Thursday, September 26, 2013

Present Perfect and Post-Marathon Recovery

Port Medway Harbour
Ten days post-marathon and I'm deep in the throes of post-marathon blues, feeling disappointed with my performance and a discouraged about training for the next event. I know from talking with other runners that feeling let down after a marathon isn't unusual. However, it seems my perfectionist tendencies have made my blues a little more intense than normal.

Fortunately, I recently finished reading a helpful book entitled "Present Perfect", which provides some excellent insights and advice for recovering perfectionists like me. The author, Dr. Pavel Somov, argues perfectionists are so often unhappy because they tend to judge things (the past, their own and other people's actions, their current circumstances) based upon what they think those things should be (or should have been) rather than what they actually are (or were). He goes on to point out how illogical that is. We can't change the past. Everyone does the best they can in the circumstances. What is, is. Given that, a healthier approach is to redefine perfection to include anything that can't be improved and to accept "perfectly imperfect" realities as the best they can be.

For example, take my marathon last weekend. I feel disappointed because - once again - I failed to run a sub-4:30. In fact, my finish time of nearly 4:49 was one of my slowest marathon times ever. But the fact is it was never realistic to hope I'd run the race in under 4:30. I'd only trained for 8 or 9 weeks leading up to it (rather than the recommended 12-16), the course was hillier than I expected and I hurt my ankle the evening before running to catch a ferry. Added to which, I decided not to jeopardize my chances of running well in Newfoundland by pushing too hard and injuring myself.

Taking everything into account then, 4:49 was "perfect" result - in as much as it was as fast as I could run all things considered. I didn't achieve my goal of running sub-4:30 but my performance wasn't a total failure. I finished my seventh marathon, for goodness sake. I can choose to be disappointed about my finish time or celebrate my "perfectly imperfect" achievement instead.

Which is not to say that we should never try to do better in future - only that there's no point being angry with ourselves or others when things don't turn out the way we hope. It's easy to say "I/they could have done better" but the truth is I/they couldn't. Given who we are, the knowledge and capacities we have, the things we've experienced and the circumstances in which we find ourselves, we're all doing the best we can.

That's something I'll try to keep in mind as I complete my training for Cape to Cabot. The race is just over 4 weeks away now and, based on how I'm feeling at the moment, it's hard to imagine I'll finish. However, last week I read an article in Runner's World that talks about how to prepare for races scheduled a few weeks apart. The author suggests the best approach is follow a training plan that enables you to recover fully from your first event while maintaining/improving your capacity to tackle the second. She also suggests that you be realistic in your expectations. Running back to back races in a single season is tougher than running a single race so you should expect to run them more slowly than you would just one race.

The article goes on to say that the first week between races should be all about recovery. That was certainly the case for me last week. I only ran three times and spent a lot of time doing other things I enjoy - eating, sleeping, walking, taking pictures and riding my motorcycle. (Here's one of the photos I took during my ride Saturday afternoon.)

Lighthouse Park, Port Medway
I ran my longest run on Sunday - a 13k to Peace Park and back. Since it was a warm sunny day, I donned my Maritime Race Weekend buff and most serious hot weather running gear, determined to feel like a "real" runner.

Unfortunately, dressing the part didn't help much. The first 5 or 6k felt good but then - wham - I hit the wall. My heart rate soared, my legs felt like lead weights and my motivation dropped through the floor. I made it home under my own steam - but only by taking more walk breaks than usual. I suspect the trouble was partly that the weather was muggy and I was dehydrated from too much wine and coffee the day before but it was still pretty discouraging. In any case, after all the R&R I've had the past 10 days, I'm hoping that I'm now ready to get back into more serous training and my long run this coming weekend will feel easier.

After the run, Husband and I headed to Risser's Beach where we visited with my mum and took a few pictures. Here's one of me on the boardwalk that crosses the marsh behind the beach. I love the colours this time of year.

And here's one looking back the other way toward Petite Riviere.

This is my favourite shot from the outing.

En route home, I stopped at Crescent Beach to grab a few photos of this kitesurfer. I love the way his bright red kite "pops" against the bright blue sky.

It's was nice having  more time for photography and other things last weekend but I'm looking forward to getting back into training. I need a couple of good hilly runs under my belt before I toe the start line at C2C. I'll let you know how it goes.

Happy running and writing, friends!

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