I woke up this morning with the room mostly dark. I had no idea what time it was since I had closed the wooden shutters to sleep in - I know I needed sleep - my body told me so. I looked at the alarm clock and it was 9:45am. 10 hours without waking up - I can't remember having slept that long uninterrupted in a long time.
I spent most of the day on Friday on the couch with laptop and i-phone working and on conference calls, struggling to make it through the day without throwing up. I had some type of stomach virus the previous night that kept me up til all hours and was feeling south of 50%. I was ok when I was laying down and still - but as soon as I would start to stir - the nauseous feeling that made me say to myself "oh please no" would rear it's ugly head. One conference call I was on speaker muted hovered over the toilet ugly vomiting when the other people started asking for my opinion on something. Brian? Brian, hello? Brian, are you there? I just let it go. Then saw emails - Brian are you still on the call? I unmuted and escused myself for having to step away. What else can you do?
So - 9:45am this morning - I laid there not wanting to move. I felt ok - though still a little groggy. If I move - will I feel the nauseous feeling yet again - or have I stomped the bug out of my system? I finally get up the nerve to see how my day is going to go - and am pleased that I'm feeling a ton better. No stomach issues - but not a lot of energy since I haven't had anything to eat or drink in 24+ hours. I get a little breakfast in me - it stays down - whewww. I have a few friends that check on me - my folks even call - several are glad that I'm feeling better and end the conversation with "take it easy - probably not a good day to go running." Wha???
Coming off of a stomach virus and no food except two small breakfast tacos in 24 hours and moderately dehydrated, 95 outside with a heat index even higher - you're right, in a perfect, rational world everything would say "stay in - relax - recover." However, my irrational Ouija board arrow pointed to "run" - and of course that's what I did. I put on my shoes - loaded up Callie - and headed for the Trinity Trails. Yah, it was hot. Yah, I didn't feel great. Yah, I was glad when it was over. But the entire run I thought about the fine line of listening to your body, and knowing when to push through or climb over a wall, or when to accept limits.
I remember my first attempt at a 50 mile run - Grasslands 50 up in Decatur - and running with my buddy Cathy Nevans. It was a tough day - long stretches of sand - hot - windy - just miserable. The course was a clover leaf and we kept coming back to the start/finish which mentally was hard. After the third loop at mile 42 I told her "I'm done." There was a long silence - and finally she said - "are you done or is this a wall that we need to push through?" It ends up that I was done - but the words and the lesson aren't done - they still live on. I ask myself that question a lot when I feel like I've given all I can give. Is it a low point - can you rally - or is it time to call it a day?
There is a fine line between knowing when to go on or quit. How do you know? After a couple of years, I've decided the best way is to listen to your body - and it takes a while to learn to listen to your body. I have people ask all the time about my training schedule. How much do you run a week? How many miles per day? In the last few years I haven't had a training schedule. I just run. Sure, I plan long races usually once a month as my long training runs - but other than that I just go with what feels right. When I know I need a long run - I run long. When my legs feel like they need a break - I take a break. I've found that adhering to a regimented training schedule just doesn't work for me. If I miss a day - I beat myself up. If I skip a day - I beat myself up. If I feel good and it's a scheduled day off - I'm bummed. So - I just run.
Today was a great example of pushing through the wall. Somewhat sluggish, moderately dehydrated, an empty stomach that had been tempermental recently. Aren't these the exact conditions that you experience during a low point of a 100 mile race? It was a great time to take advantage of the simulated conditions for training. Had I listened to sanity - or if I had been following a strict schedule that had me off today - I would have missed a great opportunity to have an uncomfortable - but necessary run. Instead, I listened to my body that said "go for it" - and took orders obediently.
I don't know how to tell anyone to listen to their body - I think it's something that just takes time. But I guarantee my running has greatly improved since I've learned to listen to it - instead of listening to someone else via a training schedule. UltraRunner Neil Gorman gave a quote in 3/2011 about just this thing, in it he says "I believe in listening to, and feeling, your body throughout training and going off of that, as opposed to simply following a heart rate monitor, gadgets, a demanding training schedule, etc. Sensing injury sort of follows with this methodology because, as pointed out in Matt Fitzgerald's book, Run—the Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel, no one knows our bodies better than ourselves." I concur - so get out there and strap on your shoes and hit the trails - and don't forget your listening ears.