Maybe I should slow down?

It seems like a funny thing for a self-described “slow happy runner” to say… but maybe I should take my own advice and slow down a bit? I’m talking primarily about running here, but of course there are probably all sorts of metaphorical parallels to the whole of my life — I’ll let you point them out to me in your comments.

What seems to be happening for me right now as a runner is that I’ll have one or two really great days, when I go out there and run faster or further than I intend, effortlessly and joyfully, followed by a run (or two) that goes really badly or at least not as planned. Bear in mind that I normally only run about three times a week, so it’s not that I’m out there pushing hard every day. My knees are gradually feeling better and stronger overall. I actually feel like I’m recovering sooner after each run, while at the same time I continue to discover that I can run at speeds that I had never thought possible. Yet I keep having these crashes — so I wonder if I’m starting to push myself to a point of diminishing returns, and maybe I should just go back to being slow and happy again.

Yet the times when I feel the most joy while running are precisely those times when I’m pushing and my body is responding — so it’s hard to resist the temptation to keep going out there and doing it. Or perhaps overdoing it.

As I’d previously reported, I ran this past Monday (4.4 fast joyous miles to make up for having been too sick to run last Sunday), followed by 3.25 miles of fatigued slog on Wednesday. So I vowed to slow down on Friday, but instead ran 4.01 really fast joyous miles, another of those magical runs when I forgot to look at my watch and was surprised to see how far I’d gone, and how fast.

Last night I went to bed early (around 10:00 PM rather than my usual near-midnight) eagerly anticipating this morning’s planned a 10-mile run, which would be my last long run before the half marathon in two weeks. Sure enough, I awoke promptly at 1:00 AM (instead of the usual 3:00 AM). So I figured, fine, I’ll go back to sleep. My middle of the night awakenings usually have one of two possible outcomes: I’ll go back to sleep immediately or I’ll be awake for 60 to 90 minutes. Last night (or I should say this morning) it was after 4:00 AM before I finally went back to sleep. I lay there for three hours trying to figure out the sequence of events I’ll have to complete to get myself and my three cats moved out of this condo — really moved out this time, which means finding new owners for all the furniture and donating, discarding, or shipping home all the other stuff. I’d met with a realtor yesterday afternoon, so this topic was floating around in my head when I went to bed, lurking there waiting to strike when I awoke.

My alarm went off at 5:45 and I did not leap out of bed in joyous anticipation of running 10 miles. I didn’t leave the house until 8:15, and it was already getting warm. I had planned to run at around an 11:45 pace — 45+ seconds per mile slower than my recent short runs — but things were working well at the beginning and I was having trouble slowing down and settling in. By 4 miles I wasn’t having much fun. I decided to head back toward my condo for a quick break and evaluation of the situation. I was carrying water but did not feel thirsty. But I had a brief dizzy spell while waiting for the “walk” signal, and I knew I was done for the day. My planned 10-mile cruise turned into a too-quick 5.28 miles (11:23 pace) that left me feeling weak and angry with myself for screwing up.

I don’t know what went wrong (other than losing all that sleep). I’d eaten typical things both last night and this morning. It was not all that warm, only about 60 degrees when I finished, although if I’d tried to keep going for another hour it would have gotten very warm.

After I got home I guzzled orange juice and quickly got over the dizziness, but I had no desire to go out there again. I ate, I napped for about an hour, and then I went swimming (my usual leisurely dog-paddle). I went grocery shopping this afternoon. It was a normal Sunday. I have no unusual pain tonight. I simply didn’t have it in me to run 10 miles this morning.

I’m now officially in “taper mode” — so while I’ll continue running probably twice a week over the next two weeks, I’ll keep them short (under 5 miles) and I’ll work on being SLOW. I need to remember how to have fun while running even though I’m not out there every time setting new personal records.

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Posted on January 29, 2012, in Running and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. YUp. Rest is an important part of every training program. At least for me!

    • David,
      You are so right, and I wish I wouldn’t keep forgetting to rest! I still struggle against the little voice telling me I have to do everything and keep getting better at everything… all the time.
      Thanks for the reminder that sometimes enough really is enough.
      Lori

  2. I’m new to your blog and goodness knows no expert on running, let alone YOUR body:

    Questions: as a slow runner myself, when you run over 60-80 minutes, are you refuelling? I mean more than water? I don’t mean “gels” or anything fancy. I had similar experiences to your when upping my miles and then I ran across some wonderful VERY scientific (not hearsay) journals on what happens to the body. I knew that you blow through sugar in the bloodstream. I didn’t know that anywhere (bodies are different) between 60-80 minutes is when you’ve depleted yourself and your body just cannot convert enough energy.

    This will also lengthen your healing process between runs — and it’s just plain BAD for us!

    You may be doing what needs to be done already and I apologize if I sound dumb or bossy! I never got to running as far as you do now but to do 6.5mi, it would take me well over an hour, so I had to start mixing my water with a supplement (very diluted or it made me sick, diluted was perfect!).

  3. Madtante,
    You don’t sound dumb or bossy, and you’ve made really good points. Besides, one of the reasons we blog is to get feedback from others, right?
    My rule of thumb is that if I expect to be out for more than 60 minutes, I carry water and something to eat. My stomach can be touchy sometimes when I run, so I tend not to want to eat very much. One thing that has worked for me is pretzels (see my post dated 10/2/11), but all I had around the house yesterday was full-sized pretzels that don’t fit well in my pocket, so I took a few dried apricots with me.
    When I was waiting for the light to change and had the brief dizzy spell, I was at 58 minutes and wasn’t yet feeling either thirsty or hungry so I hadn’t yet touched my water or apricots. I was also only a block from my house, and I figured (correctly) that I could get myself home from there all right. I arrived back at my front gate at exactly one hour.
    I’m going to make sure I have mini-pretzels with me for future long runs, and I will plan to start eating them BEFORE I reach the one hour mark.
    During previous races I have relied on whatever is at the aid stations. I tend to get so keyed up that I haven’t wanted to eat at all, which is probably not a good idea but I’ve always risen to the occasion. I’ve gotten by on sips of water and a couple of orange slices when they were available. I should probably try sips of sports drink when they’re offered, although I worry that the sweetness will do terrible things to me.
    It really is a challenge, fine tuning all this stuff and hoping to get everything just exactly right when it counts! I am looking forward to doing more resting than running over the next two weeks, and hoping that the rest now will pay dividends on race day.
    Thanks,
    Lori

  4. Lori, I feel like the one thing that might be the strongest hindrance to feeling successful is that you aren’t focusing on being kind to yourself. I come from a yoga perspective so I know that’s really different but worth considering. I actually recommend that you perhaps consider a gentle yoga class to help quiet, breathe and stretch–all good for running but a bit of therapeutic and restorative properties! Kindness to you! The main thing is that you support your own emotional well-being! Debra

    • Debra,

      I used to love yoga and took classes regularly for years, until I finally realized that poorly-trained teachers were encouraging me into positions that were potentially very dangerous given my neck and shoulder issues. I still do some gentle stretching now and then, when it feels like something that might help.

      I also did TM for many years, and I actually spent some of my wakeful three hours the other night going “mantra mantra” to no avail.

      I think I am my own worst enemy in many ways, and yesterday was a pretty good example of how I set myself up to fail. Maybe I should have simply turned off the alarm, rolled over and gone back to sleep. Yet there is this feeling of, “If I don’t go out and run THIS morning, then somehow none of my weeks or months of training will have mattered, and I’ll be lazy and flabby again, and wouldn’t that be awful?” Negative self-talk for sure but so hard to silence.

      Thanks,
      Lori

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