I had the opportunity to run for the first time in a foreign state to me. I’m used to my little neighborhood and my various path distances… but when I saw that just a half mile from my hotel in Austin, Texas, that there was a beautiful unpaved running trail right along the river… I had to make time to run it.
I did all the right things. I had a virtual race (Zombies, Run!) all set up. I brought my medal, made a post-race snack pack, invested in a water belt (thanks, Texas heat!), and off I went.
I had this run built up to be so many things in my mind… and I think that is the first place that I went wrong.
I was so excited to run the Zombies, Run 10k and run it somewhere outside of my comfort zone. I was excited to find the path, to explore it, to have this perfect 6.1 mile route I built in my head and with Strava… and I felt awesome. I was practically giddy as I found the trail head. I stopped to take a few pictures here and there, and I didn’t even care that this meant my first mile would be a bit slower. I was EXCITED. I was full of anticipation! I WAS GONNA KILL THIS RUN.
Actually, the run ended up very nearly killing me. Not in a literal sense. I mean, I’m still alive, healthy, and all in one piece… But mentally, man this was a doozie.
I had talked to the hotel concierge prior to leaving to ask her if my prediction of a loop being just over 6 miles was right. She seemed to think it would be more like 4-5, so I figured I’d run it one and a half times just for fun. She wished me luck, and off I went.
I headed out the door with a bounce in my step, got on the path, and took off in the direction she had pointed me. The loop she had directed me toward ended up being only 1 mile. I wasn’t about to run in that loop 5 more times when I knew there was more path ahead of me, so on my second loop, I kept heading west until I met a different pedestrian bridge than the one the concierge had sent me to. I realized this was probably the one she had meant, since it was about three miles from where I had gotten on the path. It was also the trail head.
This is how safe Austin runners feel: they left a pile of keys at the trail head. I have never in my life seen that before. You all just trust no one will take your keys…
My mile times were disappointingly low, according to what I was hearing from my Zombies, Run GPS. 17-18 minute miles? That just seemed wholly wrong. I felt really discouraged and nearly just gave up and walked back to the hotel. I was tired, a little it lost, dehydrated, and feeling like this just wasn’t my day to run. All those preconceived ideas of how I was going to kick this trail’s ass and make my best 10k time ever were starting to turn to doubt… and they were starting to weigh me down.
That’s when I looked at my GPS. 3.25 miles? Really? That’s all I had run? Oh for shit’s sake.This was going to take forever. And that’s when I realized I had accidentally paused my app. And taking a peek at the the other app i had running… I’d gone nearly 6 miles. Well, crap on a cracker.
You see, at the point I decided I was hopeless and I should turn back, I was at a point where I would literally be going back the same distance I had already traveled… Thinking originally that this was just 3.25 mile, that was no big deal. 6.5 miles and a half mile cool down walk to the hotel would be no problem. But when I saw I had actually gone 5.75 miles… I wanted to cry. Have I mentioned how much of a mental game running it? Yeah. And for someone who lives in her head most of the time, this was quickly turning my brain into it’s own battle field of:
YOU CAN’T DO THIS. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING. OF COURSE YOU’RE STILL THAT SLOW. YOU SUCK. WHY DO YOU EVEN RUN. JUST QUIT.
I was tired. I was hungry – nay, HANGRY – and I had five more miles left to run. I was thirsty, but there hadn’t been a bathroom in a few miles. I was a tiny bit lost but I was pretty sure I could get back… and did I mention… 5 more miles?
That’s when Endomondo was a life saver. One of my Zombies, Run friends sent me a pep talk right at that minute where I felt so hopeless and defeated…
“5, we’re picking up something strange on the cams. What is that? In about 400 meters. Um. You’re not going to believe this, but it looks like… A red mailbox. Can you see it? Go get it 5. You’re almost home!”
Now, believe me when I say that each and every pep talk I got on Endomondo was incredible and pushed me on… But at the exact moment that this one came through, I was literally nearly in tears at the realization that I’d botched my own race, I’d gone way farther than I thought I was going to go, I hadn’t planned nearly as well as I thought I had… and I felt so downtrodden. That pep in my step was gone. That excitement to run a new trail was turning in to regret…
And then this pep talk came.
I did shed one tear of happiness as it played. I took a deep breath, I settled my mind back down, and I took of in the direction of home. It was just 5 miles. I could do 5 miles… Right?
I ran more of this last leg than I ran the entire run so far. My breathing evened out, I step perked back up, and I just went for it. What other choice did I have? Sit down and cry until someone called me a taxi? NO. I was going to get this done and I was going to do it myself!
The last half mile was the hardest. I knew I was close to home. I had finally found a bathroom and refilled my water bottles. It was going on 2.5 hours since I had left. My brain was fighting to go back into panic mode, but I did my best to not let it.
When I got back to the trail start, I squealed. I looked at my NOT PAUSED app and realized I had gone 11.6 miles total from entering the trail to getting back to the hotel. And that’s when the pride kicked back in.
HA! Take that, self doubt! Take that, thinking I couldn’t run a ten mile race! Take that, letting myself get defeated and wanting to give up!
When I got back to my room, I opened my Zombies, Run race packed, enjoyed my chips and banana, sipped on my post-race beer… and reveled in the accomplishment of my mini-post race party of one.
Damn, that awful run ended up feeling like the best.