Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What I think about when I'm trying to not think about running

I stopped running with music more than a year ago. I didn't make a specific attempt to do this; rather I think it was just plain laziness and a desire to get out the door more quickly.

On a solo long (or long-ish) outing, this means I am alone with my thoughts, in between navigating intersections and sidestepping pedestrians. Now, I almost always run sans tunes. I find it to be very cathartic.

Last Sunday's long run was "only" 15K, according to the Higdon training schedule, a regimen that builds in a few weeks of decreased mileage for proper recovery. (At this point in my training, running three 5Ks back to back to back is supposed to function as a "break." Hah!) Due to scheduling, I was running this one alone. Nine point three miles of listening to the steady rhythm of my breath while contemplating deep, meaningful topics; that was my plan.

Instead, I thought about oatmeal. More specifically, the bowl of oatmeal I'd eaten an hour earlier. I usually eat toast with peanut butter before a long run, but we didn't have any bread, blah blah blah, I improvised, and there I was: two-and-a-half miles into a nine-mile run with a side stitch, right under my ribs on my right side. Stupid, evil bowl of stupid, evil oatmeal.

I had read somewhere that this type of side stitch (also known as exercise-related transient abdominal pain, or ETAP) could be the result of stretching the ligaments connecting the diaphragm to the liver and other internal organs. So when I wasn't passing the time visualizing a bowl of oatmeal with little devil horns and a little pitchfork, I hoped and prayed it wasn't possible to actually sprain your liver. Because, how embarrassing.

It's too bad; besides the side stitch, I felt fabulous. My legs felt light and I was well-rested, it was a beautiful day, and I had a killer view of the San Gabriel Mountains for the first half of the route. Every time I tried to quicken the pace, though, the stitch returned, and I went back to thinking about my liver. I gave my best attempt at deep yogic breathing, but the effect was only temporary, as I was right back to mentally chucking a bowl of oatmeal into a pit of fire.

Some music would have been nice, I suppose.