Aug 8, 2007

the body is willing, but the spirit is weak


Elevation profile of today's run - check out that goofy little speedbump

Well, on today's run I did a lot of thinking. And right now, I'm too tired to remember any of it. But the point is that running is a great way to get some thinking done. (:

Heard an interesting concept on phedippidations today. Basically here's the idea - we've all heard (or spoken) at some point the following quote: "The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." Well, the idea proposed is that the actual truth is exactly the opposite of this. And that is why you'll hear a lot of ultra-runners say things in the context of 100-mile races like "it's more of a mental game than a physical one."

What a great point. And it really powered me through my run today, which had a goofy little hill on it. (:

I actually drove down that hill on day last week and thought, "Boy, wouldn't it be great to run a course that includes ascending that hill?" It wasn't something that I thought possible at that point in my training, but I immediately decided that I was setting that hill as a goal.

Well, today when I set out to run, I wasn't planning on running the hill. Instead, there is a smaller loop including a shorter hill that I was going to run. Upon walking out the door, I immediately felt the blast of 91ยบ heat.. after being in air conditioning all day long, I was a little surprised to see how hot it was, especially after the severe rainfall we had this morning. Humidity, however, wasn't too bad - just under 50%.

I headed out onto Orange Ave towards the New Jersey state line and was feeling pretty crummy. Combination of the heat and constant training, I guessed - I had run 4 miles yesterday, 3 miles each of the two days prior, and 12 miles on the day prior to those. Perhaps it was all catching up to me? The idea that today would be somewhat easy despite the relatively small hill I was planning to ascend was nice. So I just chugged along at a nice slow pace.

Of course, when I was about to make the left turn to ascend the smaller hill, something inside of me kept nagging me to do the big hill. And, of course, I succumbed. I went straight when I probably should have turned left. And I was heading towards the hill.

The thing about this hill is not that it's particularly big (we are talking about new jersey, after all), nor is it particularly long (about a mile) - but it's steep. Probably about 15%. My car's gas mileage going up that hill drops below 5MPG, according to my meter. It's a nasty place to run.

So when I turned and started up it, the mantra "the body is willing but the spirit is weak" came to my mind. And the idea that I might have a weak spirit if I don't RUN up this entire thing was motivating me to keep going. And so I ascended, and ascended. Believe it or not, it went by rather quickly, but with a lot of effort. A false summit was a bit of a downer, but that mantra was ringing through my head constantly and I wasn't about to let it win.

When I finally made it to the top, I pumped my fists in the air and my mantra changed to something like "the body is willing and the spirit is strong!" - and that thing stuck in my head for about the next two miles.

About mile 4, the heat, fatigue, constant running without a rest day, or some combination thereof, hit me pretty hard and I kind of crashed. I didn't stop running, but I really got a taste of some of the things I personally go through during a good effort at a longer race - but without the race setting. It is a hard thing to describe, but it does include a sense of despair, of imminent failure, and of self-doubt. It is induced by exhaustion, and is not a very pleasant feeling. I felt it right at mile 4 of today's run, and it lasted a few minutes as I ran through it, ironically passing the emergency room of a hospital. I felt it again, more intensely, at mile 5, a few hundred feet from home. I finished the run, drank about a half-gallon of water, and laid down.

The crash had me a little worried about my 50k, but when I put it in perspective, I really am pretty psyched. I've run an average of 5½ miles a day over the last five days, with a minimum mileage of almost 3. The temps were wicked hot, and I had just run a hill that I thought was impossible for me just one week ago. Crazy that I'd think I'm doing badly, but I guess it's just my mind's natural tendency to look for something negative among all the positive results I've been enjoying.

At any rate, 12 days down, 9 to go. Log of today's run.