We all experience it from time to time.
You’re training for a big race and everything’s moving along smoothly, and then it blindsides you: a crummy long run and suddenly all of your confidence flies out the window.
This morning I went out for a 16 mile run with two friends, Ali and Bess. Ali and I have been running together for a few years and Bess and I recently began linking up once or twice a week for trail workouts and long runs (she and I met in training for the Anchorage Marathon in 2006, but I was way intimidated by her speed. It took me training for three marathons and an ironman before I felt worthy of her running company – this was all in my head, of course; for all of her accomplishments (more than a dozen marathons, a trip to heartbreak hill, Ironman Lake Placid, and back-to-back races with Dean Karnazes during his 50 in 50), she’s one of the most laid back, unhype-able runners I’ve ever met.).
It was a blustery morning today, and running alongside the river didn’t help matters. From the outset, I could tell it wasn’t going to be an easy one. We started off into the wind and by the three-mile turnaround I was already feeling a little bit battered. We paused for water at mile 6, and again at mile 11. I don’t normally need two shots of fuel for this kind of run, but since I was already dragging, I decided to play it safe and suck down a hammer gel at each stop.
As we set out for the last five miles, I took note of sharp pains shooting up my right leg. What is usually localized in my hip today radiated through my ankle and my calves (though mercifully, my knee was fine). The quarter mile markers seemed to get further and further apart as we ran along Boat House Row, and when we finally reached the 2.5 mile turnaround, I was questioning whether I’d be able to run back.
Ali decided to kick up her pace and power through the last couple miles, but Bess stuck by my side and distracted me with stories of battles of the Ironman sexes as we made our way back toward the art museum, the wind finally at our backs.
I’ve come up with all sorts of reasons why today didn’t go well. It was windy. I was never able to get warmed up. I didn’t eat enough yesterday. It was my first week without the comfort of the gym, and the lack of cross-training left my legs tighter than usual.
All of this is true, and yet when it comes down to it, it was just a crummy run. And as much as I wanted to shake it off and move on, it left me with that nagging feeling. Doubt. Doubting whether I could qualify. Doubting whether I could even finish. Doubting whether I should do the two-day snowshoeing race this weekend and risk further injury.
In the end, Bess and I averaged 8:45’s for our 16 miles; Ali finished a couple minutes ahead of us. A respectable pace in the quest for a successful marathon performance – and perhaps even a BQ – in May, especially given the conditions.
Ali and I attempted a few minutes of stretching and then, after determining that such efforts were futile with the wind and the cold, we headed over to a local brunch hotspot for steaming mugs and hearty meals (peppermint tea and an egg white primavera frittata for me… mmm…).
By the time I got home, I was feeling a lot warmer and a little bit more optimistic. These things happen. I know this. I’ve had these sorts of mornings before and I always have a better one the following week.