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Getting Knocked Down

Matt Cavanaugh

I got cocky. I thought I had this. Easy. No sweat. I’d just finished a Big-Boy-83-mile-weekend, so what’s another 22-mile training run? That’s nothing for a guy who can knock down 83 in 3 days.

Boy was I wrong.

First there was the springtime-in-Colorado weather. There was sleet, wet snow, the kind that sticks and thickens and dampens like syrup.

Then there was the salt. Or should I say, my lack of salt. I didn’t take my electrolyte caps (they’ve got a bunch of fancy stuff in them, but really, they’re just salt pills).

Strike three was how I dressed. I’ve been aiming to overdress while running for some time now—to force-sweat and prepare for the desert environment—but this morning I took it to new heights. I wore an extra jacket that the wet weather soaked all the way through. Not only did it fail to keep me warm, it actively froze my core.

The results were predictable.

I hit the mid-point right on the mark, and felt pretty good. I had left the house at 4:00 a.m., and was bang-on for the turnaround at about 5:20 a.m.

But then, I started to bleed out my strength. I got weaker, and weaker, and I could feel my pace drifting down. I made it to mile 17, with 5 miles to go to get home, and I could tell I was in a death shuffle.

I felt awful. Worse than awful. It was this combination of sick and weak and confused and feeble and broke and ashamed and mad and tunnel-visioned.

The worst part was the last. When you start to realize you can’t even see straight. You start to see in swirls. The edges of the frame get fuzzy. It’s something I know from experience, unfortunately, so I can spot the symptoms before they get too bad.

I kept trudging through mile 17, then 18, then 19, and into mile 20.

But when I got to the midpoint of the 20th mile, that’s when I decided to walk it in. And it really was a walk of shame. A mile and a half walk can take forever, if it’s in sleet, with car-commuters driving by, and you can’t help but think they’re all laughing at you on their pass-by to work. Of course they’re not, of course they don’t care, but in my feeble-minded state, I sure thought they were, and that was all that mattered at that moment.

It was humiliating. And there’s nothing I can do about it now.

But it also had value. I know what not to do. I know what I have to do differently to prevent something like that from happening again. And I know now what I have to fix, so it doesn’t happen again when it really counts.

Getting knocked down’s not so bad if you get back up.