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When 7 Miles Feel Like 20

As so often happens after big race weekends, I came back from Hood to Coast with high hopes. The relay gave my running confidence a huge boost, and spending a weekend surrounded by runners usually leads to one thing — the desire to run more.

HTC_vanessa_lauren_caroline.jpg{Picture via Caroline}

Unfortunately my big plans about upping the mileage and diving head first back into training didn’t exactly play out. Because Hood to Coast knocked me out in the worst way, and it seems to be taking me weeks to recover.

I guess that’s what happens when you fly to another coast and run a race on zero sleep that you really aren’t in ideal shape for, faster than you have any business running. But that hasn’t exactly lessened my frustration over the fact that my body doesn’t seem to be bouncing back as quickly as I would like.

I tried to be patient at first. The day after I got home from HTC, I came down with a severe respiratory infection. That, combined with high levels of exhaustion, forced me to take off more days than I actually ran. I told myself to relax and just embrace the recovery, figuring that I would re-structured my plan to get back into it after a few days.

htc finish line party.JPGI guess my body needs extra time to recover from this level of excitement… (Thanks Robyn!)

I’m sure you can guess where this is going…

Last week started off well enough. I had a few great runs early in the week and was excited to attempt some speed. So last Thursday I set off for a 7 mile tempo run, eager to get my legs moving again. Sadly, however, my legs weren’t feeling that same excitement.

I felt like my legs were filled with lead right from the start, and my slow warm up did nothing to loosen them up. In the end, my planned tempo run basically became two fast miles sandwiched in between {what felt like} a death march. I tried to pick up my pace twice, both times with the same result. I would start off feeling okay, like I might be able to hold a quick pace for a few miles. But by a half mile in I was overcome with the sensation that every ounce of my energy was literally seeping out of my legs. It was as though I had holes in my skin. With every step that I took, all my speed and strength were just pouring out onto the pavement. It was an unsettling feeling that quickly left me doubting that I’d even make it home. Somehow I convinced myself to hang on for the remainder of that first fast mile before I gave myself permission to slow down again. I jogged the next mile, stubbornly decided to give the speed one more effort, and promptly failed…yet again.

At this point in the run my new plan became to just finish the dang thing without walking. My 7 mile run (which, at this point in training, shouldn’t be that hard) may as well have been 20. As I shuffled along during those last couple of miles, I lost touch with all rational thought. I told myself that I’d probably never be able to run fast again. It didn’t matter that I’d just raced HTC…my prime was most certainly over and I may as well just accept it now.

And then I began having flashes of myself lying helpless on the side of the road for hours before a random passerby came to rescue me…

Like I said, just a tad bit dramatic. And although I did feel better after my run (and made it home alive and unscathed), the rest of the week didn’t improve. A few awful recovery miles on Friday left me feeling wiped out. By the time the weekend rolled around, I was congested, nauseous and exhausted. My little family went for a short hike on Saturday morning and I found my heart rate soaring with the tiniest incline. I was out of breath and having a hard time keeping up.

This was about when my spirit broke. I came home and spent a long time lying on the couch feeling sorry for myself. Sunday morning, instead of waking up early to try my long run, I slept through both Evan and my alarms and woke up after 10 am feeling discombobulated. I skipped the run again, and instead spent the day perfecting my recipe for homemade Italian bread (so at least I accomplished something, right??)

homemade rustic italian bread

I wish I could say that I woke up this morning feeling like a brand new woman. But despite the promise of a new week that brought with it the perfect running weather, I did not. I knew that it was important for me to just get out there and run whatever I could manage, even if that meant I couldn’t run long. So I made a plan – I’d do a couple out and back routes, and see how far my legs would take me.

I ended up covering 12 miles. It wasn’t fast, and it certainly wasn’t quite the same as the 17 that I had scheduled (though it took enough out of me to have been!). But it was something. 

I spent this morning’s run doing a lot of reflecting…trying to figure out what the heck is going on with me lately and (more importantly) how I can make it better. I know I need to give myself a bit of a break. Sometimes you don’t bounce back from things as quickly as you would like. As much as I wish I was feeling stronger at this point in my marathon training, I have to remember that I’m only working off of two months of running — after almost 4 months of essentially doing nothing but sit on my butt. It feels like I’m making excuses for myself, but oh well…

At the very least, these past couple of weeks have served as good reminders. First, that my speed is still there. It may be tucked away most of the time, but when I need it (like for relay weekends), it’s hiding in reserves ready to come out. Second, my strength is not. Which brings me back to my initial goal all over again. The main point of this training cycle is to build up endurance. To become a stronger runner. I am not going to get to the starting line of NYCM in the best shape of my life, but that is okay. I need to focus on building up the miles and getting myself as ready as can I can be in the time that I have.

I also clearly need to start taking better care of myself. By getting more rest, eating better, taking vitamins, and letting go of some of the stress I’ve been internalizing over the past month. If nothing else, these crappy runs have been a wake up call that I can’t just float my way through training this time around.

This weekend I’ll try running long again. That’s all I can do, day after day. Just keep on keeping on. And really, when it comes down to it, this important truth (which I tweeted last week after my disastrous tempo run) is why I keep on running day after day, week after week, year after year:

Even if the run sucks or workouts don’t go as planned, I always feel better on days that I run than days that I don’t.

Always. always. always. AMEN.

21 Responses to When 7 Miles Feel Like 20

  1. Yet again why you’re my favorite running blogger!! You keep it so real and I love that! There is always next week and tomorrow and I’m sure you’ll get that long run in and nail it. Sometimes the body needs a break and this post is a nice reminder that everything will be okay with a little rest, reflection and recovery.

    • Thanks Lizzy!! …and this is why you’re my favorite “reader” ;)

      In all honesty, I think it’s so much better to be real with people (clearly), but I do hope I don’t come off as too negative. Running has been frustrating this year, but it’s not all bad.

  2. Make sure you rest up and get healthy!! And your Italian bread looks AMAZING!!! Love, Leah and Chrissie
    Christina´s last post ..Family

  3. i had one of those weeks last week. no motivation, skipping a run on friday – just so…not me. i have to cut myself some slack though and realize a week of “off” running isn’t the end of the world. and listening to your body is the best thing to do in those situations… because it is sending you very clear signals!
    kristy´s last post ..Fear

    • “…a week of “off” running isn’t the end of the world.”

      YES to this. Sometimes it’s so hard to step back and see this when we’re in the middle of everything. But marathon cycles are long…one (or two) weeks of less than ideal training isn’t going to make or break them.

  4. Last week my husband was literally scared for me; every day I came home with a head ache, asleep on the couch by 6pm, a mess. Work started back in the education business and I’m not handling it well at all. I ran 6 miles all week and had 18 miles on the schedule. the last three completely ruined my average and included walking. I felt better that day knowing I had done my part to complete me run. I was also less sore than I have been in a while. You’ll come back. NYC is calling you ;-D
    Kristin Miller´s last post ..Working out with Shaun T…and then running 18 miles

    • Yikes. Sounds like you definitely needed the rest! Glad you made it through your 18 miles (no matter how slow it was, just completing the run is an accomplishment sometimes) and I hope this week is much better for you!

  5. I had a week like that 2 weeks ago. I didnt do a long run. I quit my tempo. Paces 2 minutes slower than my marathon pace seemed too hard. Running just sucked. It’s getting better. Slowly. It is all a cycle. Running is always a gift, but at least I run for those times where everything comes together and it is amazing. You will get back there!
    Celia´s last post ..musings on wanting to fly

    • “It is all a cycle.” So true. Thank you for that reminder.

      Glad things are getting better. Definitely hoping that this down time in my running cycle will just make those (eventual) good runs that much more amazing.

  6. I’ve had about 4 months like this! I ran Chicago last year and didn’t take time off to recover after, thinking what great shape I’m in, just keep running, right? Stupid me. In March I got a stress fracture in my right foot. I’ve been dealing with plantar fasciitis. I got Lyme disease this summer. Plus it has been blazing hot this summer! Yep, when you’re down, you’re down! I am finally starting to get my mojo back, having some good runs–I feel like I have a half marathon in me for the fall. Maybe. But I think these tough runs are what makes me a runner. It would be so easy to quit–but I don’t want to. I know I have it in me. And on Friday, I had the run of the year–so I know it’s there!

    • Oh no! I’m so sorry! You’ve definitely had a rough summer. Glad to hear things are starting to come back (and that you had an awesome run on Friday!). Hope things continue to improve for you from here on out!

  7. Man, you’ve been having a rough few months. Sometimes it really seems that the more effort you put into feeling better and finding other things to focus on, the more running hardships become the only thing you think about. Which, of course, makes it nearly impossible to cure. Best of luck to you, hopefully something comes completely out of nowhere to consume all of your attention and make resting easier.
    Lauren´s last post ..Rotation 1, Day 1: Lambeth House

    • Thank you very much Lauren. I hope I don’t come off as too negative (I get afraid of that sometimes!). This has not been my year running-wise and I’ve definitely had quite a bit of stress to deal with, but when I look at the larger picture, life really is good. I know there are “up” times and “down” times in a runner’s life. Hopefully this down time means that better runs are right around the corner…

  8. I’m sorry you’ve been having such a rough time! It will come back – if there weren’t lows, there wouldn’t be such great highs.
    Kathy Q´s last post ..Parks Half-Marathon

  9. It does sound like it’s a rough patch…try and hang on to the memories of how fantastic HTC was and be kind to yourself. You had a good few months off, it would be incredible if you flew back into normal shape without the odd bounce in the middle. It’ll come back! Maybe have a week without a watch – watch the leaves change, breathe in the Autumn air as you run – get refreshed.
    Cathryn Ramsden´s last post ..Pushing the pace

    • Thank you Cathryn…I know you’re right. I know I want my body to be super-human but sadly it is not (ha!). But like I said above, I really do hope I don’t come off as too negative. I try to keep it real on the blog, but then sometimes I realize that many of my posts these days sound more negative than anything else. Running has been super frustrating this year but in the scheme of life, it’s only one small thing. Got to keep that in perspective.

  10. Oh my — that bread looks delicious!
    Keep your chin up — just the respiratory infection alone can suck the wind out of your sails, literally. Add to that fatigue from your trip and it all makes sense. Your splits from Hood to Coast were amazing, so just know that your speed is there and build your endurance back up again slowly.

  11. That bread looks awesome!
    Oh, about you blog. But first, can you make me a loaf of that bread….. Oh, back to you, mmmmm that looks good.

    So, you know from everything you wrote you answered your problems and you do realize that. You cannot cut down on running like you did, then travel across the country, run a 24hr relay, fly back across the country, Make delicious bread, and expect to feel 100%. You need rest. You will come back and you will come back strong. Stay up on your iron, make more bread and rest.

    Boy, reading your blog brought back so many memories of tough runs. Remember, you are not a jogger, you are a runner. There is significant difference between the two and it wears you down hard.

    Boy that bread looks good………..

    • You know this is why you are still my favorite runner AND my best coach. Even to this day.

      And there’s a chance that fresh bread will be waiting for your arrival. Maybe. If you’re lucky….

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