Tuesday, July 26, 2011

when it's okay to quit

I've spent a lifetime training myself that it's never okay to quit. There are always more reasons to continue along the path than there are to turn back. People who stop before they really began just don't understand what they are capable of.

It was in this general mindset that I headed out for a training run Sunday morning.

This was the run I was supposed to complete on Friday...but instead I ate lots of Thai food. So it became the run I was supposed to complete on Saturday...but instead I sat perfectly still for 10 hours to work on a project (a project that needed to get done, but I'll try not to defend myself too much). That brings us to the run I was supposed to complete beginning at 6 am on Sunday...but instead I twirled myself up in my blankets and said, 'just a few more hours of sleep.'

So it was that I found myself at the Mirabeau park entrance to the Centennial Trail at 11 am, with the sun already high in the sky. It was getting hot. Nasty hot. But I decided to ignore the sinking feeling in my stomach that told me this run might need to wait for another day.

The first few miles were a breeze. I flew along under the tree canopy, enjoying views of the river that would be fit for a postcard anywhere else, but that we who live here see as same-ol'-same-ol'. I munched on almonds and chocolate covered raisins, my favorite running foods, and tried to be mindful about drinking from the many tiny water bottles that lined my waist.

At Noon, I left the trees.

Miles four and five weren't unbearable, but the sun was causing me to squint under my sunglasses, and I could feel the rays pushing down on my shoulders. At 5.5 miles, I turned to head back for the trees, 'maybe a little more time in the shade will help me out,' I thought.

Eight miles down and back in the trees, I realized I had run out of water. There was still two-and-a-half miles between me and the nearest water fountain, and now the sun had shifted so those previously friendly trees were no longer casting their cooling shadows.

As I plodded along at an increasingly slower pace, I offhandedly noticed that I was no longer sweating. Normally, this would be cause for alarm. But to my sun-addled mind, it was cause for mild amusement, 'Weird!!' my subconscious squealed, 'my skins feels all squishy!'

The headache came on at around mile 9, shimmering curtains of iridescence crashing though my eyes, making it hard to see. Ophthalmic migraines are common for me when I'm in intense pain or have become dehydrated. Unfazed, I continued to jog, probably in a series of weaving lines and circles.

11 miles down and standing back in front of the water fountain by the parking lot, I carefully filled each little bottle from my hydration belt, and proceeded to drink them and fill them again. It didn't make any sense to me to drink directly from the fountain. So I stood there, for perhaps 10 minutes, filling and draining those mini-squeeze bottles.

Then came the defining moment of my day.

Normal people; sane people; take stock of their situation and make decisions based on that data. People like me; crazy people; complete a task regardless of outside information.

I was 20 feet from my car and my cell phone. 5 feet from a tree providing shade. Mere inches from a water fountain.

My thought process, in it's entirety, went like this:

'We have the water!! LET'S GO!!!'

And I set out again, this time going the opposite direction, in full, soul-sucking sun. The tiny trees I passed offered enough shade for chipmunks, and I contemplated crouching under them for a while, but somehow I was certain that I wasn't allowed to be under the trees. Each time I passed a shady spot I would think, 'I wish I could stop there,' and yet I'd continue on.

During a normal run for me, I run halfway out (away from my car or house or wherever), then I turn around and run back. This ensures that I don't crap out and give up in the process of circling my house five or six times: I'm already out, now I have to go back.

Without realizing exactly what I was doing, I ran myself halfway out from the car and the water source when I should have been trying to pass it multiple times. Or better yet, should have been indoors after realizing it was too sunny for a pale kid like me.

So it went that I trotted another 2.5 miles away after having already been at the car. When I reached 2.5 miles away (13.5 miles total), I noticed a woman and her daughter with their bikes taking refuge under a larger tree. I wandered over and stood uncomfortably close to them, then abruptly sat down in the pine needles and put my head between my knees. They left at some point, weirded out no doubt, but I stayed under the tree for at least 15 minutes trying not to lose the almonds and chocolate raisins I had consumed earlier.

The distance back to the parking lot this time was not a run, not a jog, not a walk; more like a death march.

People passing on the trail said things to me, one woman pointed at me and seemed concerned, but I couldn't understand what they were saying. I stopped five or six times to sit under trees while my head swam in circles. The parking lot seemed to be running from me.

The next thing I knew I was lying under a tree by the water fountain with my shoes and socks off, 16 miles displaying on the iPod. Logic tells me I walked there, but I can't be sure.

When I got back to the house I laid down to stop the spinning in my head and woke up three hours later feeling like I'd been hit by a train.

My sunburn makes it hurt to wear shirts with sleeves.

I approach most things with overwhelming enthusiasm and confidence. I run head-on into any situation, literally and figuratively. Leaping before looking. Shooting first. Apologizing rather than asking for permission.

I can now look back with confidence and say, "Yeah, I should have just quit."

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