On hubris and ego (Subtitle: It is inadvisable to run over two hours without food or water. It is outright stupid to run over three without those things.)

I was having one of those mornings. We all know the ones. They leech away our motivation, our willpower to leave the tea and sweatpants and lace up and head out. Which was odd because I came home this weekend primarily to run on the trails just two miles from my parents’ house, surrounded by trees. (I just realized it’s technically a Recreation Area. Yay maps.) But as always, once I put on the sports bra, my brain perked up – “Are we going for a run? ARE WE RUNNING? LET’S GO!” My brain is like a dog when it comes to running. Once the idea is in there, it blocks out everything else – including lack of motivation – pretty quickly. I think we all hit a point in avoiding our run where we just kind of go, “This is silly. I’ll just run. It’s time.” And we go and do it. Quite simple and not at all worth the wishywashiness beforehand.

So I head out into the late morning, blue sky totally clear above me, golds and reds and greens around me, dirt beneath my shoes. Less than half a mile from my porch, I break into a huge smile and all my motivation rushes back. I love running. Now, I’ve started lifting again, so my quads, glutes, and hips have all been rather stiff and sore for the past few days. It took quite a while for that soreness to work its way out (to be replaced by running soreness, of course), so my left hip was giving me issues on almost all the hills, which got old pretty damn fast… as did my right foot cramping yet again. But as I said, my motivation was back and the weather was perfect, the trails (though loose, sandy, and rocky) were nearly empty, I wasn’t hearing gunshots (always good), and the surroundings were sublime. So a little niggle in my hip and an annoying minor cramp weren’t going to ruin my run. I kept going.

And kept going.

And kept going.

Kept is a weird word.

When I’d left, I didn’t really have a specific distance or route in mind. I just knew I wanted to run the horse trails and up around there since it’s so pretty. I thought maybe 90 minutes (about 10 miles). But as I neared 90 minutes, I was feeling really good and enjoying the run. I wasn’t ready to turn back and head for home. So I set my sights on two hours, maybe two and a half – I’d see how I was feeling. And my hip and foot problems were fading, as was the residual stiffness from lifting. I let my mind wander to running 18 miles – how good it would feel, how I could make my Facebook status something like “Just got back from a spontaneous 18-miler, gorgeous!”… how if I could do that today, now, I’d be “back.” So after two hours I decided I’d go for three, since that’s about how long it usually takes me for 18 on trails.

As I mentioned in the title, running much longer than two hours without food or water gets uncomfortable. Had it been warmer than low 50s, I almost definitely would have run into some trouble with dehydration. And calories are always good. But at two hours, I was feeling great, so I thought I was somehow exempt from these stipulations and would be totally fine. As you may infer, I was not. I bonked so hard, I barely jogged the last three miles. The last hour was pretty rough. I was really thirsty and, because I hadn’t eaten much, I was getting way more fatigued than I should have been. I was walking on non-uphill sections. I sat down for a quick rest on a boulder (which I was okay with, because enjoying nature is half the reason I’m out in the first place. There was some red chert in the boulder that I was looking at.*) But I made it home safe, which is the important thing. I gulped about six glasses of water and drank two Capri Suns which (a) I haven’t had since probably middle school and (b) I have no idea why they were in this house. I stretched (while sitting down, of course) and took a long, hot shower – the best reward after a long run next to laying down.

On my tumblr, I posted a picture of my very muddy feet and shoes and said (much more briefly) that I ran over three hours without food or water. Someone responded with: “You’re spectacular.” I replied “thanks” but wanted to say something more along the lines of:

1. 3 hours for 18 miles is not especially fast.
2. Running that long/far without food or water isn’t impressive, it’s being daft and setting a bad example.
3. …although yes, I am spectacular, thank you.

In conclusion: The hubris of today’s run was thinking that I was exempt from the laws of physics, biology, anatomy, and the like. Your body needs water and calories to function, and ignoring that will only decrease your performance and possibly do harm. The ego was thinking I was cool or tough or something for doing that, and that “I could totally run 13 more miles!” after 18 (when I had only run about 13). But really, it was an enjoyable run and I can’t say I regret doing it – just that I’ve learned from my mistake and won’t repeat it. I think it would have gone much better had I brought supplies, and I think I might be able to do a 50k soonish. Fingers crossed.

So now I am tired and sore and have been sitting up for far too long typing this. Time to get under my favorite snuggly post-long-run blanket with a book.

peace love and not being dumb about running,

Mud, blood, and scratches: signs of a good run.

So much dirt. When I took off my shoes and socks, I made a nice little pile of it. I’m amazed I didn’t blister.

*Now that I’ve taken sediments and mineralogy (well, I’m in them now), rocks are super distracting. I’ll see one with a pattern or a colorful thing and just stop in the middle of my run to check it out. Related: I picked up a big loose chert chunk and put it in the key pocket of my capris, literally thinking as I did so, “I’m going to forget this is in here and it will clank around in the dryer.” Guess what I hear clanking around right now? Yup.

PS. The trails I was running on were equestrian trails – no wheeled things allowed (including bikes). I came up to a staging area and saw there were a couple horses there, so I slowed to a walk (which is what you’re supposed to do – horses look great but don’t have much going on between their dark, watchful eyes). There was a mountain biker there getting into something of an argument with the horse people about whether or not bikes were allowed on the trails. As I came into view, he pointed at me and said, “She doesn’t have a horse!” The other guy pointed out that I also didn’t have wheels. I politely told him that they were right and carried on my way, only running once I was decently far from the horses. I guess my point is make sure you’re using the right trails so as not to upset people.


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