Long Run Fail

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I like my marathon training cycles to be on the longer side – at least 16-18 weeks with my long runs beginning at 12-14 miles.  One of the reasons is because it gives me a few extra buffer weeks in case I have to miss a long run.  Being a mom to two little ones (with one that’s exclusively breastfed) means that a good night’s sleep is totally out of my hands and despite my best efforts, a long run (or successful long run) is sometimes not in the cards.

I’ve being extremely satisfied with my long runs this training cycle.  Until this weekend.  This weekend’s did NOT go as planned (and it had nothing to do with the little ones).

I intended to run 16 miles early Friday morning (5:30am) following a similar route as last weekend’s 22 miler.  I knew from the first few steps that it was going to be a tough run.  I was working harder than I should have been to maintain a pace that last weekend felt so easyI wasn’t out of breath – instead, my body felt fatigued, exhausted, and unable to move any faster than what it was already running.

By mile 3, I was starting to feel a bit shaky and out of energy – so I took an energy gel.  Typically on runs < 16 miles, I don’t fuel.  I ate a slice of toast with peanut butter early in the AM which is usually more than enough to get me through a 2(ish) hour run.  I felt a bit better by mile 5 and still had every intention of running the 16 miles. Although I felt a bit more fatigued, I was still hitting the paces I wanted and hoped I would get into a groove.

  • Mile 1: 8:10
  • Mile 2: 7:58
  • Mile 3: 7:52
  • Mile 4: 7:48
  • Mile 5: 7:51

I needed another gel at mile 7.  Two in 7 miles…last weekend I took two for 22 miles.  Not good. The second gel didn’t seem to help and by mile 8, I decided to call it quits.  I was starting to feel extremely shaky and my heart and head were no longer in the run.  It didn’t help that it was freezing out and I had ZERO desire to spend another moment in the cold.  I called my husband (I always run with a phone when I’m out alone in the early AM hours) and asked him to come get me as I was still 7+ miles from home and couldn’t will myself to run home.  Since I knew he was coming, I convinced myself to run until he reached me:

  • Mile 6: 7:49
  • Mile 7: 7:53
  • Mile 8: 7:59
  • Mile 9: 7:58
  • Mile 9.21: 1:33 (7:23 pace

I didn’t bonk.  I didn’t start out too fast and I don’t think bonking is possible three miles into a run. I was still maintaining a sub-8 pace for almost all of the miles and probably could have made it home running an 8-ish pace.  But I felt like I was totally depleted and running on empty and couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right.

There’s a difference between a run being tough because you are going long or running fast and one being tough because something is not right.  Some may disagree with me but I have no issues with pulling the plug on a run that doesn’t feel right – I don’t care if it’s a recovery run, speed session, tempo run, or long run.  There’s NO reason to push yourself on a training run when something is off.  If this were my goal race, then I would have pushed through to the finish.  But my spring goal is bigger than a measly 16-mile training run.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had a terrible long run.  As I said last week, not every moment of a long run is going to be great…and to add to that, not every long run is going to be great.  Some will suck.  Some will be a total failure.  I love sharing my successes but I think we all learn more from the failures (as much as I don’t like when I fail).  You have to learn from ALL of them. And then try again.  (LOVING this quote thanks to Lauren)

For the rest of the day, I tried to figure out what may have caused the craptastic run…I take note to things that I do when runs go well, but I look at things even more closely when a run doesn’t go as planned:

  • Stomach issues: I had spent a lot of time in the bathroom that morning (TMI?).  Most times that my stomach is giving me problems like that, I feel like I have the shakes shortly after.  It’s almost like there is no fuel left in my body.
  • Mental: I mistakingly thought I had been running against the wind for the first bit of the run and that I would have the wind on my back for the second half.  When I turned around at mile 6.5, I realized that I was totally wrong and would have to fight the wind on the way back.  Talk about a HUGE kick in the pants.
  • Diet: I knew I didn’t eat enough this week.  I was scheduled for a root canal (UGH!) on Monday, but unfortunately, it had to be pushed back because the infection in my root was so bad it prevented the novocaine from numbing my mouth properly (the dentist started to do the root canal and I felt everything).  After a late-night call Tuesday night (and getting prescribed pain killers), my dentist was able to get me numb enough to finish it with no pain first thing Wednesday morning.  However, my mouth was SO sore and sensitive for days afterwards and it made eating (or drinking) much of anything almost impossible. View from my chair in the dentist’s office:
  • Cross-training/training for Ironman: I swam and biked more this week than I have in years.  Even though I don’t use my legs much in the pool, my body feels much more fatigued that usual.  I swam Thursday morning – the week prior my last swim day was Wednesday (going to try to avoid Thursday swim days until after the marathon).  And the bike is certainly taking a toll on my legs. 
  • Not respecting the distance: I was too laissez-faire about this run. I don’t think I gave the 16 miles enough credit.  The last four weekends had been 18, 20, 10k trail race, and 22 miles.  So 16 miles was a cut-back easy week for me.  But in reality, 16 miles is still a long way to run.  
  • Pregnancy: No, I am not pregnant – but this was a thought in my mind when I got home from my run.  Last January, a run like this was one of the first signs that I was pregnant with baby #2.  Just to be on the safe side, I took a pregnancy test Friday afternoon – it was  negative. 

Having a terrible long run SO close to the NYC Half (on March 17) is not the way I want to go into the race.  Even though it’s just one run, my mind is having a hard time remaining positive about where I am at and my big goals for the race.  It’s definitely hard to not doubt your abilities after a long run has to be cut short.

So where am I now?  I went for a speedy 4-mile run (29 min – 7:15 pace) on Saturday and then a 10k steady state run (+ mile w/u and mile c/d) on Sunday.  The run on Sunday was great.  I needed a good, hard run to change my mindset from Friday.  Since the NYC Half is just under 2 weeks away, I won’t be doing a long run this weekend (will do a speedy 12-14 miles) so I’ll just have to wait a few more weeks for my chance to fail better. =)

Have you ever had a terrible long run? Did you call it quits or push through?

Did you race / run long this weekend? 

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    38 thoughts on “Long Run Fail

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    2. You might definitely see your competencies inside operate you’re. The earth desires for a lot more fervent internet writers such as you which are not fearful to note the direction they think. Always comply with your own heart.

    3. Hi!

      I just came across your blog and absolutely love it!! I am so happy to have found it!!

      I know this is kind of a late comment to this post, but I have had 2 depleting long runs (last ones in my training cycle) before my first half marathon. It was not so much that my legs which were tired ( although they were) but more that my head was not into it, my brain felt “out of energy” and I had to fight back negative self talk (hope that’s corret English (I’m Italian!). My confidence is completely shaken and I am scared for my upcoming race! I have had an injury some weeks ago which took away some of my motivation and have also been training for a triathlon. Since a week and a half I have cut back on cycling and not swimming to intensely to save energy. In all honesty, last month was also filled with travelling, not so healthy eating and stress at work but I been able to keep on running and training and am now back to eating well.

      I really hope I can ask what your experience has been at the half marathon. I just feel so let down by my last run. I hope a last long run before a race does not mean a crappy race! How were you able to prepare mentally for the race?

      Thank you so much and definitely will keep following your blog!!


      • Hi Dana…one thing I realized for me (and this was later on in the training cycle) was that I think I was getting close to being burned out from the training. I started training for the marathon back in December so by March had definitely peaked. Thankfully, it was just one bad run and then I had the race, so I was okay…but getting back to training and then racing the marathon was tough for me.
        Training runs are supposed to be tougher than the race (in some ways). There is no taper, your legs are tired, you are often doing it on less sleep, fuel, etc than you will have during the race. Just remind yourself of that.
        I did a couple of harder, shorter runs before the half which I think helped me too (about 7-10 days before the race). I ran about 8-10 miles fairly fast – which was a HUGE confidence booster for me.
        One or two crappy runs doesn’t mean that you had a terrible training cycle. Just don’t get antsy during the taper. Let yourself rest and run easily the way your training plan calls for. You will be ready on race day.
        When is your race?
        nycrunningmama recently posted..Tired is JUST a State of MindMy Profile

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    5. I never know what I’m going to get when I set out for a long run. Some of my best long runs have been when I was full of doubts and didn’t feel my best. You have been training so incredibly hard for as long as I can remember. Sometimes cutting a long run short is the best thing you can do for your training in the long term
      Shannon @ Mon Amour recently posted..Disordered EatingMy Profile

    6. Since my longest run distance EVER is 6.7 miles I can’t really speak about long runs, but I have had to abort workouts when I just felt wrong, or skip one entirely when I’m just too tired (a choice I never regret).

      And I relate to the pregnancy test; every month I spend the last week of my cycle exhausted and cranky and thinking I’m pregnant. It’s always a good thing to rule out.

    7. I laughed in my head a little when I read the question “have you had a bad long run” – um, yes, lots! The more you train, the more it happens. And triathlon training is a whole other beast, it definitely takes some time for your body to adapt, especially where you are in your run training cycle.

      Bad runs happen, so don’t sweat it! One bad run is okay. :)
      Heather @ Better With Veggies recently posted..Baked Zucchini Chips and Fries {MMAZ #26}My Profile

    8. I love how you took at look at all the possibilities to what may have caused your tough run. I had a low energy run/race on Saturday, but I’m pretty sure it was a pre-fuel fail (although after reading your post, maybe I needed MORE time in bathroom?? Not TMI 😉 haha)
      I’ll be running NYCHalf with a friend. I would love to meet up IRL 😉
      AmyC recently posted..TrainingTruths: Running with the StarsMy Profile

    9. I’m so sorry Michele that you didn’t have a great run but it’s impossible for every run to be great and I think that you are so so smart for knowing when to pull the plug. That such a hard thing to do sometimes but it’s so not worth pushing through it and finding yourself in a bad situation. And a root canal on top of that (never mind the biking and swimming)??? I would totally feel more than off! :-)
      Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..UnpluggedMy Profile

    10. I’m with you. I always have long training schedules that way if I mess up a long run there’s ample time to make it up. I also think a bad long run in a training cycle is inevitable and just part of running. Luckily, that bad run for you is out of the way and you can confidently go on to crush your goal races!
      Jess recently posted..Say it, Do it! {the Boston Marathon Jacket}My Profile

    11. First of, your posts always inspire me! Even if your “fail” is nowhere near my own training fails (and I’ve had a LOT of those!), I know training is relative to the runner!

      That being said, it’s deffo tough to call it quits during a training run since you’re under pressure to be able to do the mileage and then all these scenarios go in your head about the race, etc. I do love that you admit to ending a training run early! It’s very difficult for me sometimes to acknowledge that I need to stop, since in the past, I’ve given in easily to my thoughts, rather than how I actually feel physically (i.e., nothing wrong w/ me, but was mentally not there). I’ve gotten better now with determining about my body’s capabilities and I think I’ll keep a copy of this statement in my running belt: “There’s NO reason to push yourself on a training run when something is off.” Thanks for continuing to inspire and failed training runs are indeed a part of, um, training! :)

    12. It sounds to me like you were underfueled! You are doing so much, plus nursing your son takes so much energy! I am ‘only’ running about 30 mpw max right now and am also nursing my daughter, and feel like all I do is eat, and I’m still dropping weight! I can’t even imagine Marathon training, plus all the swimming and biking for Ironman training! Good call to cut it short, making the phone call to get a ride home is hard!

      I had to get a root canal last week also! BOOO!
      Terry recently posted..Snow DAY!My Profile

    13. SO smart of you to stop and not push through it – you are so right, there is no reason to push through a training run if something doesn’t feel right. I hope you are feeling better, sounds like you are. You are so good at being in tune with your body and listening to it! Now go eat something, please? 😉
      jobo recently posted..On foodie love and evolutions.My Profile

    14. We all have tough runs sometimes and it sounds like you had a lot going on this week not to mention busy with two little ones :) It sounds like you are very in tune with your body though and did a great job of assessing why your run felt so ick! It is hard to call it quite but it sounds like it was a good choice. Hope you are feeling back to yourself now!

    15. Like you I rarely call off a run, but in the times where I have found myself shaky I almost always do…I can’t even pin point myself what causes those runs because they happen very rarely, but nothing I do seems to shake them once they start. I love your attitude and reflection on it so like you said next time you’ll respect even the 16 and hopefully all will go better!
      Amanda @RunToTheFinish recently posted..Snack Box for the Conscious EaterMy Profile

    16. You did a good job explaining the mental long run issues, and the physical long run issues. They are very different. Running through mental issues, generally result in better strength for me. Running through physical issues always makes me feel weaker in the end and that’s never a good place to be in marathon training.
      It’s great you were aware.

    17. Oh no, so sorry about this run. Thank you for sharing this with us though, it helps to know that your not the only one having these bad long runs. I’ve had too many to count. For me personally, it took two years after a pregnancy for my hormones to go back to being steady and since your breastfeeding it could be that they were slightly off this day. You are working your tush off with the babies and many early morning runs, it could have just caught up with you this day. You are so wise to call it quits. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on a run and thought “what would Michelle do?” You’re my rockstar! xo
      Lisa @ RunWiki recently posted..A letter of apology to my bodyMy Profile

    18. Those runs are so frustrating… but they happen to all of us. I definitely agree with you it’s wise to pull the plug and not suffer through it. You had plenty of reasons to feel crappy- especially with the extra cross training and limited eating last week. Makes sense! You rocked your weekend runs- I’d love a 42 minute 10k. :)
      Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted..Sugarland Half Marathon RecapMy Profile

    19. Thanks for sharing the days and runs that don’t go so great. It’s a nice reminder that no matter how long or how awesome of athletes we are, there will always be those days where it just doesn’t *work*. After you shared about your week- i’m guessing that the dental work took a lot more out of you than originally thought :/
      I giggled when you mentioned the pregnant test :) And I’m glad you had a couple of badass runs after your booboo one! Always a nice perk up.
      beka @ rebecca roams recently posted..I Can’t Handle The Heat…My Profile

    20. Thank-you Michelle, I really needed this! We moved over the weekend, and after 2 days of being on my feet (I hate moving!), not sleeping, barley drinking any water or eating, I went out for a 12 mile run and just died. It’s really discouraging, but it makes me feel better that I wasn’t the only one not feeling it. And a bad run was how I found out I was pregnant with #2 too. :)
      Ashley recently posted..Baby Things I’ll Miss the MostMy Profile

    21. Before the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon in 2011, I had two of the worst long runs I’d ever had in a row. My confidence was shaken and I was so emotional about it. On race day, I had a huge PR, and the race is still my PR today. You are going to be amazing at the NYC half (and you probably already know most of us would kill to run a long run as fast as your bad day!!!) The triathlon training will get better in terms of being less fatigued. You’ll find yourself needing more sleep to recover (which will be hard with Baby #2), so just keep listening to your body and doing the best you can do. That’s all we can ever expect of ourselves. Good luck with training this week! xo
      Jesica @rUnladylike recently posted..The Journey to 26.2: A Runner’s First Marathon ExperienceMy Profile

    22. Oh man, I have so been where you were this weekend. I remember one 18 miler last fall that started out gangbusters and then turned into a total disaster. I ended up pushing to get to 17, but mostly because I had to make it back to where I had parked eventually (I still ended up walking a mile back to my car from where I stopped running). The next week I totally bounced back with a much better run though. Hope it’s the same for you!
      Maureen recently posted..Weekly Workout Recap – 02/25 – 03/03 (Cherry Blossom Training Week 8)My Profile

    23. You should also add breastfeeding to the list:) Your body is doing A LOT right now. Sounds like you have the right attitude about the run though, don’t let it get you down and it isn’t and indicator of how you will do in the NYC half. You are in amazing shape, sounds like you need some rest mama!
      Sarah @RunFarGirl recently posted..Making the Core and Pelvic Floor a PriorityMy Profile

    24. Great post- I appreciate hearing the message. I had a pretty BLAH 14 miles on Saturday and kind of did the same thing- had done 20 the weekend before and wasn’t really respecting the distance. 14 miles, 16 miles, it’s far and if your off then it feels even farther. You have picked up so much with the IM training and oh my goodness dealing with the root canal, no wonder you felt off. Way to shake it off and move on. You are seriously going to KILL the NYC half. I will be looking forward to hearing updates! :)
      Lindsey Hein recently posted..We’re so Granola we make our own Granola.My Profile

    25. Love this post:) So open and honest. All us runners have been there. It’s these runs that make us stronger mentally. You have to appreciate them for what they are and it’s still time on your legs even if it’s not the total distance/speed you wanted. I really think you nailed the nail on the end with the fueling issue though last week that paired with training for an ironman. Just goes to prove how important it is to fuel right. You had some stuff out of your control happen last week that made it difficult to fuel the way you needed to. It happens and all you can do is let it go! Move on and learn from the experience and don’t beat yourself up over it. Which sounds like you are already doing so you are ahead of the game! Lesson learned which is so important:) Keep up the great work and enjoy the ups and downs that come with training. It all helps shape and build you mentally and physically come race day.

    26. Have I EVER had a terrible Long run? Oh Yeah. Just last week. Right before my first half I had this wierd day where I attempted my long run, no kidding 4 different times in one day. In the end I got about 8 miles of the twelve, but all at different times. My coach thought I was insane, and looking back, I agree with him.

      No big deal, things happen!

      Hey are those Saucony Mirages? I think I would recognize that insane barbie pink anywhere. What do you think of the update?
      Holly recently posted..Marathon Training Day 28My Profile

    27. Oh I can so relate to this post–I’ve been there! I’m really sorry you had a bad one. But I really, really respect that you DID pull the plug. There’s absolutely no good to come out of beating yourself into the ground. Your experience (and smarts) won out and I’m glad.

      I also usually put some buffer time into my marathon cycles for just that reason. There’s just bound to be something that comes up along the way.

      Ok–the root canal where you were feeling everything–my worst nightmare! Glad you got it all taken care of eventually!

    28. Having work done on your teeth and the addition of pain-killers into your body can do weird things, plus the increase of overall workload with the swimming and biking, indicates some empty glycogen stores in the body and not enough rest prior to the long run. All this in addition to being mom.

      You are young and can do a lot, but even Superwoman can over do it. Sounds like you bounced back well the next days. You need to look at your overall training, which you have done, to see what you need to do different and now that the tooth is fixed, eat more.

      You will do great things Gonzo, just take care of yourself and remember Superwoman had her kryptonite and couldn’t do everything.

      But I am glad that you do shut it down, when things are going bad, it is a good thing.
      Harold recently posted..Running With the Wife Again 3-4-13My Profile