You know what I'm talking about. It's that point when things start to go wrong. Problems come in threes. The car needs new tires, new brakes and the transmission needs to be flushed...all at the same time. It happens in running too. Your knees start to hurt, you're thirsty and you just want to quit.
Breakdowns come in different ways, at different times and to different degrees. I was speaking with a work colleague and he asked how my training was going. He said that he had attempted the Chicago Marathon several times but only completed it once. He went onto say "I always have a breakdown in August. It's at this point in the training that I get a heal spur, shin splints or some other ailment that prevents me from participating in the race." This is an example of the complete training breakdown.
Another good friend has told me that "mile 20 is when things start to breakdown for me." He's an Ironman. He'll swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and then run a marathon. Yep, I'd breakdown too at that point. This is an example of the race breakdown.
Today while running 18 miles I had a mental breakdown. I was feeling pretty well. Knees were fine. No hip pain. But, as I ran I kept asking myself: "Why am I doing this?" This is crazy. I'm spending 2.5 hours on a Sunday morning on the trails in constant motion like a shark swimming thru water...never stopping. The whole time I kept telling myself that I have nothing left to prove. I know I can do this. I know I'll finish. Why put myself thru this?
When things start to breakdown, they need to be fixed. It's better to address issues rather than sweep them under the rug. This is true with cars, relationships and just about everything else in life. Otherwise, problems compound and things worsen. We start to compensate in other ways to make up for the true deficiency and problem. In the short-term, this may divert our attention or help us get by for a while. But long-term, this is not a cure. It's a poison.
If your right knee starts to hurt you'll find yourself shifting your weight. This probably puts more pressure on the left knee and right hip. Eventually, you'll change your gait so much that you'll mess up both knees, both hips and your back.
Mental breakdowns are almost worse than physical breakdowns. You can run through pain, take ibuprofen and ice sore joints and muscles afterward. The mental stuff is harder. I don't know many marathoners that run with their shrink. As a matter of course, the fact that you're training for a marathon at all probably qualifies you as crazy to begin with. I would suggest all marathoners consider finding a good therapist. I know I'm in the market for one.
Growing up in the 60's, I wasn't subjected to a lot of coddling and cajoling like the kids today. I didn't wear a bike helmet. My parents didn't reason with me when I did something wrong. They'd smack me upside the head and tell me not to do it again. When I did poorly in math, they didn't seek special assistance or classroom considerations for me. They told me to study harder or I'd end up in a job I didn't want. In other words, put up or shut up. Just do it. Get it done. Make it happen. Quit whining. One day I was told to "get out there and play wide receiver you sissy" even after my left arm was cut off by a band saw in shop class.
That's the attitude I had to take today. Stop your whining. Get out there and just get it done. I did. So much for not sweeping things under the rug.