I knew it was coming. I could hear the footfalls behind me on the path. I felt its breath on the back of my neck. The feeling of expectation was heavy in the air, knowing that it was only a matter of time before the other shoe dropped.
And then one sunny Wednesday morning, there it was. The run I’d been waiting for: The crash and burn.
Now that I’ve been running for a few years, I’ve learned that you can only string together so many “good” runs before a “bad” one comes along to bite you in your lycra-clothed butt. And I had been on a REALLY good roll. Sure, there were a few times that I cut a run a little short, or that I didn’t quite meet my goal pace. But for the most part, I’d spent two months building base mileage and four weeks starting my marathon training with no major issues. I knew my day would come …
I’m normally really excited to head out the door and tackle my run, but that morning I struggled to even get out the door. As I drove to the park, I was still fighting the urge to turn around and drive back home. I willed myself out of the car and figured if I could just get started, the miles would fly by and I’d be well on my way to covering my scheduled 18 miles. I was wrong.
I warmed up, planning to start with my usual 5-minute run/1-minute walk ratio. Except I couldn’t even run for 5 minutes. In fact, I barely made it for 90 SECONDS before I felt like I couldn’t run one more step. There really wasn’t anything wrong. The weather was fine, I wasn’t sick or injured. It just felt like someone had filled my Mizunos with concrete, and each step took triple the normal effort to execute.
I tried another running segment. I checked my watch, confident that I was closer to 5 minutes this time. Nope, 1:45. This process continued for another mile or so, and I never made it past 2 minutes of continual running. My body was not cooperating, and on top of that, I just didn’t feel like running.
I tried changing my plan. Instead of a long, steady run, maybe I’d try some hill repeats to get myself pumped up. Normally I love the feeling of accomplishment after reaching the top of a tough climb, and it totally charges me up to keep going. But as I forced my way up to the top of my third repeat, I wanted to cry. This was not fun, and I didn’t want to do it any more. So I turned around and slowly made my way back to the car. The walk of shame.
My “crash and burn” workout … Three years ago this would’ve been my race pace!
On the way home, I wallowed in the disappointment of not completing my scheduled workout. I felt like a failure. And I almost slipped into the “this missed opportunity is going to ruin my entire marathon training plan” kind of thinking, which is pretty ridiculous.
So what do you do when a run doesn’t go as planned? Try this three-step process:
First, throw yourself a 5-minute pity party. Allow yourself to be mad, sad, disappointed, whatever. Just get it all out and be done with it.
Second, get a little perspective. This is a great time to look back at your training log. Maybe you didn’t go as fast or as far as you’d have liked today, but it’s probably only a small piece of what you’ve done over the past weeks, months, or years. Just a tiny blip on the radar screen.
Third, learn a lesson. Take an honest look at why things might’ve gone wrong. Did you fail to fuel or warm-up properly? Have you been properly recovering after your workouts? Are you being realistic in your expectations, based on your current circumstances? Most importantly, what can you change for the future?
In my case, once I took a step back and looked at it, I figured a few things out. I didn’t get my running gear ready the night before, so I wasted way too much time and energy wandering around the house trying to get myself together. I’d flipped my schedule around and tried to do two long runs close together. And I spent the day after that run in bed with a sore throat and stuffy head. So my body was probably trying to tell me to give it a rest and allow it to fight off the germy invaders trying to storm the castle!
Still smiling at the end of my first 20 mile run!
I made a few notes in my training log, and life went on. The next week I raced a 5K with a new PR time, taking more than 40 seconds off of my previous best. Later that month I ran my first 20-mile training run, and I’ve done several more in the 15-20 mile range. That one disappointing run was, in fact, just a tiny blip on the radar screen of my marathon training.
Runners, if you have a workout that doesn’t go as planned, don’t despair. I’m guessing even elite runners miss the mark every once in a while. (I’ll be sure to ask Kara and Shalane next time we do lunch.) Get back out there and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Life will go on!
This is definitely one of those running-imitates-life scenarios. In life, there will always be things that go wrong. You’ll be disappointed when something that doesn’t go the way you expected. You’ll fail to reach a goal you’ve been striving for. It’s a fact of life. Imperfection is unavoidable when we are imperfect people living in an imperfect world. But instead of rolling over and giving up when things get tough, if you find a way to work through them, you’ll come out stronger and smarter on the other end.
Have you ever had a “crash and burn” run or workout?
What helps you to shake it off?
The author is a wife, mother, and solidly average “middle of the pack” runner from Northeast Ohio.
She is currently training for the 2013 Flying Pig marathon, and plans to run the 2013 Rock ‘N’ Roll Cleveland half marathon while raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. To help her reach her goal, please visit her webpage: http://pages.teamintraining.org/noh/rnrclevh13/MileageMama
Follow her journey on Twitter @MileageMama: https://twitter.com/MileageMama