Dead Dog

Dead Dog

What happens to a person in the midst of heavy distance training?  Does the body and mind alter under these challenging conditions?  Miles and miles of running, hours of sleep deprivation, and constant attention to recovery?  My answer is yes, and I will tell you why!  Running along the beautiful Katy trail in Missouri and smelling interspersed whiffs of poop while passing the landfill one Sunday morning, Lisa  and I discussed how each one’s training was developing.  We meet up every Sunday for a run somewhere around St. Louis and while the Katy trail was a favorite, the 2 minutes of bad smells was excruciating to one’s nostrils.    Lisa was training for an Olympic trials qualifier in the 10k, and I had just come off of a running high after qualifying and running the Olympic trials marathon in Houston, Texas all within a 6 week period, and pulling off and new marathon personal best.  Our training was different, but the stress was obviously the same.  While Lisa was a track guru and natural speedster, I took to the longer distances on the roads.  We were perfect for each other.  They say you should be in a relationship with, not only someone with similar values, but also differences to help you work on your weaknesses:  to become all around stronger.    For instance, I will eventually be there for her when she is ready to race an amazingly fast marathon, and she plans to get my little bum on the track – sooner than later!

We are both currently in dead dog mode.  Dead dog is our term to describe our mental and physical state of being at the end of a long, hard training cycle full of volume and intensity.  For example, I usually run three to four week cycles.  Week one is high mileage with two intense workouts, week two is even higher mileage and more intensity, and week three is the highest volume and intensity.  Week three is when I become a DOG before week four – my recovery week.  During my recovery week, I cut the volume and intensity in half or more.  Basically whatever is necessary to get me back to a fresher state of mentality and physicality before ramping up again?  I usually do about three of these cycles in a marathon buildup.  I start feeling like a dead dog at the end of all the week threes before the recovery week, and I believe my running partner, Lisa, shares the same sentiment.  To get through these long, hard weeks ice baths, recovery drinks, sports massage, chiropractor visits, and even a shrink (A.K.A. husband, mom, or sister) is needed to hold up properly.

While in dead dog mode, one can lose sight of reality.  “Oh my gosh Lisa, I haven’t shaved in a week” or “ I can’t stand getting my hair done since it takes up to 2 hours, and I am thinking about all the other stuff I need to do.  So, It’s been like 6 months – am I still considered a blonde?” or “When did I start convincing myself that I look naturally beautiful and in no need of make-up products before work – when I started running out of time after my morning run!” and even worse, “I cut my own hair last week!”  WHAT! How can training make a person so strapped for time and sensibility that details that make a woman a woman start falling off the list of priorities?  Were they ever important, maybe I am pretty without all the make-up and fluff.  Maybe I look cuter wearing running shorts and Nike hats all day long instead of a cute dress or outfit. Ok! I know I have now gone too far.  This has to stop! But, is this the sacrifice that the athlete and long distance runner must make in order to take on such a lofty goal as running in the Olympic trials, finishing a first marathon, or aiming for a personal best time?  My answer is yes, and I think everyone has to answer this for herself.  In the meantime, my husband will be watching my cycles – my running cycles that is. And make sure to be extra patient during those week threes, those dead dog modes.  After all, isn’t this what life is about – living and feeling the highs of sacrifice?  I think it is worth a forgotten shave and a mood swing a few times a year.  I just don’t know if my husband would agree.  Good thing I have his support – for now!  So I will keep waiting for that next hair cut, and pull on my running cap for just one more training cycle.

Happy Running, Jackie 🙂

One Response to “Dead Dog”

  1. Jerren Pirtle-McKamely April 15, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    I love this!

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