Can Being Sad Make You Slower?

For the last week or so, I’ve been sad. There’s not really a better or more elegant way to say it. There’s a whole range of reasons that I’m particularly sad about Floyd the Cat dying, but the end result is really very simple and probably not shocking. I screwed up nearly every assignment I had last week and barely kept it together for an interview — hopefully enough though. I’m back on track for work now, but I’m still sad.

(I’m also well aware that there are a number of you who think I shouldn’t be that sad about a cat we had for five months or who are surprised I am. But, you know, the probability is I liked Floyd the Cat more than you, so who cares what you think.)

I also may have gotten scammed by an 11-year-old yesterday. Or, I may have bought an absurd number of cookies. Partially, I felt bad because I used to have to hock all kinds of things door-to-door in school — wreaths, cheesecakes, lap-a-thons — and I bet you’d like to think that oh, I lived in a simpler time, but no, I’m pretty sure my parents just figured I could take care of myself. Partially, though, I had also heard a UPS truck pull up and Floyd’s ashes should be delivered by UPS any day (don’t ask), so when it was some kid with a cookie order sheet instead, I just started handing him cash.

The result was this conversation when Steve got home:

Steve: Did he leave you any paperwork or anything?
Me: No
Steve: Did you get his name?
Me: No
Steve: A receipt?
Me: No. *pause* I gave him $15 and he said he’d bring me cookies in a month.
Steve: What kind of cookies? Like boxes, or dough, or frozen dough?
Me: Um, I don’t know. But, I picked the mint chocolate chip ones.

Besides not being mentally sharp, though, there’s no good reason I shouldn’t be physically ok. I didn’t sleep much the beginning of last week, when we were trying to figure out what to do about Floyd, and then I didn’t sleep at all one night. And, obviously, all that laying on the couch and crying didn’t happen on its own. That was some hard work. But, since then, I’ve had plenty of sleep. Physically, there’s nothing wrong (except one niggling hamstring). And yet.

And, yet. I ran a 40:48 10K on Saturday. Apparently, everyone expected me to run that slowly except me.

Then, I spent a few days dragging my legs around at 9:00 pace. Actually literally dragging the leg with the screwed up hamstring. But, we’re not going to talk about that, because it’ll go away. Monday, I screwed up my back doing push-ups, which sounds like something a pathetic person would say. Tuesday, I killed myself to swim slower at Masters than I have since I started going back to Masters. Wednesday, I did some more dragging.

All of this meant I was not super optimistic about the hard workout today. But, why? There’s nothing physically wrong. Why am I sucking so much?

It turns out there’s not a ton of research on emotion’s impact on athletic performance. Most of the studies have been done on the optimal levels of stress and anxiety. Breaking news: too much is bad, too little is bad. Obviously, there is a lot of research about depression and the crippling physical effects of that, but that’s not really applicable. Depression is a little more than just being sad your cat is gone.

So, I headed out for my hard workout today with a sense of unease, but no real reason for it.

The run was 4 x 2 miles, starting at 7:05 (more-or-less marathon pace) and then each 2-mile effort descended at 10″/mi, down to 6:35 pace. That sounds hard. But, it also sounds like the first two shouldn’t be that hard. If I plan to run 7:00 miles for 26.2 miles, then two miles shouldn’t be bad.

It was and it wasn’t. Every step of the workout was shockingly harder than I thought it would be. 7:04 did not feel easy, but it happened. 6:50s were so bad that I figured there was no way I’d be able to run 6:35s The 6:42 nearly killed me. I was one giant flailing mess hurtling down the side of the road gasping and squinting. Before one of the efforts, I don’t remember which one, I let out an actual moan out-loud, “God, I don’t want to do this.” I’m not sure who I was telling, but it needed to be said.

And, then I did the last one. The first mile of it was easy. Maybe because I thought it would be impossible. But, the second mile wasn’t. And, the last half mile of the last mile was the most painful thing I’ve done since the last most painful thing. Kidding. Today was way worse. I thought, it’ll be ok if I don’t finish, it’ll be ok if I don’t hit the time, it’ll be ok. Then, I thought, stop being such a fucking loser. I had to do this to prove that I can, that I won’t let all the terribleness decide things for me, or to pass out and definitively know that I can’t.

When the watch beeped for the end of the second mile, I stopped and wobbled. I saw stars. It felt like everything was going to come up, but I didn’t even have the energy to dry heave. I grabbed my knees. I walked in circles and decided it was too soon to walk and grabbed my knees again. Eventually, I started walking, then shuffling, then jogging. I dragged myself home. And, you know what, I’m still sad. That didn’t change, because epiphanies only happen in shitty novels.

But, does it have to make me slower? Maybe, probably some definitely. It certainly makes it harder.

8 thoughts on “Can Being Sad Make You Slower?

  1. What a great blog update. seriously, one of the best ones I have ever read.

    I loved this line too btw.

    ” But, you know, the probability is I liked Floyd the Cat more than you, so who cares what you think.) ”


  2. Very nice write-up Kelly, it’s funny I ran across your blog, as I am going through a breakup after 12 years, so I have been running sad lately and today’s race (even though I placed well) ran a much slower time than than previously on the same course (almost, a hair longer today) but couldn’t help to be sad on the drive to the race and felt it brought my energy level down, which in turn slowed me down, running while sad about things in your life sucks; However, I think the running sad defiantly outweighs the not running at all, and makes you feel better in the long run. Thanks for sharing .

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