“Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction.”
-William JamesI didn't run the Eastern States 20 mile today. I've run that race for the past three years, and I truly love it. I love it even when I'm not using it to train for a spring marathon. It is a lovely course, and a point-to-point, which is pretty rare to find in the racing world. I'm not happy about not running it. I'm not really all that happy at all, anymore.
I came to the realization that I wasn't ready for the race yesterday. I've been failing pretty dramatically at carving out time for myself lately, so my weekly long runs have been my only runs, and that's just not enough of a base to do a run like that with confidence. I'd be able to cover the distance, but I'd probably hurt myself, and it certainly wouldn't be enjoyable. It was the call I had to make but it also led to a long discussion with my wife. We are both suspecting that my depression is creeping back in.
I've had depressive bouts through the years, usually during the winter, and it is really challenging to overcome them. I've also continued to grow as a person, though, so this time, they don't look the same. I'm not staying in bed all the time, and I'm not eating tons and tons of junk food to cope. I'm not as bubbly, and I'm not running as much. I'm up about ten pounds from where I want to be, but certainly it's not the most weight I've gained in a period of depression.
"You're functioning. But you aren't yourself," my wife told me yesterday.
"This is why everyone thinks you're a pessimist. This isn't how you were when you were running all the time,"
That's true, no doubt. I'm in a crappy mood. It's like I'm exhausted all the time. I'm not happy with the way I look, the way I feel, the lack of activity. I'm not really sure how to jumpstart things again. I feel constantly overwhelmed by the amount of things to do at home, and at work. I used to be able to let things go, and now I feel like they stay with me. My long runs have barely been able to keep me sane because they're the only running I'm doing, and it isn't nearly enough to give me perspective.
But I'm going to keep trying, for sure. I can't give up on this, I've got too much left to do. I want to go run the ES20 again, I want to be able to redeem myself in my own eyes. I want to not feel like garbage.
The other thing that's so odd about all of this is that I really am happy with many things in my life. I actually feel worse when I don't mention this, because I don't take these things for granted. Our little family is very happy, the dog is great, the baby is healthy and so full of life, and we own our home (which my parents never could have dreamed of doing.) I don't take that for granted and I recognize that I'm lucky to have what I have. But, I still don't feel joy in many areas of my life, and they are the areas that made me a much more vibrant person. I need to find my way back to that.
I feel bad sometimes in calling this blog the "New Dad Endurance Blog." For one thing, at some point I won't be a new dad anymore, and for another thing, there are certainly athletes who are more qualified to speak to endurance than I am. I'm just hacking my way through things, really, doing the best that I can.
I believe firmly that endurance is also a mental thing. There's a lot written on that topic, and I think a lot of it holds true. I have the added thing of this depression problem creeping around, so in addition to the multitude of other stressors that one is really insidious when it's present. It feels like a very heavy weight to lift all at once, to get back to who I was, and where I was. The only way I can think to approach it is to 'eat the elephant one bite at a time' as marathoners say.
It has been a very long winter. I need to come out of this on the other side, and try to turn myself around for the rest of 2017.
I'm signed up for a Night Run 5k this coming Saturday. I've run it before, but it wasn't in April the year I did it. One of my friends is also running, and I'm looking forward to getting decked out in glow bracelets and going for a run by the ocean. Maybe it will help revive my enthusiasm for the sport and my joi de vivre.