I find it so funny (read: frustrating and incredibly vexing) that three runs of relatively the same mileage can be so vastly different. Usually I can pinpoint when I’m going to have a rough run: poor hydration, lack of sleep, bad fueling, etc. In those cases I expect to board the struggle bus after an hour or so, and prepare myself accordingly. But there are times when all those things don’t seem to matter in the eyes of the running gods, and I pull a good run out of nowhere and wonder why I ever struggled in the past. It’s a roller coaster, I tell ya.
So let’s take a look at two 10 mile runs and an 8 miler, just weeks apart from each other. The first 10 miler – less than a month ago – was pretty much doomed before I even started. I was up late, ate like crap, and had raced a 5k the day before, so imagine my surprise when I had virtually the perfect run and ended up with what I think is my fastest 10 miles in pretty much ever. I chomped on a few gummy bears, stopped here and there where I needed it, broke through the wall at mile 7 and just went. Pain-free, clear-headed and happy.
Then came the following 10 miler, 2 weeks later (I alternated long runs in this training cycle, with 5-6 milers between each week’s build up). I did everything right: proper fueling the night before, lots of good fuel. The weather was absolutely perfect for running – just a tad windy, but I’m racing next to the Atlantic Ocean in 6 days so I could use a little wind in my training.
Alas: the wheels fell off the wagon at around mile 6.5 when I discovered my sure-thing bathrooms at the local park (where I planned to fill up my water bottle) were, in fact, locked. So I called my mom for emergency water (she was only about a mile away), and set out to finish those last miles only to discover that my legs did not want to go. I was shredded. I ran for about 2 minutes at a pop before having to walk, and my total time was somewhere around 2:18 – a whole 9 minutes slower than the previous long run. Talk about demoralizing.
Cut to this week, where I took a balls to the wall “now or never” approach – because I did everything wrong before this run, once again. Saturday it poured all morning, so I decided to start the Great Seasonal Clothing Migration. You know what I’m talking about: the day at the beginning of each season where you spend 6 hours bent, hovering over huge bins of clothing, sorting and separating the “keeps” from the “Goodwills”. Well, my entire back seized up in pain as soon as I finished at 3pm and I couldn’t stand up straight. Then I made matters worse by spending 3 hours crammed into a ball at the movies, and basically went to sleep in the shape of a question mark. When I woke up, even breathing hurt because of the stiff muscles in my back. So when I set out for my 8-10 miler (again, no great expectations), I knew within a half a block that I was going to regret this.
Along with the intense lower back pain that stabbed up my spine & down my thighs with every step (seriously, it was murder), fueling was a major issue too. I had run out of gummy bears so I opted instead for a handful of sweet n salty sunflower seeds. They were not good fuel. I also had major chafing issues this time around too. I deliberately wore shorts that I’ve never chafed with before, but by mile 4, my thighs were screaming for mercy (TMI? #sorrynotsorry). And to cap it all off, I developed a brand new, throbbing foot pain along the side of my big toe. What the ever-loving hell?? I was doing nothing different – same socks, shoes, route, everything! When it rains, it pours, I suppose.
I bargained myself down to 8 miles and finished around 1:42. Which is still just under a 13:00/mile pace, although I don’t think I could have maintained it for another 5 miles for 13 – not with all those random issues. I chalked it up to poor planning and vowed to hit the cross-training hard today and Wednesday, with shorter runs Tuesday and Thursday to prep me for Sunday’s 13.1.
I suppose the only thing we can do is just keep logging those miles – I know the whole “bad runs make the good runs even better” mantra is a popular one, but damn. It’s been pretty hard to keep up the “yay, PR for me!” attitude when the long runs are this spotty! I can only hope that the running gods will smile upon me in 6 days and give me the perfect run I’ve been chasing for these past few weekends.
How about you? Have you experienced this hit-or-miss phenomenon? Please tell me I’m not the only one!