A Tale of Three Runs

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.

photoI seriously just scoffed when I saw this.

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.

IMG_7911Seriously: gorgeous.

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.

photo 2I would also come to regret my choice of non-stick headband as well, and promptly threw this one in the garbage after my run when I had to fix it every half mile.

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.

photo 1But it was another really pretty day, so that’s nice.

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!

6 thoughts on “A Tale of Three Runs

  1. Jess, you are DEFINITELY not the only one. The long run is my nemesis. Sometimes it can go so well and other times leaves me wondering why I try to be a long distance runner. In fact, I’m also unsure about my marathon plans for this year now too. I can’t seem to keep my energy levels up when I go for long runs and I’ve recently even struggled with shorter races that I had so much success with in the spring/early summer.

    But the important thing is that you are DOING these runs! You’re accomplishing them!! That’s worth so much more than the time it takes to do them in. You won’t always have your best run, but if you stick to it, you will get faster and faster and sometimes it will all come together in the right moment. We just need to continue to have patience 🙂

    Last but not least, GOOD LUCK this weekend!!!! 😀

    • thank you so much Charissa! You’re right – we just have to keep logging those miles, we’re still accomplishing them no matter what!
      I hope things start to look up for you, it’s draining to fight that “why do I do this” mentality! But you’ve got it in you to adapt and overcome, you’ll be breezing along again in no time I’m sure!
      Thanks for the encouragement 🙂

  2. Hopefully these crappy long runs will at least be a good reality check, and good mental training, so that you’re prepared physically and mentally for whatever happens on Sunday. I’ll be thinking of you this week!

  3. I can relate. I’ll go out one day and have a great run, and the next time – CRAP!!! Oh well. It’s all part of the process. I just live for the good runs, or even if just part of a run is good. I am thankful I have the ability to get out there and do it. Also, as someone who has done physical therapy for back and other areas of pain/injury, I can tell you that your throbbing foot pain was probably a result of you changing your stride to compensate for the back pain you were having. It’s all connected. You probably didn’t even realize you were doing it, but I would bet that is what it was. Have fun on Sunday.

    • oh WOW, that’s a totally accurate connection, thank you for that! I never would have figured it out on my own, but I bet you’re 100% right and my foot pain was connected to the back issues I was having – isn’t the human body amazing?! thank you!

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