How to Deal with a Totally Craptastic Run

Hello all!

Sorry I have been MIA lately, but truth be told, there hasn’t been a ton to write about.  In non-running related news, I am now officially an ACE-Certified Personal Trainer! Woohoo!  Feels good to finally be “street legal”.


Marathon training for the Santa Barbara Marathon has been going just swimmingly.  Here’s a brief recap of my workouts from the past couple weeks:

Week of 6/21: 41 miles total (this was a step-back week from a 48 mile week the week prior)

Sunday 6/21: Light lifting (arms and back) at the gym (I had run 16 miles the day before)

Monday 6/22: 6 miles (8:40/mi pace)

Tuesday 6/23: 10 miles (3 miles w/u at 8:30/mi pace, 5 miles tempo (8:11, 8:02, 7:55, 7:52 and 7:48/mi pace), 2 miles c/d)

Post tempo

Hot, humid and sweaty tempo run, but glad to have it over with.

Wednesday 6/24: 5 miles (8:27/mi pace) + 35 minutes HIIT with the husby

Thursday 6/25: Rest my sore booty and thunder thighs

Friday 6/26: 7 miles of hills (8:09/mi pace)

Saturday 6/27: 13 miles (8:30/mi pace)

Week of 6/28: 48 miles running 

Sunday 6/28: Light weights (arms and back) at the gym

Monday 6/29: 8 miles (8:41/mi pace)

Tuesday 6/30: 5 miles (8:17/mi pace) + 30 minute HIIT Kettlebell Workout

Wednesday 7/1: 11 miles  (3 miles w/u at 8:30/mi pace, 7 miles tempo (8:04, 7:56, 7:55, 7:50 and then the “bonk” at 8:08, 8:12 and 8:14/mi pace), 2 miles c/d) – more on this later in the post

Thursday 7/2: Rest day (for my body and my ego)

Friday 7/3: 7 miles slow and easy (8:45/mi pace)

Saturday 7/4: ‘Merica.  Walked about 3 miles in our local parade, but Huntington Beach was a zoo and there was no way I was going to be able to knock out a long run with the Drunk Olympics going on.

Sunday 7/5: 17 miles (8:35/mi pace)

Other than the crappy tempo run on 7/1, I have been really happy overall with my training paces so far, and the bod has been feeling pretty good.

Now (finally – sorry for the sidebars) onto the point of this post.  We have all been there – the run where you are sucking wind, your legs feel like lead, you are praying to 8 lb. 6 oz. newborn infant Jesus that the pain in your side goes away, and you look down at your Garmin only to see that you are running a pace normally reserved for your post-marathon recovery jogs (you know, the ones where you are half waddling and half limping).  And you are 7 miles from home.  Well shit…

Rough run

The run couldn’t have been too rough if I had the energy to walk to the park and set up the iPhone to take an “introspective selfie” as I ponder on the park bench. 

Unfortunately, the shitty runs are all a part of the training process, just as much as the good runs are.  They suck because they can make you question everything you have done training and nutrition-wise up until that point.  They can wreak absolute havoc on the future training plans.  Basically, you could get allllll up in your head.

BUT – Silver Lining here people!  Bad runs keep us grounded, humble, and cognizant of the fact that there is always room for improvement.  They also may be a sign that you need to “check in” with your body.  Here’s what I like to do during and after a rough outing on the pavement.

During the Run from Hell

You’re out and about on your run and your first few miles in feel totally normal.  You’re cruising along, bumpin’ some tunes, taking in all the scenery when all of a sudden your legs turn to jello and you feel like you are trying to breathe through 3 cheesecloths.  But you still have 5 miles left – what do you do?!?

1) Are you dizzy, having chest pains, nauseous, experiencing severe cramping, having trouble breathing even after a break, or having severe joint or muscle pain?  If so, STOP YOUR RUN IMMEDIATELY (and call 911 if your condition is life-threatening).  No workout is worth killing yourself over, or ending up with an injury that sidelines you for months, years or even a lifetime.

2) …or maybe you don’t have any of the above symptoms but you’re just like “nope – not happening today”.  Call your SO, roommate, friend, parent, an Uber driver, have them pick you up and call it a day.  I always always always run with my cell phone and $10 for this reason.  Danon has had to do recon on more than one occasion – no shame in my game.

3) Suck it up buttercup.  Like I said before, bad runs are a part of  the process and provided that the pain you are feeling isn’t life-threatening (see tip #1), keep on keepin’ on.  Remember when Kerri Strug completed a vault on one foot with a broken freakin’ ankle at the 1996 Olympics to help the US Women’s Gymnastics team win the gold medal and we all cried with her and Bela Karolyi?  Or was that just me?  Anyways…yea she was in worse pain than you are now.  Finish up your run.

4) OK that last tip was my “tough love” approach.  Another less harsh approach is to just stop for a minute.  Catch your breath.  Take in some more fluids.  Stretch and regroup.  Start your run again at a slower pace.  Try and build up to your intended pace if you are feeling it – if not, just stay at a more manageable pace and finish your run.

Basically the way I dealt with my crappy tempo run the other day was a combo of tips 3 and 4.  I took a little break after the 5th tempo mile, stretched, bought and drank a Gatorade, gave myself a firm pep talk, and continued on at a slightly slower pace.

After the Run from Hell

1) Make Excuses.  I had a headwind the whole way both ways.  I fueled with Indian food last night.  It was hot.  It was humid.  My left sneaker was too tight.  Not only was there a headwind, but it was also uphill the whole way both ways.  This is absolutely in no way, shape, or form even remotely productive, but sometimes it makes me feel better.

2) But seriously…Use this opportunity to check in with your body.  Are you overtraining?  Are you getting enough sleep?  What did you eat/drink the day before? What did you eat/drink before your workout?  Based on your current fitness level, do you have reasonable expectations for your training paces?  Answer all of these questions honestly, and this may clue you into why you may have bit it during a training run.

3) Give yourself a break.  I know I joked about making excuses, but it’s scientific fact that environmental factors like heat, humidity, wind and cold can all wreak havoc on your pace.  And put simply, sometimes bad runs happen and there is no logical explanation for it!  If this was an isolated “bad run”, don’t let it get you down.

4) Literally, give yourself a break.  I always take the day off from running the day after a really bad run.  I’ll either take a full rest day, or do some sort of low intensity cross training.  Like wine tasting.  Wine tasting (AKA 5 oz. curls) is an excellent low intensity form of exercise.

Ever had a bad run?  Want to talk/hug/cry it out?  I would love to hear about it in the comments.  I mean, it’s only fair, you listened to me ramble about mine.

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