Some days are better than others.
This is a thing that I know to be true, but really experiencing it--and letting myself believe it--has proved something else entirely. A recent run was a much-needed reminder that some days are, in fact, better than others. And that's not such a bad thing.
I set out for a long trail run on a gorgeous morning, planning for 11 miles. I'm training for a half in May, and this was one of my longest runs in my training plan, so it meant a lot not only physically, but mentally: if I can do this, I told myself, I can do the race.
But less than a mile into my run, my legs felt like lead. My feet felt like bruises. My calves felt like fire. My quads felt like jello. I hadn't even hit the hills yet.
I couldn't figure out what was happening: Was I dehydrated? (Probably.) Not well-fueled? (Definitely.) Overheating on the first truly warm day of the year? (Yep.) Tired from several days of travel? (Absolutely.)
I ignored all of the warning signs my body was sending me and decided to push on ahead, determined not to let a little thing like exhaustion get in the way of my training plan. Who cares that I'd walked over 11 miles just a few days before? That wasn't running. And I have a race to run, and needed to prove to myself that I could do it.
What I actually proved to myself was that I was wrong to try for so much, knowing how I felt. I wound up walking up every hill I encountered, and was so tired that I struggled to keep my footing on downhills. I sucked down my first water bottle within 15 minutes. It's frankly a miracle I didn't break an ankle in the first two miles of pushing myself too hard.
But then, round about mile 2, something magic happened: I stopped pushing myself.
I walked up the hills, and I trotted slowly down the downhills. I stopped to take pictures. I enjoyed the sunshine. I ate an applesauce pouch. I had some water. I watched the baby cows run in a group.
I ran slowly, carelessly, ignoring my pace and my distance and my goals and everything except the promise of spring in the air. It sounds cliche, I know, but even though I cut my run short by seven miles--SEVEN MILES--what started as one of the worst runs of my training cycle, physically, ended as one of the best, mentally.