You know how sometimes you go for a long run and, even though you finish up tired, you feel really great the whole time and you’re super happy you did it? Today was not that day. In fact, today’s 18-miler was more of a “hope I don’t crap my pants” kind of run. (Thank goodness I didn’t actually poop myself, but it was pretty dicey there for awhile.) Truth be told, I was completely done by Mile 7. But at that point I was 7 miles from my car and if I turned around right then I would still have run 14 miles and dammit if I was gonna run 14 miles I might as well finish what I started and do the whole 18. So, 18 miles it was.
There were several reasons why today was not destined to be a fabulous run, including a busy week with lots of long-distance driving and poor eating choices, but I was still a little disappointed to run out of gas so early on. Even my music, which usually gives me a little energy, was driving me bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S. To keep myself moving forward, I had to play a lot of mental games:
- Count the Dogs. This one’s an old favorite, because I love dogs, but I am lousy at actually keeping track of how many I see. Today’s estimated number was 17, but I could be off by as many as 12 in either direction. My favorites were the mini Australian Shepherd who thought there was something that smelled amazing at the base of a tree and the two teeny, tiny poodles who might have weighed a combined five pounds.
- Spot the Shirt. Another one I play a lot, especially when I run on the American River Parkway (as I did today), because most of the people you see there are pretty serious runners who like to show off the races they’ve run. Most of today’s shirts were the usual local race suspects, though I also saw several I didn’t recognize.
- Catch the Slow Person. Some days this means other runners. Today it mostly meant walkers and even some of them were moving faster than I was!
- The Most Ridiculous Thing. Every time I ride or run long, I see something that catches my eye and makes me wonder WTF? Today’s Most Ridiculous was pretty awesome (in fact, it was doubly awesome – about a half mile after I saw one of these, there was another! I smiled at the second guy and said, “There’s two of you?” He laughed. “Yep.” Then I bade him good morrow and continued on my way):
No, this is not my photo. I wanted to take a picture of the guy, but felt really weird doing it.
- Something to Look Forward To. I actually play this game sometimes on short runs, too. There’s pretty much always something to look forward to, like being done. Today’s Somethings included walking breaks, bathroom breaks, reaching mile markers, reaching half-mile markers and not puking.
- What Kind of Wild Animal is That? Sometimes this game is easier than others, like today. I saw a flock of wild turkeys, hundreds of squirrels, dozens of bunnies and one sweet little deer who was baffled by a fence. Nothing I couldn’t identify, which is a pretty successful day for me.
- One Last Thing. I totally just made this one up today. When I got started this morning, I felt pretty good and less than a half-mile in, I noticed this totally random flight of stairs. Now, I have run this path many, many times before and somehow never seen these stairs. Or at least never consciously thought about them. But today I promised myself that I would finish up by running those stairs, maybe even a few times. You already know that I felt like dog crap by the time I saw those stairs at Mile 17.75, but I am completely unable to resist a challenge, even a self-inflicted one. So I ran up those stairs five times and then of course had to take a picture.
What kind of mind games do you play on long runs?