Stress … we all battle with it in different ways on various levels throughout our lives. This past weekend I learned what an impact it can have on the body when you don’t adequately deal with it. We’ll just say, despite my grand intentions, my body decided it wasn’t going to race Mountains 2 Beach Marathon.
Before getting into it – I want to start by saying I love my life and am grateful for the amazing people and opportunities I have. In no way do I want this to be a ‘woe is me’ post because I really do have so many things that make me happy every day. I just had one of those humbling learning experiences and figured I’d share – in hopes of helping someone who can relate (and because it’s therapeutic for me to write).
It’s easy to hide behind all the good things we have going on – especially with social media. It’s fun posting pictures and videos from vacations and successes. It’s easy to write blog posts for great races while skipping over the bad ones. I tend to be one to find the positive in situations (which is usually a good thing). The downside to that is I also tend to tuck away and ignore the negatives … I’m the people pleaser, mediator, fixer, ‘we’ll get through this; look at the bright side; it will make us stronger’ person in the family and that role has followed me into most of my relationships. With that, I make a good listener, a shoulder to cry on and the rock you can count on when you need strength. It also makes me a poor talker – I don’t generally share much about myself or make myself vulnerable because ‘I need to stay strong for those around me’.
This personality trait lead me to fall in love with running and cycling – when I’m out on my own (and, no, I don’t listen to music), it’s my chance to be alone with my thoughts and solve my problems. I have conversations with myself to work through what’s bothering me and figure out what I need to get done. When I’m out with my running buddies, my walls come down and I usually open up a little. There’s something special about training with someone that connects you more than you’d ever imagine – when you are out pushing your body beyond your comfort zone, you’re already making yourself vulnerable and talking openly becomes so much easier and genuine.
Throughout the years I have also come to find I tend to store my stress and emotion in my hips. Rather than tensing through the shoulders, my hips tighten up. Running and cycling has been good for this because the movement helps release the stress and emotion – it gets me thinking clearly and dealing with issues I’m holding onto. It’s not uncommon for me to get very emotional during events (okay, it’s rare if I don’t).
This past Sunday seemed to be the result of the perfect storm created by too much stress, poor choices and no outlet.
Some of my current stressors are things I deal with on a regular basis resulting from being over-committed. I’d love to say I’ve gotten better at saying ‘no’, but I still over-extend myself because I love what I do with my students, teams and training groups … and, because I love it, it’s usually manageable (although my other half would prefer I lightened my load). Over the past few months, added into that was extra stress from work and family issues. I won’t get into the details but I will say that addictions affect the entire family and are so much harder to deal with than I could ever explain.
The addition of family meetings, counseling sessions and school functions took away training time and made it more difficult to meet up with training buddies. Then came a few difficult situations for a couple friends and my problems got pushed to the side (my doing, not theirs) … it’s much easier to help someone else deal with their problems then to face your own! I have taken on a few new projects/responsibilities – exciting opportunities that push me beyond my comfort zone (in a good way). With that learning curve I’ve made mistakes, dropped the ball, misunderstood and misspoke … all things the perfectionist in me stresses about. On top of that, a couple big races were added to our calendar with little training time – Labor of Love 50k and this Mountains 2 Beach Marathon … and, my trip to Boston … which was absolutely amazing but also very difficult and emotional. Yes, it’s been a crazy spring and I wanted to be able to do everything and I wanted to do it well.
After making it through the 50k, I went into survival mode – It was the last couple weeks of school and I just needed to make it to summer break. My body needed to recover before taking on the marathon so I decided not to stress about getting workouts in. I had done plenty of mileage so I knew my endurance was where it needed to be. I was going to try to get good sleep and keep my diet clean; I would ramp up my training again once summer break came. This was great in theory, but didn’t take into account stress and how much that would disrupt my sleep … and how much that would lead to cravings … cravings that would be constantly tempted in the workroom with all the teacher appreciation, end of the year goodies. Cortisol was having a heyday inside of me and I choose not to deal with it … I lost all will power with food, I watched too many shows on hulu just to keep from thinking about things and did what I needed to do to get through the last couple weeks of work.
Well, I made it through those couple weeks and as I locked up my office on Friday we headed out to California for the marathon – woohoo, summer break is here and I’m feeling great! I will get a couple good nights of sleep, the weather will be beautiful, it’s a downhill course … my body knows what to do.
Yes – my body knew what to do, it needed to take a stand. Things seemed to go well all weekend and I was feeling good race morning. The first couple miles were okay – legs were heavy but my pace was fine and I knew I just needed to settle into my stride. Around mile 4-5, my IT band was pulling on my knee (this hasn’t happened in years) … okay, I know what it is, it’s not a game changer just an annoyance … I’ll be fine. Miles 5-8 were slower than they should have been – but, it was a slight uphill and I’ll make it up on the downhill. Mile 9 was great – my pace picked up with the downhill and the IT band was happier, I’m still on track for a BQ. Then, my legs were done. With each mile came a new pain … pains I NEVER have. It was around this point my hip flexors quit working and I knew it was going to be a long 2nd half.
It wasn’t nutrition, hydration, electrolyte imbalance. It wasn’t a mental battle. I didn’t hit a wall or bonk. It wasn’t anything I could push through. I’ve been in all of those places before and this was something new. And the strangest part for me … there was no emotion. Not one tear. My hips locked up as if they were saying ‘we can’t take any more, we are full’ and closed their doors.
I hit mile 14 around 2 hours and figured I could still pull out a sub-4 if I could at least keep the last 12 miles to 10min/mile or less … no problem! And, I did make it to mile 20 right around 3 hours – at which point I knew Kris was finishing up, our buddy, Sean, should have been done with his half by then and our friend, Julie was probably only a few miles from the finish. Just a 10k … that’s all I had left … I can do this. The last thing I wanted was for everyone to have to wait for me and wonder what was going on … pull it together, Mindy! I was moving like I belonged in The Walking Dead.
My legs have never hurt so bad and I mustered up every ounce of strength I could, just to watch my mile times drop to 12 and 13 min miles … 4 hours was quickly slipping way and I could hardly walk. I finally crossed at 4:27 – disappointed and frustrated but still not emotional, at all … I knew it wasn’t my day and at that point there was nothing I could do. I know my body well enough to know it was telling me there was a bigger problem I needed to deal with.
As I crossed the finish, Sean was the first person I saw – I had figured he would be off with his family and was surprised when he called my name. He came into the finishing chute to help me get what I needed and sat me in the shade while he went to tell Kris and Julie he found me. They then told me how they had been talking to the medics, calling the hospitals and were quite worried … that’s when I started feeling really bad! I definitely never wanted to make them worry like that – I just didn’t know how to get a message to them about what was going on … until Sean asked why I didn’t borrow someone’s cell phone. Umm … this is an example of my inability to think things through clearly the last few months.
I didn’t sit long, I knew I needed to keep moving. We made our way back to our cars and put on my 110% knickers and socks so I could ice and compress everything. By the time we got back to the hotel, my legs completely stiffened up – I could barely bend any joints.
We cleaned up, checked out then Kris and I drove down to Anaheim for the night. We (slowly) walked around Downtown Disney, ate dinner, got a drink from Trader Sams and called it a night.
On the way home Monday we stopped in Tonapah to spend an hour soaking in the hot springs … this felt amazing! Then, once we got home I set up an appointment with my massage therapist (who could be given many more titles!) and I started hitting the Tissue Rejuvenator.
Tuesday I was still struggling to bend any of my joints and couldn’t wait to see Aubrey. My massage ended up being more of a therapy session. I don’t know how she does it but I didn’t have to tell her much and she knew exactly what I needed. She unlocked my SI joint as tears rolled down my face – not from pain but from every emotion and issue that was being held onto so tightly in there. I was there for about an hour and a half and really can’t tell you what else that she did – I was in a trance. What I can say is I walked out there feeling amazing – once my hips opened up and all of that was released the rest of my body got back into alignment and I woke up Wednesday morning feeling like I had never run that marathon. I finally slept through the night (haven’t done that in months) and woke up refreshed. I went for a bike ride, did running club with my kids … legs felt fantastic and my mind has been much clearer.
I definitely still have things to work on and am making progress daily. One of the big things I needed to do was write this and open up to those I care about to let you know I’ve really been struggling these past few months.
So, in the past few months if I have done anything that offended you, disappointed you, frustrated you or hurt you – I’m sorry. If I’ve been out of it, absent minded, forgetful, inconsiderate – I’m sorry. If I’ve pulled away, been unresponsive, dropped the ball – I’m sorry. I definitely haven’t been myself, I haven’t liked who I had become but I didn’t know how to get out of it or deal with it.
This summer I plan to take time for myself and work on establishing healthy habits and boundaries. I am around and would love to reconnect and work on the relationships I haven’t been able to put time and energy into.
Most of all, I hope those of you reading this can learn from my mistakes and put yourself first once in a while!
PS – As far as the marathon is concerned – I loved the course, it was very well run with plenty of aid stations, the weather was fantastic and I would definitely do it again. Kris and Julie both BQ’d – CONGRATULATIONS! And, Sean did much better than he had hoped for … So, it wasn’t a total bust! I’m glad I did it and had this experience so I can learn from it and move on. Up next – Bryce Canyon 50k!