The hiatus.

It has been 5 weeks since I have blogged and I’ve kept away because, well, there’s not that much news.  I’d worked so hard, physically and mentally, to get to my goal time, my goal race this year.  When I finally did it, I was done.  Cooked.  Finished.  Tired, emotional, and just done.  I took a week or so off from running which didn’t feel hard – I could barely move for days.  And then, like a mad squirrel, my mind started doing a number on me.  Prompted by some extremely unflattering race photos I went into a mini tailspin of self-loathing and cock-eyed plans for completely overhauling my life (style).

Why do other runners always look like this?
Why do other runners always look like this?
And then I end up looking like this?

And I know, I know.  You’re all going to tell me it’s about the angle, and that I don’t look bad at all – and you’re right, I know.  I was in a double maelstrom (another great word, sadly underused) of self-loathing – on the one hand I was just whining: “Why do I look like that?  It’s not fair!  Why do I have short stubby legs? I work so hard? Why can’t I look like Kara Goucher running and wear some of those tiny little pants and look all amazing and lithe instead of like some farmer’s wife (oh irony) who could pull the plough when the cow gave up?”.  And on the other hand I was SO angry with myself for thinking this crap “FGS woman you just ran a hard and fast marathon, you’r strong, you’re healthy, this IS your body and it’s serving you well, why are you succumbing to all this outside pressure of how you should look when not matter WHAT you do you will never have longer legs (really? No!) and celebrate what you are and have done instead of whining about what you don’t have”.  Yes, so this whole episode was just super productive as you can imagine and you’ll be delighted you’re not hearing more of my internal monologue.

Strangely enough, after a few days I realised that this kind of unpleasant mental torture is pretty much to be expected.  I had been working towards a goal for so long that letting it go was hard.  My brain was just futzing around with nothing to do but this kind of ridiculous mental torture. I was trying to come up with all sorts of new goals (go vegan! Ironman! Ultramarathons! ) and then I realised I just needed to stop.  If I want to have any level of success with whatever I do next I need to take time off.  I need to focus on letting go of goals.  Sounds difficult, but essential.  And while I struggle with that kind of balance, realising that I needed to just concentrate on not concentrating meant that I could do that.  So what have I been doing?

  • I have been running. My first ultra is in a week and to say I feel unprepared is an understatement.  Navigation is necessary (I bought a fancy schmanzy new compass) but can I use it? Ugh. Girl Scouts was a loooong time ago (and I don’t think I ever did get my navigation badge).  Also 30 miles?  Very much off-road?  Not even trails all the way – sometimes just brambles and gorse? Hills?  Not to mention that it is finally finally finally summer here (and I have vowed not to complain about it) but holy heat, hills and loooooong distance..  Next Saturday is going to be a very very long day.
  • I have cleaned up my diet. I have never (I think) talked about diet on this blog.  You know that I lost weight to get to where I am now and you probably figured out I did that by eating less.  Beyond that I have rarely wanted to talk about diet – I feel so much of online diet talk on blogs, websites and social networking sites is faddy, gimmicky, fat-shamey and completely unscientific.  However.  I have been eating a lot of crap recently – primarily sugar.  The past months have seen a lot of driving and I was basically getting through these long drives with sweets and caffeine.  I have stopped doing that.  Instead I fill the car with water bottles (and add an extra 30 mins onto my drive for the pee breaks), fruit and small packets of nuts.  I am just, basically, cutting the processed stuff out of my diet.  I have been suffering with some major GI stuff on and off for the past 6 months (in the days before London I could barely take on any nutrition) and I’m also having some tests there.  Boring, but hopefully it will resolve the situation and I will get back to feeling on top form.  And, like so many female runners I know, I am anaemic and that’s not helping either.

Beyond that – I’m ready for a break.  I have some ideas about what’s next in terms of a big hairy-assed goal, but am letting it percolate a bit.  It would be a HUGE commitment and I need to be rested and well to contemplate doing it.  So I head to Canada and the US for 2 weeks at the end of this month and intend to just do the odd run here and there (can’t not run along the waterfront in Toronto, or in Central Park) but other than that it will be some much needed time off.  Stand by my friends – big things are coming!

7 thoughts on “The hiatus.

  1. Ah sweet girl…I was sad to read you’ve been struggling so since your race. I can relate, I have NOT felt good about myself: my progress (or lack thereof), my diet, my inability to stay vertical running on those dang-nabbit trails….etc. I finally had to stop ALL sugar, a 21-day challenge (which I occasionally cheat on) and I have to say, I feel better. Living in the car constantly is so hard to be “good”, I know, but I know you love a good challenge and you will do this and feel soooo much better. Be strong, my friend.

    Funny about your hairy-ass goal…I’m still waffling.

    You are a bright and beautiful woman, my friend – both inside and out.


  2. I can relate to you much here. 🙂 Read every word. Glad I’m not the only one that has a brain that can’t easily stop and seems to always be looking for the “what’s next” goal…the next climb. and I have discontent with my body when I see those pics too. I don’t talk about it much …I guess we all do really…such an honest post here. I mostly just save my moaning for my husband but I moan plenty….and bad feelings almost always come briefly after seeing my awful race pictures…horrible form…legs way bigger and softer than I picture in my head, awkward everything…yuck! Hate race pictures of me. Um, your 30 mile trail race with a compass sounds pretty hairy-ass goal to me!! Seriously, this sounds big time. I hope you enjoy your travels coming up! HOpe you’re able to just relax and enjoy the trip and just run for fun and soak up the life around you. Hard to do sometimes when we are used to having big goals on the horizon. I’m there right now. But starting to get the itch to do something even though I’m loving these 4-5 mile whenever I want runs. I’m loving the slow and random. The “add 50 lunges up this hill because I feel like it” runs. Nice to not have something to be working at but at the same time it can drive a girl like me NUTTY!! So many old insecurities and feelings of not doing enough creep up…I’m not naturally good at just “chilling”. Thanks for writing Beautiful Petra!

  3. So happy to read your words, Petra! I have been wondering how you’ve been doing since your fabulous PR and whether or not you were suffering from any post-marathon blues. The body image stuff is hard, that’s for sure. As the mother of two young girls, I am already seeing the impact of societal pressure on them to be “beautiful”. It is painful to watch in someone as young as age 3 but I think it helps me to put things in perspective and do my best to be a role model of someone who doesn’t focus on society’s standards. Still, it is an uphill battle!!

    I am excited to read about your 30 mile trail race. I am definitely going to head to the trails someday soon for an ultra — just have to decide where and when. My knee has been bothering me ever since my last marathon so I’ve hardly been able to run at all. I have been doing the Insanity DVD’s instead, which are great, but they have caused me to strain my back somehow. So I’m struggling a little these days, for sure! I’m feeling a little aimless and goal-less but also enjoying the relaxation of summer days. My brain needed the exact same thing as yours, namely, just a little time off.

    I was just in NY for two weeks and returned home last weekend. I wish our trips would have overlapped — we could have gone for a run together in Central Park!

    (Oh, also, I have GI issues of my own and have gone through the battery of tests. Not fun, for sure, but the result was that nothing is technically “wrong”. I just have to focus on my diet before big races or strenuous workouts…or deal with the consequences.)


  4. Hi Petra. First time reading this. Great blog. I can relete to what you are saying. I hit a number of goal times this year and last year and period afterwards is marked by a feeling of what’s next, wanting to run but then annoyed to see that recovery is taking longer than normal. What were once easy runs became laboured and tempo runs are gigantic task. My solution? Stop racing in races and just go back to running without a garmin or GPS watch. After a few weeks of that everything returns to normal. It works for me. Best of luck with the ultra.

  5. To answer the question you pose under the first photo: Photoshop! That’s how hey do i!

    Hey, I have mile high long legs, but I’m fat and slow, so there you go. I don’t know a single solitary woman who doesn’t torture herself with these thoughts. Good for you for taking charge…by letting go!

    30 miles!!! the mind boggles…if anyone can do it, c’est toi!

    Also? I can’t stop eating sugar!!!


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