Monday Morning Massacre – a run report

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Monday Morning Madness? Monday Morning Mayhem? Monday Morning My-Oh-My? I can’t decide on a name. It bothers me that it’s no longer Monday. Last night I fired up my laptop to put the finishing touches on this post, and Windows informed me that it was in the process of updating my operating system. Three hours later, as I was getting ready for bed, the update was still running—twelve percent more to go. So, a day late…
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My Monday run was ugly. That’s the word for it. Just ugly. Let’s start with the low point. I have Tourette Syndrome. It’s no secret, not online and not around my town. If you’re a Facebook friend and pay any attention at all, you should know this about me. Besides my blog, Facebook is where I focus my awareness efforts. I’m constantly linking articles and blog posts written by me or others explaining what it’s like to have Tourette. Many (most?) people I know have heard that I suffer from Tourette, but the sterile environment of a Facebook post isn’t the same as encountering me in a full-on Tourette tic-storm.

Tics, what are they? Unwanted movements and vocalizations. They’re only partially controllable, like a sneeze or an itch. I can delay them, but if they want to come out, they’re going to come out. My laundry list: Eye scrunching, lip licking, tooth scraping, jaw grinding, pinky chewing, thigh punching, grunting. I do these things at different times, in different situations. They’re never predictable, I don’t know what I’m going to do or when I’m going to do it. Except when I run. I always grunt when I run. Think of the grunt a hog makes. Now add some volume. Now imagine a series of grunts in the rhythm of a song stuck in your head. This is me when I run. Grunting out AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long. The more tired I am, the louder I grunt.

My run started early. My Labor Day plan was to sleep until around 6:30. And then try to be on the trail by 8:30, a half hour before the horse-tours start. I wanted to put some distance between myself and the horses. They startle easily. Passing them is stressful. Better to just avoid them altogether. Instead, I woke up at 5:00. Monday was one of those depressing non-work days when I couldn’t sleep in. I was running by 7:00. Me, alone, in a quiet national park. No horses, no people.

Monday’s run was part trail, part road. I wanted to keep things flat, take it slow and easy. I had a blow-out run on Saturday. Eli’s been getting into mountain biking. He joined a team over the summer, and they practice two or three times per week. Last week was a two-practice week, so he wanted to go out on Saturday for an extra riding session. Susan volunteered to ride with him while I went running. With a trail map, plenty of water and a couple of Payday candy bars, I headed out onto a trail system I’ve never run before.

A half-mile in, my heart pounding, gasping for breath, I remembered that I gave blood a few days earlier. Red blood cells are the delivery mechanism for oxygen throughout the body, and I just gave away eighteen percent of mine. I couldn’t breathe. I contemplated quitting, turning around and walking back, but I don’t often get to run a new trail. I soldiered on. Eighty minutes later, coming out of the woods, grunting long and loud to I Must not Think Bad Thoughts by the rock band X, I was happy I gutted it out. It was fun and rewarding, but God, was it hard.

I said I wanted to keep my Monday run flat. That’s a relative term. Gettysburg is on the edge of the Alleghany Mountains, in the foothills—there isn’t much flat. My run had lots of rollers and three good hills. Unfortunately, the first hill was the first half mile I ran. After six days, you’d think my blood would be back to normal. Maybe it was, maybe not, but I was immediately sucking wind. This set the tone for the whole run. One long wind-sucking jog.

I recently read a book by Adharanand Finn, The Rise of the Ultra Runners. In his book, Finn gives an account of transforming from a brisk marathoner into an ultra-runner who can complete a one hundred-twenty-mile race. In part of his book he discusses the Pain Cave. Deep in an ultra-marathon, but not so far that the finish seems achievable, maybe at mile sixty-five or seventy out of one hundred, after twenty-four hours of continuous running, where each and every bit of your body aches, you might wind up in the Pain Cave. Your mind darkens, your will evaporates, and you think “Why the F—k am I doing this?” It’s something, Finn says, most ultra-runners experience at some point. Finn seems to experience it in every race. On Monday morning, I wondered if I could find myself in the Pain Cave on a seven-mile run.

Midway through my run, grinding up a long grade, grunting like a hog, I heard voices. They were sing-songy, little girl voices. A parked car sat about thirty yards in front of me. I envisioned a family getting started on an early outing. When I know that people are within earshot, I stop grunting. It’s not something I think about, it just happens. When I passed the car, I saw it was empty, and the grunting started again. Because of my break, now it was louder, more abrupt, more like a bark. Right at that moment, two women blew past me from behind like I was standing still. It was Amanda and Steph. I’ve known them for years. I used to organize races, these two were always in contention for the podium.

On this blog, I write frequently about Tourette Syndrome. I write about my tics and how they leave me agitated and feeling odd. Something I’m not sure I’ve made clear is how good I am at masking them. People just don’t see and hear them. In conversations, I wait until they look away to scrunch up my eyes, only when I’m alone, do I punch my legs. I do my grunting, when I’m alone in the car or on runs. I spend my days by myself in my office, writing or crunching numbers. I can do what I want. No one is there to judge me. Ticcing is a personal and private thing. I’m sure Amanda and Steph have read about my Tourette affliction on Facebook, or heard about it from someone else, but it’s not the same as running three feet behind me when I’m barking like a pissed off pig.

After the women turned a corner in the distance, too far away to see, I walked. The hill, the embarrassment, Saturday’s run, the Pain Cave, it all got the better of me. When I recovered enough to start running again, I had no spring in my step. On the next hill I needed to walk again, and even on a flat, I just couldn’t convince myself to run. I hobble-jogged back to my car grunting along to Loser by Beck.

I’m trying to increase the frequency of my runs. I’ve been pacing Susan a few times a week, and it recently occurred to me that If I want to build any speed and mileage, I need more than one challenging run each week. My three-day Labor Day weekend seemed like the perfect time to start. Maybe I’ll wipe that one from the record and try again next week.

13 thoughts on “Monday Morning Massacre – a run report

  1. Two things. One – My runs have been pretty sh**ty too. I keep trying to increase the distance but twice fell short. On Friday I gave myself two and a half hours to run. I thought I could get in 15. But found myself hobbling and cranky at 12 and stopped. And I feel SO defeated when I don’t do what I set out to do. I had a couple of good (albeit slow) runs in between then and today but this mornings run (5 measly miles) was awful. I was questioning hydration, restful sleep, everything. I don’t know – All I can say is that I am in a running rut and I guess you are too.

    Two: “I’m sure Amanda and Steph have read about my Tourette affliction on Facebook, or heard about it from someone else, but it’s not the same as running three feet behind me when I’m barking like a pissed off pig.” I learn about Tourette Syndrome from you. I’ve been around a lot of runners making a lot of different sounds (and smells) but these images you create will always make me more aware. Thanks

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  2. Smells? That doesn’t sound so nice. Monday morning was pretty cool but it was insanely humid. I’m hoping that has something to do with it. Near the end of my run, I decided that I’m ready for a “back-to-basics” plan that includes better nutrition, better flexibility and more thoughtful runs. I’ve worn my watch on two recent runs and the novelty of knowing when and where I am in a run is fun. Maybe I can harness that knowledge to help me run more thoughtfully.

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  3. For sure I’ve had those runs—not the grunting but definitely the Pain Cave. I think my husband listened to that book as he trained for his most recent marathon. Sounds very familiar.
    Though I have never run more than 8.5 miles in a stretch I think it’s entirely possible to hit a personal Pain Cave.
    Even as I read Robyn’s comment about her 12-miles I’m reminded of that great expression that it’s all relative. For me, 12 would be AMAZING, or even a 7 on most days. You think your grunting might have registered for those two women and made them wonder, and that could be. But in the scheme of things, you might not have felt amazing, but it’s still inspiring that you’re getting your butt out on the trail.

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    • I was a little jealous of Robyn’s 12 miles too. It’s been months since I’ve been there, A bad run is pretty unusual for me. Even when they hurt I usually like them. I’m chalking the whole thing up to a bad day. I’ll try again on Saturday.

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  4. I think your plan to wipe that run from the record is a good one. We have all had runs like that one, Jeff. I had a really crappy 15-miler last week. I am looking at next week’s 18-miler with some trepidation. I think that I can tolerate a run that is not up to par physically, it’s when my mental/emotional state goes downhill during a run that it really sticks with me, which brings me to point 2.

    Even though you may have been embarrassed by getting “caught” during a tic, if you have known Amanda and Steph for years, they are probably aware of your Tourette’s. People are understanding. Kind if we give them a chance to be. I wouldn’t worry about it.

    Good luck with your new regimen!

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