Friday, August 30, 2013

Can Runners Have Mental Injuries?

Yes, the answer is yes. We hear a LOT about plantar fasciitis, piriformis, and Achilles problems. I've been a really smart runner, and aided by fantastic coaches, trainers, and sports chiropractors to that end, so that I've stayed injury-free PHYSICALLY for 7 years of running (I had my first and only big injury in 2005 in my first year running and then realized I needed to be smarter about it!). But what do you do when you find you have a mental injury?

Well, I think I came back from Tahoe Rim Trail 50 Mile with a mental injury. After DNFing at mile 30 from heat exhaustion, I wasn't quite sure how to handle it. I had DNFed (Did Not Finish) an ultra before. But this one had blindsided me in a way others didn't. It was a goal race, I had prepared, and I had trained hard. Plus those 8 miles of hallucinating and overheating and dry heaving were scary.

I came back from Tahoe and relooked at my race calendar. I was scheduled to do two more TOUGH races this race season. Tahoe was meant to be a stepping stone. So what happens when you fall down on that path?

My August race I had waited to book travel. I think I wanted to know how Tahoe would go. I had peeked at airfare race week of Tahoe and the cost was astronomical. So when I DNFed Tahoe, it was an easy "Fine, that race is out." I wasn't going to fork over 500-something dollars for that one.

But my September race.... Volcanic 50. Well, that race could be downright dangerous if stuff like what happened at Tahoe happened again. Incredibly rugged and remote, the few aid stations were all hike-in, hike-out ones, and medical came in the form of heli-vac.

I was scared. My husband Steve was really worried about me doing that race. That had to factor in to my decision some as well.

Okay, Volcanic 50 is out [AT THAT TIME, more to come]. I'm grateful for the experience at Tahoe, whatever it was, but I had been pushing and pushing basically all year, and it was tearing me down now.

I had accumulated...

I was tired. I love challenges, but I was exhausted. So I said, "No August trail race. No September trail ultra race. I need something fun."

So I looked around and realized a race I had eyed enviously was coming up. The ET Full Moon Midnight Marathon and 51K. An alien theme, a midnight race, an "easy" ultra relative to these mountain races I had been pursuing. August 18 - 4 weeks after Tahoe.

I signed up... and hoped it would heal the injury I was sporting that no one could see but me.

[ET Full Moon 51K Race Report to come in the next post]


  1. Seems like you might not be cut out to be an ultra runner?

  2. Is your ratio of finishes/attempts typical for this sport?

    1. I don't know if you are the same Anonymous as above, but I've completed 12 ultras, and 9 marathons. This year I have chosen much more difficult ultras than many people often do. I'm a sea level person signing up for mountainous high altitude ultras a lot right now. DNFs are definitely present in the ultra world way more than shorter distances as a lot can happen over the extra time on feet.

    2. I'm not the same as above. Can I ask why you'd select those races, especially if you are adding travel time, costs, time away from kids and family, etc? I've traveled to races, but select courses that I'm well trained for and am confident I can complete, otherwise I would feel silly spending the time and money on the race.

    3. Thanks, Anonymous. Conversations with an anonymous are uncomfortable but always open with sharing how i feel.

      Well that sounds really safe your way. Why not take a risk? I love adventures and love choosing these beautiful HARD races. I'm a back of the pack runner to start with. I have to prioritize training with family and life but even if I shifted my priorities all onto training I'd still not be a gifted runner. Why avoid the races just for those reasons? Seeing part of a course, a DNF, and a memory you will never forget (good or bad), is better to me than never trying. Failure as measured solely by completion is rough mentally at times, but not trying is rougher every other day of the year. Collectively, I really enjoy the experiences I get.

      I will add about the resources that our family does budget some things lower so that money is in the racing budget and I stopped spending money on local races and put all that money into the travel race account. I typically fly in and back out as quick as possible. I am the kids primary caretaker each day after they get out of school, so we don't feel like it's a big investment away and we love that the girls see that you should be willing to put yourself out there.

      I think you and I just have different perspectives and priorities. If I waited for the perfect moment I'm perfectly trained to ensure 100% completion of a hard mountainous ultra, well my kids would probably be grown and out of the house and I would be burnt out from the shear number of hours required for that level of training. All in all, this is how I strike my balance.

      I hope this makes sense! :-)

  3. Libby, you are a badass. Period. Anonymous commenters are pussies. I'm done here.