. I was seriously contemplating giving up ultra running. I felt like I wasn’t cut out for it and I knew that it shouldn’t be that hard. Racing added even more stress. Well intentioned people would wish me luck, telling me how great I would do. But deep down, I knew I knew I knew my performance in workouts and, as a result, knew I couldn’t do that “well”. I knew my struggles and those well wishes only served to cause more internal turmoil.
Light bulb moments
About 3 weeks ago, I saw an article tweeted that discussed low iron levels in endurance athletes. Immediately, I knew without a doubt that this applied to me. I had considered Inside Tracker blood tests many times, but never felt that I could justify spending the money on it. Well, this time, I spent the money and it was well worth every penny.
Knowledge is power
I received my results yesterday and, <drum roll>, I am low in Ferritin, which is related to Iron and how well my body can oxygenate my blood. I am SO LOW that if I was one point lower, I would be critically low. One nice perk about Inside Tracker is that there are food and supplement suggestions for you to use to normalize your markers. Having those resources at my fingertips gives me a great amount of comfort and confidence in the process ahead.
I cannot begin to explain the wave of feelings I experienced when I read my results. Obviously, I am concerned about my Ferritin levels being so low, but this knowledge is a HUGE weight lifted. I still feel physically exhausted. It will take me a hot minute to build these levels back up. But I finally feel hopeful and hopeful is not a word that I would have used to describe my mood of late.
Silencing that voice that has been telling me that I’m not good enough and not cut out for this sport is one of the best things that I’ve been able to do with this new information. Yes, I run trails and ultras because I love trails and ultras. But when you come off a year like I had last year, crushing goal after goal to the next year, barely managing to jump hurdle after hurdle…that takes a huge mental toll and causes you to question yourself.
I can finally, honestly say that I am SO looking forward to the rest of 2018 and beyond. I think I’ll celebrate by registering for Ouray 50, 2019!