Why Don’t You Write More About Training

One of my writing teachers—OK, a few of them—told me I should write more about running and “being an athlete” and “that kind of stuff.” And I don’t mean in a reporter ‘here’s how to train for your first half-marathon’ kind of way. I mean that they thought I should write more characters who are athletes, more personal essays about “Why I Run,” more about what it all means, etc. Write what you know, right? Or something.

The thing is that when I have, no one believes me about what it’s really like.

Once, after reading a story I had written in which there was a part where the main character was running, I was informed that I had “gotten it wrong” and it just “wasn’t believable.” That’s not how running works, girl in writing workshop told me. You’re not supposed to get angrier when you run. Aren’t there endorphins and stuff, right? Like you’re supposed to feel better after running.

Sure, sometimes. And sometimes you just want to lie down on the ground for a little while and cry. And sometimes you’re so jacked up you’re ready to rip somebody’s head off. Like maybe somebody in a writing workshop who’s telling you that you’re wrong about what running is like. Not to be specific.

The main reason writing what you know doesn’t work is that what you know is that people are wrong about how they think things are.

I have been training a lot lately, probably not a full-Hillary Biscay load yet, but a lot still and it’s been pretty intense. And there’s not a ton to actually say about that. I ran on the treadmill for 11.6 miles the other day. You know what I did during that time? Mostly thought about running on the treadmill. (Also I semi-watched a close-captioned version of the terrible TV show Botched.) Here’s some writing what I know for you: I’m tired a lot, but then I bounced back and stopped being as tired, but I’m still pretty tired. Tantalizing, right? And there’s just really not a super exciting way to say, “And then I almost started crying in the middle of intervals on my bike, but I didn’t and instead I finished the intervals.”

There is a reason most professional athletes’ twitters and blogs and instagrams are all motivational photos and sayings and stories about how they’re working hard and overcoming and they believe. (Oh, and then every now and then they’ll throw in a vague post about “keeping it real” and how they’ve been struggling, but that’s just part of the journey and now they’re moving forward again and don’t worry, they’re going to overcome this because they believe.) Partially, that’s what people want to hear. It’s easier to sell a brand that’s aspirational.

But partially that’s what the athletes want to hear too. It’s what they need to hear.

The line between crying on your bike and not crying is very thin and if you look at it too hard it’ll disappear. Why did I almost start crying the other day, but then I didn’t? I don’t know. Because I decided not to? Writing, though, does not lend itself to a lack of introspection. Training does not lend itself to too much. I don’t think all those athletes are lying to everyone else with their motivational photos and stories that always have them coming out on top. I think they’re lying to themselves, but it’s lies that they have to tell.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’ve stopped writing as much online here about my training at the same time that I’m doing more training than ever. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that when my mentality slightly shifted in races, my race reports got sort of boring. When you stop thinking about the funny story you’re going to tell or the excuse you’re going to have or how this is all going to sound later, then all you have left to think about is just doing the thing you’re doing. And there’s really not much to write about that.

When Your Body Fails Right After You Finally Make It Through Everything

The last few weeks I’ve been sure I was going to get sick. Thesis project, South Carolina nationals trip, more final projects, bachelorette and Wildflower, final final project, and then moving a bunch of my stuff back up to the Bay Area. And, also, it’s possible that I might have gotten very drunk after that final final project. Theoretically.

Basically, I’ve been waiting for my body to give out and it made it all the way through all those things and now, here is a list of ways my body has betrayed me since Friday:

  • I dislocated my thumb. Randomly, while loading the car. It popped right back in, after hurting like a mother, so I figured no problem. But, since then it’s been really painful. I couldn’t even open my beers at Beer Mile with that hand. And then the thumb popped out again today. Now, I can barely use it. I’m sort of hoping this gets better on its own. Or possibly I splint my hand.
  • My Achilles has been hurting after run workouts. At first, a few weeks ago, I thought it was just sore. But, it’s gotten worse and worse. After the hard run on Sunday, I couldn’t even bend my ankles. Then, I hit a wall funny on a flip turn yesterday, and it just kept hurting. This is concerning.
  • I’ve gotten sick. Finally, it caught up with me. Last night, I thought I might be getting sick, but I’ve thought that a bunch the last few weeks and usually I wake up feeling better. Today, I woke up feeling sick instead.

Also, add a whole bunch of bruises and blisters and whatever. This is not just my imagination. There’s, like, for real studies about how people get sick after big events. Sure, it’s probably because you have a weakened immune system and then you get sick after the gestation period. But I think there’s also something to the fact that your body can hold on for so long but then no longer.

Training Week: From the L.A. Marathon to May

I stopped posting my weekly training logs not because I wasn’t training (or because I got too busy, though I did that too). Instead, I thought maybe I’d try something else: not really laying it all down in writing. At first, I thought maybe I’d just stop writing down my weekly workouts on the internets. But, then, I sort of stopped writing them down at all. I picked up my training calendar the other day and realized I hadn’t filled in a square on it in two weeks.

This wasn’t a deliberate decision exactly. It’s more that I knew I just wanted to get in three hard weeks between the LA Marathon and collegiate nationals. I also knew, generally, what I wanted to do: work on my Olympic-pace biking. So I decided it might be good, for a change, not to sweat the details too much. Or, at least not to do so publicly, in a concrete way.

Not that worrying about details isn’t a good idea. Because it is. And, obviously, there are a lot of details I’m still concerning myself with. But this is just sort of an experiment to see if maybe keeping things a little looser and just in my head helps at all with whatever. Plus, extra bonus, it means that I’m sticking to The Kids’ training plan slightly more, with changes to approximately reflect my own life schedule (because workouts can only be two of the three: social, convenient, or good for your training) and my own strengths/weaknesses.

I love The Kids. They are fun and fast and a little bit nutty. And we have definitely been hitting on some of my weakness, like, um, speed. So, we’ll see how it all works out.

Here’s my rough training weeks since the marathon:

Less running. But a long trail run in Marin, naturally. And weekly track workouts, which just further confirm speed is not my strong point, but at least I’m getting better. Maybe. I’m not sure, actually.

Two or three Olympic-distance pace workouts on my bike to fine-tune the pace. And two harder workouts to push a pace slightly past that a little bit. These I feel good about. I think.

Swimming some, whatever. And a little strength work, but not much.

And that’s that. Two more workouts planned then pretty much resting/tapering into nationals. (Which I know is not really a For Real taper, but I’m doing Wildflower the week after and Alcatraz three or four weeks after that, so it’s what makes sense for me, in my head.)

Getting In (Or Out) Of My Head

Here are a few observations about perception:

    • In L.A., I am the most intense athlete I know—give or take. (Like, yeah, yeah, everyone is intense in their own way. Some of my friends are taking some time off right now. And, you should, obviously, always do what makes sense for you.) But, the net sum effect is that, generally speaking, I don’t know people doing harder workouts than me. This messes with my head. Because (CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEF AROUND HERE), I’m not really a super intense workout person. I’m used to lots of people I know doing crazier workouts than me all the time. I’m used to lots and lots and lots of people being lots faster than me. And, I’m used to telling training partners my workout plan for the day and having them nod and be all, ‘Yeah, that makes sense.’ When everyone I know is, instead, like, ‘What?! That sounds insane,’ I start to think maybe it is insane. So, if all my internet friends who are Hillary’s athletes (Maggie? Alyssa?) could tell me about their super crazy workouts she has them doing, it would make me feel better and get me back in a good mental place.
    • Friday I bombed a workout. It was 4 x 2 miles and I only did 2.3 of the four repeats. I just was not hitting the times and I had only given myself 1 hour and 25 minutes exactly to do a 1 hour and 25 minute workout. So, when I had to take a loooong bathroom break, I was stuck reevaluating. But, it was easy to cut and I was weirdly not stressed about the fact that I bombed it, because I don’t think I really expected to finish it. This is not good.
    • In the fall, I was very not fit. Yet, I went on a killing-it streak at a bunch of races in October/November. I think it may have been because I knew I wasn’t in shape, so I expected it to be awful and that I’d have to power through. Then, I wasn’t surprised when it hurt. Now, I’m really fit (for me), so I keep subconsciously thinking it won’t hurt. But, it still always hurts.
    • Evidently, somewhere in the back of my mind right now I am expecting an accident or disaster. I’m just waiting for it. Wednesday, I had to cut through a parking garage, because “cycling routes” *shakes head*. And, I had this weird crazy PTSD. It might be the first time I’ve cut through a parking garage since shattering my teeth and I was freaking out. I was convinced that I was going to hit something, or someone was going to hit me, or something terrible was going to happen. Yesterday, Steve and I went cross-country skiing and I was having the hardest time on the downhills, because I was positive, 100% sure, that I was going to have some bizarre accident and end up in the hospital. I’m just too in shape right now, too ready for the L.A. Marathon and collegiate nationals. Something has to go wrong. Something always goes wrong. And, if you really want to get into some Psych 101 stuff, this may be why I’ve been self-sabotaging workouts and races lately, because somewhere in my head I think that I need to balance the karmic universe. (Subconsciously, ok? I’m not doing any of this consciously.)

So, yeah. That’s been fun.

Oh, Rest, Right

Usually, I train on a three weeks on/one week off schedule. Sort of. I mean I tend to not operate exactly on a seven-day plan and it’s all relative. But, I do always make sure to have three to five days of very, very easy stuff to recover about once per month.

Here’s the thing, though: I kind of forgot to do that.

I wasn’t training crazy over break, just steady and hard. And, I was doing some other random stuff (like cross-country skiing). And, I kept taking a day or two off or easy every now and then, when I felt tired. So, it just seemed like I could keep chugging along. Plus, my schedule was such that I was going to have two weeks at the end of January of basically no working out. It made sense, then, to push through until that break.

Only that didn’t end up happening. And, instead, the first two weeks of school have beaten me up. So, Tuesday, when I was trying to decide what I was going to do this week and how I was going to deal with the fact that I’d barely slept the night before and this documentary that’s trying to kill me and the fun of driving all over Greater Los Angeles, Steve suggested maybe it was time for a rest week.

No, I’m fine. I don’t even feel physically beaten up.

As soon as I decided this was a rest week through Saturday, though, my entire body just collapsed. It stopped functioning. I slept 15 hours on Thursday, after being not well over night. I’m pretty much about to fall asleep right this second. The idea of working out is mind-boggling. It’s amazing how as soon as you cross a finish line, you stop being able to even walk straight.