Dec 27, 2014

Dear Abby, Fuck Endorphins

Dear Abby,

I need to preface this letter with a disclaimer.  I'm planning to complain about something that I feel guilty about complaining about.  I find it kind of fascinating though, so I'm going to ignore that guilt and write you about it anyways, mostly because it's become a serious problem in an otherwise great current state of being.

I ran the New York City marathon about 2 months ago.  I finished.  My time was solid, respectable, but nowhere near Boston quality marathon time.  The race was all kinds of terrible and I'm pretty proud of finishing it.

From August until race date (Nov 2nd) I invested an enormous amount of time and effort into training.  In three months, I logged over 238 miles, or about 40 hours of running[1][2].

All that investment paid off, and has continued to pay off.  I'm in great shape.  My recovery time from the marathon was about 4 days.

To put this into perspective, I ran my first marathon in Toronto in October 2012, a little over two years ago now.  After the Toronto marathon, I was totally broken.  My legs ached for days.   Two weeks passed before I wanted to run again.  I eventually ended up in acupuncture to help with a debilitatingly tight tendon in my left heel[3].  It took about a month and a half of semi-weekly sessions to fix the tendon.  I went through this then, but the injury and lasting physical exhaustion made it less noticeable.

So what's the problem?  I have no plans of running another marathon in the immediate future, but I'm still in great shape.  The maintenance on this great shape has gotten expensive, but I can't quit.  I'm addicted to the endorphins.

The great shape part is great, if you're using it.  If I spend a few days without a jog, my legs start aching from the lack of exercise.  I've got too much energy.  When I do go for a run, the miles I put in are never enough.  The endorphin rush that used to kick in after a quick 3 miles now takes at least an hour.  As a result, my attitude and overall well-being depends on logging bigger numbers of miles.

Running is great, but it's a huge time suck.  I don't want to be spending hours on the pavement in the middle of winter.  Is there some magic pill that I can take that would dial my endorphin dependence[4] down from "Marathon level" to "Half-Marathon level"?  I'm interested.  I may be talked into taking the "5K level" pill if you're selling one.

- Frustratedly Antsy

[1] This math works out -- that's just under 6 miles per hour.

[2]  Using the maths further, 40 hours divided by 12 weeks is about 3.33 hours per week.  This isn't exactly right, as with tapering up and down, some weeks were definitely busier than others.  Even so, in retrospect, this doesn't seem like *such* a huge time investment.

[3] I'm not sure why I eschewed normal physical therapy and jumped straight to eastern medicine.  Living right next door to Chinatown at the time may have been an influence.  Whatever the reason, it worked out for the best.  My foot was back to normal in about 6 weeks, and I've never had a relapse.  Also a plus, there were zero 'homework' stretches or exercises associated with treatment.  All the 'work' took place in the clinic.  They also took my insurance; I didn't pay anything more than a co-pay.  #winning

[4] I went on a 'short run' today.  It'd been 3-4 days since my last jog and the jitters were reaching a fever pitch.  I ran on a route that I'm really familiar with but had never done before (linking up old and new hoods), and at what felt like a leisurely pace.  I didn't bring a watch or a phone, so I had no idea how much time I was running for. Based on intuition, it felt like a 6-7 mile run.  When I mapped it out, the truth was almost double, closer to 11.5mi.[4a]

[4a] I'm still jittery.

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