Let’s face it…..Running is fun! Just look at all the people with huge smiles on their faces as they cross some finish line or frolic in the fields as they trot along. Running is just down right intoxicating……
Unless you hit the wall.
Now…Let’s explore the facts and the myths of “hitting the wall”. Technically….it is the physical limit to the amount of sugar and ATP you have in your muscles. You hit the wall due to several factors: Muscle fatigue, dehydration, or just plain exhaustion. Your Muscles cramp up and you stop…like when an 18 wheel truck loses its air brakes. It’s a safety feature that causes the truck to come to a screeching halt rather than pole vaulting over a guard rail and into a chasm. This is why it is called hitting the wall.
However….there is another definition to hitting the wall. And that is the “Mental” factor where your brain causes you to think you hit the wall when you are actually still running “ok”. Sure, it is hot; You are sore; Your legs feel like limp spaghetti….but you are technically “ok”. You still have energy and can still move. But the brain is a powerful thing. It can override the body and cause it to cramp up and stop.
So Cheryl will hit the wall at around 45 miles. Or more….We are not exactly sure. She has been training everyday this week with no break and it has begun to wear on her. Today was the 13 mile “long run”. Where we cap off the week with a half marathon distance then take Sunday off. Last week she ran it under 2 hours. But this week she was feeling rather “groggy” from endless running and weather fluxes that hindered her performance. Eventually the mind decided that things were looking bad and we should stop the insanity.
It was cool, but still warmer than what we are used to. We did not pack water…( because we never needed to before) so there was a bit of dehydration going on. There were hills that seemed even higher than usual….and so…Cheryl stopped running….Only for a second.
In Cheryl's mind, walking is “bad”, so she tries to never do it. But an injury or knee pain probably means there is something wrong and it is best to not push through the pain only to mess up your chances at a race. But then, just as the mind can mess you up…it can cause you to drive on. So she started back up and continued to run…..Slowly at first, but then steadily faster.
The entire episode ended with only a 5 minute difference in her times from last week. So “hitting the wall” and having a break down will only slow you down about 5 minutes! Good to know for the future! Besides…this is technically a training run and what better place to find your limits than in training as opposed to an actual run.
In the end…she finished the entire 13 mile run. She said she would never forgive herself if she did not make it today as it was a wonderful day to run….nice and cool and bright. I’d like to think this was a successful training session as we pushed back the limits a bit….( insert cliché’ here) She has powered through another barrier and is ready to find her next one….hopefully not for a long time.
As for me, well, all I could do was joke about the situation and ask her to stop at 10 miles. I’m not a doctor! How should I know what to do? I was simply thinking about myself and how was I going to carry her 4 miles back if she melted down? With this she has also learned that she can not depend on me….for pretty much anything….. except to be annoying in the face of eminent doom. I’d like to think that is a good thing to know…..teaching self reliance instead of dependency.
So now we pay the rest card and take a break. This week has also shown us that we should take a mid week break from training as well. So: No running over 8 miles a day for a week; and now, no running continuous for 6 days. We have a non-training run coming up and don’t want to miss that.