Life raft.

Ana Lu and I in the finisher's chute. Photo credit to Josh Gum.
Ana Lu and I, Mac 50K 2015. Photo credit, Josh Gum.

‘Running is 90% mental and 10% physical.’

This past two weeks… My brain handed me an a$$-whooping.

I have been in a battle with my brain. BIG. TIME.

And it was clearly winning.

Hands down this past 10 days or so have been the most mentally grueling days of running that I have had so far.

When you look at my Garmin/Strava – whatever would float your boat and give you information about my running – things looked pretty normal.

I can assure you my brain was NOT normal.

So what the heck happened?

I had a run a little over a week ago that left me feeling profoundly embarrassed.

I won’t go into details, because the more I actually spend time sorting this thing out,  the more I realize it is NOT about the details.

Not at all. 

It was entirely about how I reacted and the things I allowed my brain to latch onto and the things I kept telling myself  that just weren’t helpful or true.

A single run left me feeling embarrassed, humiliated and sad. And I let it get to me. I let it beat me down for over a week.

The next couple of runs following the ‘incident’ were horrible. Run a little. Stop and cry. Run a little. Walk in a crying tantrum. Run totally pissed off at myself and then stumble along crying in anger. I was oddly even more grateful in those moments that I run trail.  At least there were no human witnesses.

I had a recording of things running through my mind that were mean, uncharitable, nasty.

And I was listening to them intently.

And I was crying. A lot. I’m just not a crier.  That reaction alone was bewildering and confusing to me.

I had lunch with my friend Ana Lu the other day. I was explaining all of this; the process, the aftermath, some of my conclusions. I asked her what she did when/if she found herself in such a state of emotional turmoil.

For those of you who aren’t lucky enough to know Ana Lu, among the many great things about her; she is compassionate and unfailingly optimistic.

The one idea she had for me – that I think was particularly brilliant and helpful – was to build myself a ‘life raft’.

She told me to write myself a love letter, call a friend, pray, run in my favorite spot, read positive stories, journal, run with good friends who wouldn’t question my silence or tears, buy new music, put a huge note/poster on my wall with my next goal to keep me focused and excited…

And as an emotionally open person she told me (an avowed non-crier) that when I feel like crying mid-run I really just needed to STOP and cry my heart out – hold nothing back. Get it out of my system. No matter who’s watching. 🙂

She said I should use one or more of those ideas as my ‘life raft’.

She also told me I should blog about all of this. Not just because of the running aspect. She argued, that no one really talks openly about this side of the lifestyle change process.

It took me about three days after the ‘incident’ to realize that running was simply the trigger for this current emotional upheaval.  A conversation with my coach is what really helped me start to recognize and understand what was going on.

Ana Lu saw it too and she’s a good enough friend that she gently called me on it.

This wasn’t about running at all.

This was about self doubt. Fear. Lack of confidence. Shame. A distorted body image.

This was about the work that NOW needs to be done to help my brain catch up with where I’ve taken my body and my life.

And I think running is actually going to prove to be the perfect tool to help me figure this all out.

The maintenance portion/cementing lifestyle part of this whole journey is actually, statistically, harder than losing the weight.

Quick side note. Having been an overweight, chronic-dieter all of my life – I’ve always heard the idea about losing weight being the easy part… Quite honestly I thought people were totally full of crap when they said that.  Losing 220 pounds and reversing T2 diabetes was freaking HARD, relentless, scary work.  But now?  Now that I’m at a solid weight, eating healthy, staying active and focused on keep my weight within a healthy range… Turns out… They weren’t really full of it.

It’s all hard.

This ‘staying where you are’ stuff, holding strong to new lifestyle pieces you fought to reach, processing through the mental pieces that led to being almost 400 pounds after 40+ years?

This maintaining stuff is complicated and hard.

Ana Lu told me that statistics showed that once someone reaches their goal (whatever that lifestyle goal/shift/change may be) they are way more likely to bask in the glow of achievement for a short period of time and then quietly and slowly relapse into old habits.

Turns out that maintaining lifestyle changes is not the norm; it’s statistically not how the story ends for most folks.

I reached my goal of abolishing T2 diabetes and losing 220 pounds and learning to run…

So now what?

NOW I continue the hard work of hanging onto my lifestyle and really learning about my new life as it works day-in and day-out.  And continuing to diligently pitch some of the old crap – as I find it –  out of the boat along the way.

I’m not the same person I was.

I loved my old life and I love my new life.

I just have to keep working to help my brain catch-up with where I’m at. 🙂

Thanks to Ana Lu’s idea, I now have a teeny-tiny emergency life raft cobbled together. It is anchored close by and ready to go for the next run.

Do you have a life raft?

Ana Lu, Carlos, me and Spencer. Dimple Hill. 

3 thoughts on “Life raft.

  1. Nice post!! I cannot relate to the internal struggles you faced getting to where you are now. Looking back can also bring you a lot of strength given the many hurdles you overcame. However–while I am reluctant to give a friend advice on a public forum–I would say try to stop “hanging onto [your] lifestyle” as if it was fragile or transitory. It is not the “new you” as opposed to the the “old you.” It IS “you” period. My motto, and this is nothing catchy, but as someone who will never run as fast as I once did in college, go something like this: Always look forward, just keep moving, set a new goal as soon as you reach the prior one. Then start the hard work of achieving it. After all, object in your rear view mirror are always larger than they appear.

    See you on the trails, hopefully tearing up with joy or with the overwhelming beauty that surrounds you!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A year ago I felt like I was hanging on. I guess I’m more at the point now that you do describe. It’s more ‘real’ now. 🙂 Running in 8 days. New goal setting in 9. 🙂 I HEAR YOU MY FRIEND. Thank you for reading and for providing me with support and supportive advice.


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