Crash. And Burn.

m&Ms

Finally, a run that didn’t suck.

In late November, I wrote about CJ’s Resolution Challenge—a timed trail-race a couple  hours from home. You run a 1.6 mile loop for three hours. Whoever runs the most loops wins (I didn’t win).

In late December, I wrote a follow-up post called T Minus Two Weeks talking about how my training slumped immediately after signing up for the race. Susan hurt her hamstring. My nightly runs with her became walks. My two-hour long-runs each weekend became uninspired and topped out at just over an hour. In T Minus Two Weeks, I wrote: Three hours suddenly seems like a long time to run.

So how did it go?  Crash. And burn.

Today, as I got ready to run, I felt pretty good. My plan was to start running at 9:30 and knock out a two-hour loop. Like most of my runs, I got a late start. I needed to burn a CD for tomorrow’s spin class, and because of afternoon plans, I needed to get that done in the morning. Yes, let me acknowledge right now that I’m the only spin instructor in America who still burns CDs. All the rest play music from their phones.

I own an extensive digital music library. Much of it I created by ripping the hundreds of CDs I bought in the eighties and nineties. When I ripped those disks, I pledged a lifelong anti-Apple stance. I would never own an iPhone or a Mac, so I could save all my music as Microsoft WMA files. They copy faster and take up less disk space than MP3 files. They are identical to MP3 files, except you can’t play them on an iPhone. Well, now I have an iPhone.

Last week, I copied all of my music from my old laptop to my new one. If I plan on creating a spin workout every other week, I want to do it on a laptop that works. I used to be quite techie. Fifteen years ago, when I got my job at the YWCA as the Finance Director, I also served as the organization’s IT guy. I performed all the server maintenance and repair, and I kept our fleet of seven-year-old donated PCs running. But when the Y upgraded to Windows 7, everything changed. I was too busy, or too old, or too uninterested to learn the new operating system. Anything I know about computers, I learned prior to 2007.

CaptureAs I copied my music, every song was marked with a little red x. The error message was something about Microsoft ‘OneDrive’ and the need to buy additional online storage—never mind that my hard drive was still empty. Somehow, I screwed up copying the music, and I couldn’t get it to burn to the disk. The clock ticked, I scratched my head, I googled “What the hell is OneDrive, anyway?”

I started my run at 10:15. Afternoon plans: Each year Sophie participates in county band. The top musicians from each Adams County high school spend two days working with a college-level conductor and put together the concert. Last year, I tried to squeeze in a quick hike just before the concert and we arrived at the auditorium with only a minute to spare. Susan’s parents saved us seats. By the time we showed, they had already decided that we blew them off. Determined to avoid a repeat, I lost forty-five minutes off of today’s two-hour run.

Since CJ’s Resolution Challenge, I’ve had some memorable runs. Meaning they were so hard I’ll never forget them. None went smoothly and all save one were marred by obscene muscle fatigue and a lack of oxygen. Plus, last week was my first run since I started on Lipitor for high cholesterol. I’d throw out my advanced age of fifty-seven as an excuse for the unhealthy cholesterol level, but really, it’s been high since my thirties. I even took medicine for a few years back in the early two-thousands. I’m not certain why I stopped, but my doctor has taken a ‘let’s wait and see’ approach ever since.

When I got the results from a recent blood test, I noted that my cholesterol went down by forty points from last year. Feeling smug, I went home and celebrated with pizza. The next day, my doctor called me with the news that he called in a prescription. One of Lipitor’s principal side-effects? Muscle Fatigue.

The one run I’ve taken this year when I actually felt good was the day after an ice storm. I think it was easy because I was barely trotting, trying to ensure I kept my footing. A little before the halfway point, the ice I had already run on for three miles suddenly became slick. If I didn’t know better, I’d believe someone poured cooking oil on it and covered it with banana peels. I suddenly had no traction. As I tried to slow down, my legs shot out to the front and I fell hard on my back.

I really wanted to kill CJ’s Resolution Challenge. My reason is pretty self-centered. Also doing the race were two bloggers I know. I blog about running all the time. While I never claim to be fast, I talk about running as if I’m a runner. I have my cred to maintain. I wanted to make a good showing so they’d buy my blogging vibe.

From the start, everything went wrong. The weather that morning sucked. We had so much fog in Gettysburg that for the first forty-five minutes I drove twenty-miles per hour below the speed limit. I arrived twenty minutes before the gun. As I grabbed my gear from the car, I realized I was starving.

I brought pasta mixed with sausage to eat before the race. I figured the fat and carbohydrates would be the perfect fuel for a long slow race. It was terrible. I cooked it up the night before. The pasta was dry. The sausage was dry. I was eating it cold. It was flavorless and hard to swallow. I ate as much of it as I could in ten minutes and then went to check in.

I found my two bloggers just before the start. I said hi to Laurie who was running with her husband and a friend. Robyn and I planned to run together. Like the start of most trail-races, we quickly hit a bottleneck and jogged in place for a minute or so. That was the only time the entire morning I felt good. Robyn let me set the pace, which I put at the slowest jog I thought Robyn would agree to run. By the time we completed the first lap, it was clear to me I was in a calorie deficit.

Midway through the second lap, I told Robyn to run on without me. Thirty minutes into a three-hour run, I was already done. At the end of the second lap I ate the rest of my pasta, ditched a layer and headed out for the next lap. Small hills shut me down. Anything that wasn’t heading downhill got walked. My morning was miserable.

At the end of the third lap I ate a handful of M&M’s and kept on jogging. Slowly I began to improve. The fourth, fifth and sixth lap went reasonably well (with a handful of M&M’s after each), but after that, I was just tired. I hit my two-hour mark—the longest I’ve run in years. When I first wrote about the Resolution Challenge, fresh from completing three consecutive weeks of two-hour runs, I wrote: I’ll almost definitely run nine laps, probably run ten, and maybe run eleven. Well, I made my nine, but that was in doubt most of the morning. Laurie and Robyn both lapped me.

Today, while I didn’t get to run for two hours, I felt strong for seventy-five minutes. Today was my fourth week in a row with a ‘long-run’ under eight miles. As the weather warms up, I’ll start stretching it out, building my endurance. Hopefully, before the weather turns cold in November, I’ll be able to truly enjoy a three-hour run. And then watch out CJ’s, I’ll be back next year.

M&M’s photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash

36 thoughts on “Crash. And Burn.

  1. I wondered how your event went, so thanks for the update. In any long-distance race, toeing the line is a victory, in my book.
    Every runner is entitled to a slump, especially if new meds add to fatigue. I had long distance trail running friends who in their 50s would take entire winters off, showing up in the spring with beer guts and nonexistent endurance, yet by summer were stronger than ever. The break seemed to benefit them.
    By the way, peanut M & Ms are great run fuel! As are PayDay candy bars: sugar, chocolate, nuts and salt.

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    • Payday is my go-to. I always have one in the zip-up pocket on my handheld water bottle. I’m thinking of switching to M&M’s because Paydays are hard to get down, but then I’ll probably just eat my stash.

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    • Both excellent ideas. A few years ago, when I was running big mileage, I kept on bonking – not on runs but just while living my life. I added sausage to my diet and that took care of the problem. I think I’ve relied on sausage too long. When I was young, I ate a bagel and a banana before my soccer games and ran hard for 90 minutes with no trouble. I’m trying to straighten things out in the food category. Maybe my cholesterol will go down too.

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    • OK, I watched the game changers, and I’m convinced. Now I just need to figure out a path there. The problem is pizza. It’s a huge staple of my diet. It won’t be a problem with home made, but we get carry-out every week. My wife’s on-board, my kids, not so much.

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      • Heaps of places do vegan pizza – it’s finding the information and contacts honestly the adjustment can take a little while – mine did – I live in a small rural town – there are no takeaway options really (so I love going away and finding the plethora of restaurants and fast food chains that now do vegan so well) I think the main thing is awareness and conscious effort also forgiveness and accepting and allowing. Zealots just drive themselves and everyone around them mad – the kids will eventually get into it don’t push them – education on the benefits to environment and health are the key to kids and give them space and time they will get there or not – the main thing is you guys. Being vegan these days is so much simpler – adaptions to recipes, so many online resources for food and information. Get excited about the benefits and new direction this will take you. The key to health is the plants though not the mock dairy and meats produce – you can sub them in to make it less of a turnaround just don’t make them a mainstaple of diet – vibrant health comes when you pile in the plants. So excited for you guys – enjoy!

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      • I won’t do the substitutes, except soy/almond milk which I’ve been doing for years. I looked up some recipes today and found that with some simple modification, it should be somewhat easy. I’m already there with breakfast and lunch anyway. Thanks for the puxh in the right direction. I’ve got a decade of inflammation I’d like to get on top of.

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    • Hey, I wanted to circle back on this discussion. I watched ‘game changers’ in March and took a shot at veganism, but I just couldn’t do it. Pizza and eggs are just two huge parts of my diet that I can’t give up. I did however give up eating all animals except for fish (which I eat rarely). A couple of weeks ago, I realized I am killing my runs. I’m exercising more frequently without less post run fatigue, which is making all my runs and bike rides stronger, which is getting me stronger. Essentially, I’m spiraling up right now. Great suggestion on the movie. It gave me a push I’ve needed for years.

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      • Hi Jeff – I’m sorry I must have missed this comment, just found it now – good work on the runs. Vegan pizza is better thank regular pizza – I have a recipe for the one I use on my blog. The avocado adds good fat content too. Please don’t beat yourself up for not sticking – it’s a process. I’m four years in and still eat a little fish now and then. What keeps me motivated is the health benefits. I’m healthier and fitter than I have ever been in my life and I’m 48 this year. Muscle soreness is reduced, stamina is good and recovery is easy. Another good book is Brendan Frazier’s “Thrive Diet” I have a tonne of vegan ultra athlete biographies – love them and Rich Roll’s book or podcasts are great too. Enjoy your runs.

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      • I don’t know if you saw it, but my last post was an update on the whole topic and how I’m clearly seeing the benefits from dropping meat from my diet. Wish I did it twenty years ago.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. That was a fun race – I totally loved the “run as far as you can” mentality. And it was just as much trail as I think I can take. I was definitely wiped around the two hour mark when I saw you at the snack stand. I was feeling nauseous from a lack of calories/fluids as well. I drove through that awful fog that morning trying to eat a gluten free bagel and a banana – I should have probably eaten more. Glad your run yesterday went well. I haven’t pushed the miles too much since CJ’s, although I want to. I’ve been running five every M-F, But would like to get a longer one in. I liked CJ’s and would do it again. Feel free to post the picture! I was hoping CJ’s would post one of us I saw them get in the first loop, but they didn’t. Bummer!

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  3. I’m not a runner though I’d like to be. Long story short, I had a congenital bone tumor in one ankle that left me very vulnerable to stress fractures. Boo. All is well for about a month and then … crack. So I’m envious. Sounds like you did just fine to me!

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  4. We all have days when we crash and burn. It’s part of running. Mine was yesterday. After CJ’s I did a trail 25k the next week, then went to visit my sister in Florida for 2 weeks. The longest run I did during that time was the 8-mile race I wrote about last week. Yesterday we headed out fo do 11 miles (I have a half coming up in March). Ugh! I was ready to cry like a little girl after about 6. What happened to my running mojo?

    Glad you are going to give CJ’s another chance.

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    • Ha. A few of my comments (rightly) focused on fueling. If I have a resolution for this year it’s to improve my eating habits with respect to running. I keep thinking I’m 25 and can perform on donuts.

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  5. I so hear you on the music/tech issues. For me it’s “Alexa, play latin jazz” or bust, basically, most evenings. And this coming from someone who used to have a 1984-style resistance launched against Alexa when it first entered our home.

    “I have my cred to maintain. I wanted to make a good showing so they’d buy my blogging vibe.” Haha, loved that. Especially immediately afterwards getting into how things went sideways. (Why is that kind of thing always so satisfying to read about? ;))

    Anyways, you haven’t lost your running cred with me, it all sounds pretty impressive, also that you’re teaching spin classes. Nice work!

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  6. Did I happen to mention that from my last trail race in September I am less 4 toenails? I had to go to the doctor because I was afraid the new one on my big toe was growing in, instead of on, my toe. I will now be scheduling some time with a podiatrist, because I’d like to keep my toenails–and keep running trails!

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