I ran without pain! But I still had long run anxiety

I didn’t even notice at first.

I was so busy dealing with pre-long run anxiety and just managing my dog and the trail that it wasn’t until after I’d run for two hours that it dawned on me. Hey! That didn’t hurt! Going downhill didn’t hurt and going uphill didn’t hurt and the first few steps must not have hurt because I don’t have any memory of it.  This is huge! I ran this same course a week before and it did hurt and I was also exhausted the next couple of days. I must be actually going to heal from these lingering injuries and inflammation. Hip Hooray!

Long run anxiety

I know I’m not alone with this because I’ve talked to my friends about it. But I don’t know how common it is. What is it? It’s a building anxiety that starts a few days before my  scheduled long run. Why would I be anxious about something I really look forward to with great anticipation, my big escape from reality, an easy paced journey on the weekend? Because….. I do look forward to it so much. I want it to go well! I want it to be perfect. That is the thing that always causes me anxiety. The fear that something I want and need so much will be messed up in some way that I can’t control, which is a valid fear and has happened too many times. What can mess up an easy long run, you ask? Well, the main things are 1) difficulty choosing a good route , 2) bad ( hot) weather, 3)no one to run with so I get scared in remote places (a valid fear) and 4) will I have someone at home complaining about me being gone too long? Oh, yeah, and the fear that I might not be able to complete the planned distance.

  1. It’s hard for me to find places to run that are safe, not too far away, and have shade, and have enough miles of  trails or roads that I don’t have to run the same route over and over. I have a few options,  but none of them meet all the criteria.
  2. The weather in  southeast Texas is not very nice most of the year. I have no choice but to deal with it, but I hate high humidity and I honestly do struggle with getting easily overheated and can’t handle running in direct sunlight. If you’ve never run in 70 plus dew point, you don’t know what I am talking about!
  3. I’ve basically lost all of my running partners because no one has the same schedule or location or life situations as me. So I’ve been running some with my dog but she can only go so many miles without overheating.
  4. My family has expectations. Nuff said.
  5. Anything over 2 hours, I start to get bored and hungry and tired.

Two days before the planned run I will make some kind of plan and start to look forward to running. But then the day before I begin to have doubts about the plan and make changes to the plan and basically begin to expect the plan to fall through. Even though at least 90% of the plans work out just fine, there’s always that risk so I don’t want to get my hopes up too high. I’m afraid to ask anyone to make plans with me because I’ve been stood up before. I’ve also run with people who have not been the same pace as me or not been up to the amount of miles we said we were going to run, so they basically wasted my long run. That is very frustrating if you are training for a race! I’ve had some doozies. Good thing I don’t hold grudges! But I do learn my lesson. So I usually run alone now. But I still have the other issues.

The night before the long run I usually have trouble sleeping. I will get my hydration ready and go to bed on time but I always worry I won’t wake up on time. Last weekend I slept so badly that I just turned off my alarm and went back to bed. So that meant I got to the trails pretty late and it was already pretty hot. It was 90 degrees when I finished at noon.  Back to the anxiety. I got up late, but I said, yes, I’m still going . It’s MY DAY and I’m going to run trails. It was Mother’s Day weekend. I had carte blanche , I could run all day ! So I just had to decide where to go.I had already missed two possible group run options by that time.  I finally loaded up my dog and just started driving because I couldn’t make up my mind how far I wanted to go. There are no  trails near me. The closest ones are 20 minutes and are only 3 miles of trails. Then the next closest is a one mile loop, 50 miles away. Then a little farther down the highway is a 3 mile out and back trail. Then a little farther is a park with no shade but more trails, nope. Then 1.5 hours away is the park I really like but I had gone there the weekend before. So I put on a podcast and started heading west . I decided if I wanted to stop I would and if I wanted to keep going all the way past Austin , 2 hours away, I would. Well, I finally relaxed thanks to the East Coast Trail and Ultra podcast hosts and their crazy conversations and I was happy to be driving through the beautiful hill country with not very much traffic. I did see one car accident involving 4 cars that were at a stop light and each rear-ended the other. That was in Bastrop. I also saw a car on fire on the side of the road on the way home.

Finally , I decided to run at McKinney Roughs Nature Park.

This LCRA owned park has 17 miles of trails. I like it because the trails are not all the same. There are rocky sections, pine tree lined trails , riverside trails, Giant ( literally) pecan tree areas ,  savannah sections, and quite a few big hills so it’s a great place to train for trail races. They allow horses and also have zipline towers and dorms for special events. It’s only $5 to run there. It’s not very well known or at least not very crowded, maybe due to the not that accessible location. It’s not super convenient to people who live in Austin because of the traffic, or those who live in Houston because of the distance. But to me the drive is worth it.

I thoroughly enjoyed my run ,and so did my dog. We saw a large snake soon after we started off on the trail but it was not poisonous and we were able to run past it.  Then we passed a couple of horseback riders and I was happy that my dog did not get scared or bark at them. Later we passed a family hiking and then a cute couple having a picnic by the river. A bit later I saw a couple more hikers. We met a few people with off-leash dogs which were not my favorite moments. My dog started letting me know she was really hot by trying to lie down in the shade beside the trail so I turned back towards our vehicle, but first we had to climb up the trail to Meditation Point, one of the scenic overlooks. There was fresh horse poop on that trail but the horses were no longer there. I was wondering if I would have to deal with a horse encounter on a narrow ridge.  We were almost back to the car but I decided to take a left and do a short out and back to explore a trail that had some good ups and downs. After a few good hills, I turned around . It was  a very enjoyable two hour, 7.5 mile hike/run . All my anxiety had disappeared and been replaced by the sweet satisfaction that trail running gives me. Next time, I am going to try hard to focus on the knowledge that  most of my long runs turn out fine and I don’t need to be so anxious.

Happy running!

The Colorado River. My dog always run down to get a drink and cool off.
One of the scenic views
Woodlands Trail
I love the hills


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