Sunday, February 10, 2013

Quitting On A Dead-Legged Run?

Ever run on dead legs?  I think we all do at times.  But what do you do when you're 2 miles into your 20 mile long run of the week and you realize that you "just ain't got it today"?  Do you shut it down or keep going?  Do you go take a nap or power through?  I'm not sure there's a right answer ... just curious about other runners.

I started my 21 mile run on Saturday and immediately knew that it was going to be a struggle.  I've been trying to lose a little weight for the Lost Dutchman Marathon in Arizona next weekend, so I haven't been eating as much during the week.  And honestly, I probably didn't fuel up adequately, or enough for this run the day before on Friday.  About two miles in I really felt sluggish, light-headed, and energy depleted.  And at mile three, I was starting to see some of those little white spots with minor tunnel vision - an obvious sign of lack of fuel, and electrolyte imbalance.  I had inadvertently turned this "normal" long run into a "glycogen depletion" long run.

As for my legs, I had a really good week of workouts with leg lifting, a Tempo Run on Tuesday, and a short but very intense Hill Workout on Thursday.  And I found out very quickly that my legs were still fatigued and not adequately recovered and ready for a long run.  There was just no response or bounce, and every step felt like a chore.  Add to the mix 28 degrees and 15-17 mph SE wind, and it made for a very below average experience.

I really try to manage all aspects of the pre-long run fairly well, trying to simulate race weekend as much as possible.  But a couple of times in the past I've had a similar experience like this where, for some reason, everything just went wrong.   On those occasions I shut the workout down and just pushed the run to the next day.  But on Sunday in Lees Summit, it was supposed to be raining with 25-30 mph winds.  So I just forced myself to get through it on Saturday.

I've read that when Kenyan runners have days like this, they will absolutely quit in the middle of a workout.  The theory is that high quality short workouts are better than a poor quality long outings.  And when they're "not feelin' it", they'll just call it a day, and try again tomorrow.  I think there's a lot of merit in that.  Because frankly, I'm not sure what I really accomplished with this run.  I mean, I guess there was probably some mental reinforcement of "pushing through pain", and simulating the last few miles of a marathon.  But I've done that dozens of times and didn't really feel like I needed that lesson on Saturday.  Plus, I probably placed myself at greater risk of injury.  But all in all, I'm glad I got through it.

When I first started running, a run like this would have really bummed me out.  I would have been a little depressed and questioned my training.  But over the years I've learned to never get too high or too low from a single workout.  I usually know where I'm at physically, and bad workouts don't just happen ... there's typically contributing factors.  So for better or worse I hammered out this 21 miler at a slower than planned 8:24 pace, but I need to run a heck of lot faster than that next weekend.  And there will be no "shutting it down" in the middle of a marathon ... I hope!  Have a great week!
... be great today!


  1. Those are tough to power through, I have quit on them before, but I have also powered through and been glad I did. Great job powering through. I am not sure either what is the right thing to do, but I hate quitting since I go to such effort to find a babysitter before I run

  2. I've learned we all have "bad" running days, and usually after a break I'll have really great running days.

  3. I've always done the miles I've planned but can't say I've ever felt like you describe. Maybe not feeling my best but like you I powered through it. Of course, these days 15 miles is going to be my max run which is quite different than 20.

  4. I know that feeling all to well. Like you said, when I started running, quitting in a middle of a run was devastating. Still bothers me today, but it's easier now to quit and live to run another day.

  5. I love how you call this a "very below average experience" instead saying "This sucked" (which is what I would have said!). :^)

    I would have done what you did--shuffled on through it. But what I will say is....I wouldn't have been trying to drop weight so close a marathon. If I need to lose, I try to focus on that earlier in the training cycle and am much more focused on rest and getting the runs in later on. Weight loss and marathon running=bad combo. You should try not to gain, and if you inadvertently lose a few pounds because you're eating healthy, that's great. But actively trying to lose weight at that point is a recipe for dead legs. I'd up! Keep it healthy, but don't let yourself get hungry.

    For what it's worth!

  6. Sounds like you may have simply bonked with not enough fuel on board. I'm with Terzah on her post.

    And yea I figured you would like the Aussie Open pics lol. I'll try to post a couple more bonus pics for you of Sharapova next post lol

  7. I am not in the 20+ miles runs... yet...
    but when I this happens on my LR...I dont stop and I force myself to finish even if it is ugly. I posted about that a couple weeks ago asking if a bad run is better than no run....everyone said bad is better than none... now go have a bowl of ice cream or something! no more dieting so close to a marathon I agree with Terzah

  8. At least you knew the reason for feeling so bad. It's pretty awful when you've done the training an have a bad run but can't work out why. So you'll know how to avoid it next time.

  9. Oh yes the dreaded elephant trunk leg runs. Aren't they just so much fun? haha I don't think it is necessarily bad to push through them as long as you do not push speed. At least thats my 2 cents.

  10. I usually just plow ahead and struggle through the rest of the run. There's a unique sense of accomplishment that comes from making through a dead-leg adventure, even if it doesn't necessarily contribute much to the overall training physically. I also hope my body remembers it for the last few miles of my next race.


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