The Rollercoaster of Running

I started this blog to document my life and adventures in running – the good, the bad, the highs, and the lows. Today we hit a serious LOW point that reminded me how running and training is such a rollercoaster. One day you can be on top of the world, feeling amazing and confident and strong- and the next you can have a terrible run that makes you question why you even run in the first place.

Our training has been going pretty great so far. We did our first 20 miler a couple weeks ago and rocked it. However, the summer heat and humidity has really been affecting us lately. For the most part, we had been managing it well and pushing through – taking walking breaks when we need it and adjusting our pace. That’s just necessary in the summertime and we thought we were doing a good job handing it.

Until today.

We had our second (of 3) 20 mile run on our training plan this morning. We went through our usual routine the night before – we ate dinner early, mapped out our route and prepared our Camelbaks and energy gels. We were in bed by 9:30 with a 4:30 am wake up call. We wanted to get out early because we knew it was going to be hot and humid.

I don’t think I ever really fell asleep that night. I couldn’t get comfortable and I kept looking at the clock and the hours ticked by until my alarm went off. I don’t know why I had such a hard time sleeping. I think subconsciously I was nervous for our big 20 miler and worried about the heat getting us. We got up, ate our usual pre-long run food and started getting ready to go. We were running by 5:30.

After only 1 mile I could tell this was going to be a really hard long run. Mentally I just couldn’t get into my normal running mindset and I couldn’t focus. I really believe that 80% of running is mental, so I was struggling a lot because of that. Physically, my body felt like it was drowning in humidity and sweat, I was tired, and it was hard to breathe in the thick air. Every step just felt harder than usual and it kept getting worse and worse. I felt the urge to stop and walk after mile 2 but I kept pushing until mile 4. I asked Kevin if we could stop and walk and he happily agreed. We walked slowly, chugging from our Camelbaks, huffing and puffing and dripping sweat. I asked Kevin if he was having a hard time like I was, and he said he was. We agreed to keep running and take walking breaks every 4 miles. We thought we could handle it better if the run was broken up like that.

WRONG! Only one mile later at mile 5 my body was begging to stop again. I felt weak and the heat was really affecting me. Kevin and I looked at each other and we both saw that we were struggling, so we stopped again. We talked for a minute and decided that we just couldn’t do 20 today. Instead we shortened our route in a way that would make it about 11 miles total.

Now, in the past, this kind of thing has happened a few times before while training for other marathons. I have had to adjust some of my long runs due to weather, how I was feeling that day, and other factors that were out of my control. Normally when this happens I am devastated, disappointed, and angry with myself. And I usually end up crying like a baby. I am guilty of pushing myself too hard sometimes and trying to follow my training plans to a T, no matter what. When I am not able to, I tend to be really hard on myself and feel like a failure. It’s a huge blow to my confidence and it makes me doubt my training.

But I didn’t feel that way today. Once we made the decision to modify our long run I immediately felt 100 times better and it felt like the pressure had been lifted off my shoulders. For the first time I didn’t feel guilty and like I was ‘failing’ my training. I knew that this is what Adaptive Running is all about- listening to your body and adjusting your plans when unexpected things come up. I realized that the fact that we had to shorten our run wasn’t a reflection of how ‘weak’ I was but a reflection of how we are trying to train smart this time around and protect our bodies. Kevin brought up a good point, that we COULD push ourselves to run those 20 miles, but it would be too painful physically and mentally and wouldn’t do us any good. It would only make us hate running and put negative thoughts in our heads about the marathon we have coming up.

Something clicked inside my head – Yes, it was supposed to be 20 miles. Yes, it was an important run. But it’s only ONE run. It’s not the end of the world. I will be okay. I will finish the marathon. And there’s always tomorrow.

This may sound silly to all of you but it’s a big deal for me and a big change in my attitude. I’m really proud of myself for staying positive when things went wrong, since I have a tendency to do the opposite.

The next 6 miles of our run were ANYTHING but easy. We stopped to walk after each mile, literally. But we got through it. We can home, we stretched, ate, and moved on with our lives. So it was supposed to be 20 miles… so what. We did 11 instead and I’m proud of each one of those tough miles!

We had a great day afterwards. We took a nap, hung out with family at a local state park and rode Jetskis, went to Wegmans (my love!), and made a delicious dinner. I am currently drinking some (much needed) wine and about to get ready to celebrate my friend’s birthday.

Life is good, whether or not I was able to run 20 miles today.



5 responses to “The Rollercoaster of Running

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