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January 17, 2006

Bump in the Road

Right off the bat, Sunday morning’s run felt terrible.

I don’t usually dread my long runs that much – the biggest obstacle is getting out of bed at 4:30 to get started. Normally once I’m headed down the road or onto the trails, the only limiting factor is how much time I have left before my kids start getting hungry for breakfast.

(I’m the weekend breakfast chef at home. It’s amazing how many points instant pancakes and scrambled eggs will score you with young kids.)

Anyway, on Sunday I was about 20 minutes into my planned 3-hour run, and felt miserable. Nothing specific was bothering me, but I just felt worn out, like there wasn’t any fuel in the tank. My body seemed out of sync, and I couldn't find a comfortable cruising pace.

In my head I contemplated cutting the run way short and just heading back home, but I knew I would probably beat myself up about it for the rest of the day. Plus, I wasn’t going to get those extra hours of sleep back anyway, so I continued on and hoped things would fall into place.

Sometimes my body finds a groove after about an hour of running, but on Sunday the mark came and went and I still felt awful. The Gatorade and GU I was taking in didn’t seem to help much either.

Approaching two hours, my legs started feeling like lead, and hills that I normally scale with ease became arduous climbs. My pace slowed precipitously on the uphills, and my leg muscles got pounded on the downhills.

At the bottom of one hill I could have headed for home, but the watch only said 2:20, and I thought, “Well, I’ve come this far...”. I turned in the opposite direction to add another 4-5 miles.

The minutes just crept along. I checked my watch countless times in that final hour, and each time I was disappointed to see that very little time had elapsed since the last time I looked.

Normally at the end of a long run I can crank my pace up to marathon speed for a few miles, but today I was just trying to keep placing one foot in front of the other. I finally reached the base of my driveway at the three-hour mark, and hobbled up the stairs into my house.

It doesn’t often happen that an entire run feels miserable, and I’m never sure what it tells me about my training.

Maybe I’m overtraining in my attempt to be in race shape for Napa in 7 weeks. Maybe I haven’t been as diligent as I need to be about eating well and sleeping enough (OK – this one isn’t exactly a news flash), and my body can’t perform at the level that I normally expect.

On the other hand, maybe my body just isn’t used running to a 20-miler at the end of a 70-mile week yet, and I just need another couple of times to find my comfort zone. This is a typical mileage pattern for me during marathon preparation, so I know I can handle it if I keep plugging away.

Or maybe Sunday’s run was just an aberration. Bad days do indeed happen, sometimes for no apparent reason. It’s usually best to just let them go. I’ve found that overanalyzing and overcompensating can often cause as many problems as they solve.

And the occasional bad days help me to appreciate the other days when I feel strong and run smoothly.

After a rest day yesterday, I ran 15 miles this morning and felt great, posting my fastest time on the loop this season.

So maybe there’s hope for a good race at Napa after all. (I mean, not that I was worried….)

1 comments:

robtherunner 1/18/06, 5:37 PM  

70 mile weeks? You're always holding out these details from us. I enjoy your writing of course, but it is nice to hear about your training every once in awhile. One of these days I need to head down to your neghborhood and run the loop with you.

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