Back on Track


I’m getting honest here.  Lately, my running has been sparse and far from stellar.  I’ve been lacking that “runner’s high” that I love so much, and my confidence went from “15 miles? Heck, yeah!” to “5 miles?  I don’t know…” like that.

In addition, I’ve been fighting to work out the balance between speed and endurance. My body doesn’t want to budge from 8 minute miles, but I can’t keep it up for the distance I want to go.  It’s a bit like trying to accelerate to 70 mph uphill in my beat-up little Ford Escort…irritating and inefficient.

I’m pretty positive that I can trace the slump back to the Frozen Buns 10k I  sweated through ran a few weeks ago. Racing has the effect of making you A) so elated that you almost sign up for an ultramarathon because youkickedthatraceinthebuttandrunningisjustsoamazingyay or B) slapping you so hard  in the face with your disappointing time that it flashes before your face for weeks every time you go out for a run.

I’m fine with missing a PR if I know I really did my best, but I feel like I should have toughed out that race and pushed harder. And so I was left with result B.  I let myself boo hoo through a few bad runs before I decided I’d had enough.

Why run if you don’t find joy in it?

I knew I loved running, so I set out on a quest to regain my running spirit.  We all go through ups and downs, and here’s what has helped me:

1. Talking to someone in the running community.

Last week, Sean and I went out to eat with another couple.  The husband of this couple is a runner as well (much more experienced and faster than me!) and we’ve run a few of the same races together.  We got to talk shop about our current racing plans, new courses and trails, and our goals.  No matter what kind of fitness you’re into, being around other active people will give you a kick of motivation.

2. Sign up for a race within the next 2-3 months.

3 months is enough time to train for almost any event, but it also doesn’t leave a lot of time for laziness. I like to have a big goal in sight, and it gives me an extra-strong reason to run. From now until April, I have one 5k, a 4 miler, two 5 milers, and 2 half marathons. Talk about lighting a fire under my butt!

3. Find a new course.

If you run in a subdivision, switch to a trail.  If you run on trails, take a jaunt in the city.  Used to hill?  Run in a flat area, and vice versa.  Running the same route again and again can make you feel stale, bored, and unchallenged.  I visited a trail last week that I haven’t run since last summer.  It looks much different now, but it brought back such great memories!

4. Get yourself something nice.

I’m a firm believer that looking good makes you a better runner.  Trade out your sweats for a nice pair of running tights, or even something as simple as a running-themed headband or gloves – whatever makes you feel like the cool runner you are.  I happened to get some new shoes (and inserts!) the other day, and new kicks always make me want to run.

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I stuck with my favorite Mizuno brand but tried a new model that varies just a bit from my old Elixirs.  Fit? Check. Comfort? Check. Minimal-ish? Check.  Awesome colors? Checkitycheck.

5. Or throw out all your gadgets.

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If you get all hung up on split times and checking your pace every 5 seconds, just stop.  There are times to be technical and there are times to just not care.  Go out to your favorite spot, sans timing devices, and just run.  For as long as you want.  As fast or as slow as you want.  It doesn’t matter as long as you’re running.  Learn how to find joy in the movement, and not in your finishing time.

6. Get all Zen and hippie with yourself.

If my workouts are lagging, the first thing I do is reevaluate what I’m eating. Am I getting enough fresh veggies?  Have I had a few too many processed foods?  De-junk your diet and treat your body well.  I aim for mostly raw and unprocessed food with lots of color, anti-oxidants, healthy fats, and lots of nutrients.  Put quality gas in the car, people.

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(Kelp noodles, kale, red quinoa, carrots, corn and edamame)

7. Get some new tunes

I listen to the same Spotify playlist all the time, but I’m constantly putting new songs into the rotation. I’ve got everything from Eminem’s “Till I Collapse” to Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence.” Weird, but effective.

8. Think about your favorite run ever.

Think back to that run when you sailed effortlessly over the ground.   When nothing else existed, and nothing else mattered. Maybe it was your best race, or the first time you realized you could run farther than you thought you could.  The company Mizuno has branded this the “brilliant run” – the one perfect run for which we endure all the disastrous ones. Remember when that last happened to you, and use it as fuel.

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(I had such a great run that day!)

And the two things that have helped me the most:

9. Read up on running.

I’m almost finished with ultramarathon legend Scott Jurek’s book, Eat and Run.  Jurek is a vegan who has won the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run 7 times in a row.  In his book, he talks about his races, running strategy, and his lifestyle as a runner.  He even shares his favorite vegan recipes.  Reading this book (and others like it, such as Born to Run), lights such a fire in me.  If he can run 150 miles at a time, I can…not (right now, anyway)…but I can do my best!

10. Just do it.

Ultimately, the best way to be a better runner is simply to run.  One of the lines Scott Jurek often repeats is what his father used to tell him when he was a child: Sometimes you just have to do things.  I don’t want to pay my bills/do the laundry, etc. but you just have to.  It’s far easier for me to sit and watch How I Met Your Mother all day, but I have to go to work.  And I have to run.  If you want to be a runner – a better runner – then you just have to do it.

Today, while Sean’s been at work, I headed to the gym and ran 14 miles. I planned on 10, and then I thought I might as well make it a whole half marathon, and then I rounded up to 14 because I was listening to a good song and felt great.  I fueled with 1 GU gel, and felt outstanding the entire time.  In hindsight, the weather today is beautiful and I totally could have done it outside, but it was glorious nevertheless. The treadmill also let me fix my pacing problem, and I made sure to keep my pace between 8:30-8:45 the whole time with a good long sprint at the end.

Now, I’m not sure why I decided to run 14 miles on the day that Sean and I are also doing leg day…we’ll see how that goes.  I’m not tight or sore or tired at all right now, so I think I can still kick his butt!