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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 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?