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Troubleshooting a Long Run Gone Bad

Last week’s long run did not go well. I just crashed around mile 8. I slowed significantly and couldn’t regain my momentum or energy. My planned 18 miler ended up being only 13. I ate 1/2 a Picky Bar around mile 7 and within 5 minutes felt terrible. I felt sluggish and needed a bathroom break…like REALLY needed a bathroom break. I don’t know if it was the Picky Bar or if it was a number of other factors and the Picky Bar was just the straw that broke the runner’s back. 

There are a number of things I look at when evaluating a crappy long run. 

Troubleshooting Bad Long Runs

Here’s how this particular run shaped up against the checklist:

  • I hadn’t slept well the 4 nights leading up to the run. There were two nights that I barely got 4 hours of sleep.
  • I hadn’t been feeling well since I got home from Utah. Not sure if it was jet lag or if I got a little bug from all the kiddos I was around.
  • The morning of my long run I had a big protein-filled breakfast. I had tons of bacon and scrambled eggs and hash browns. 
  • I didn’t each lunch – I ate breakfast at 10:30 and then ran at 2:00 so my typically eating schedule was off. 
  • I drank a big thing of juice – beet/apple/carrot/ginger – just before heading out the door after realizing I hadn’t had lunch.
  • I saw a 2+ foot long snake on my run. 
  • I got stung by a bee at mile 4. Seriously THAT happened. Ugh.

Rather than struggle through, I finally decided to pack it in early and head home. (Although to be honest I don’t think I could have even kept going. I was just beat and felt terrible.) And then I had stomach problems all night and the next day.

My game plan for my next long run:

  • I’ll stick with carbs only before my run since I know that works.
  • Try fueling with a banana. The Picky Bar tasted amazing but I’m just not sure I can stomach it to try again….literally and figuratively. I’m so disappointed because my farmer’s market friends raved about them! I may give them a try on a shorter run sometime since there were so many other factors that may have caused the stomach reaction I had.
  • Eliminate coffee this week. Coffee certainly doesn’t help with my digestive tract issues so I’m slowly weaning off of it and plan to only have it on “special occasions” or after my long runs. Sigh. 
  • SLEEP. I’ve started a new evening routine I’ll share with you soon to help address my not-enough-sleep habit. 
  • Not get stung by a bee. 😉

Any other advice for me? What is on your troubleshooting checklist? How do you handle long runs that just don’t go well – tough it out or end it early?

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15 Comments

  • Reply
    Sara @ LovingOnTheRun
    at

    I guess this is a great example that sometimes runs just are bad. I had a bad long run on Saturday, even though I did the distance I set out to do there was nothing good about it. If I had 18 planned instead of 15 I would have for sure cut it short. Sometimes you just need to listen to your body! You will have a better run this week 🙂 Just brush it off!

  • Reply
    Nicole
    at

    Usually when a run is going *that* badly I shorten it. Sometimes suffering through a run makes you better but sometimes your body is just screaming at you to stop and its best to listen. My trouble is differentiating between those two.

  • Reply
    Lindsey
    at

    Sounds like it was a combo of things that lead to the bad run! I found consistency the night before and morning of my long runs helped a lot. I’d have a higher carb supper, go to bed early, wake up at least an hours before, have a banana and almond butter toast, some water and then head out. I also brought water, and fueling food – anything from Sharkies to GU Gels.
    Yeah sometimes long runs are just plain tough no matter what. Sticking it out depends, for me if it was mental I would stick it out but if I felt like junk I would cut it short and do better next week 🙂

  • Reply
    Anna P
    at

    I’m sorry you had a bum run…it was definitely way more humid than I anticipated on Sunday. What I did last year when I was training was take 2 chewable pepto bismol before my long runs because I was so paranoid about stomach issues and that seemed to help (whether it was mental or physical or mental, I’m not sure). I also totally eat the same thing every morning before a long run and save the coffee until after, I think the routine helps. I’ve definitely abandoned a long run before…sometimes I’ll try to walk it out, but others it just doesn’t work. I hope this week is better!

  • Reply
    Madison
    at

    Wow–that seems like a crazy adventure run. You made it through it though–that’s all that matters!

  • Reply
    Tara
    at

    Not getting enough sleep/not sleeping well is a major issue for me and I have noticed it affecting my runs. Looking forward to hearing what you have been doing to help solve that problem!

  • Reply
    RLR at Mom's Magic
    at

    I would *not* have been able to make it through even a few miles with a fresh juice beforehand. I would have had some GI issues from that 🙁
    My “old” routine was to get up 2 hours before a long run, have a light breakfast (toast w/nut butter, half a banana) and a glass of water – no caffeine. Now I fuel up with a sports drink that has caffeine – and usually no “real” food because I don’t get up early enough. I need to correct that, but especially in summer I’m up later, and I need the rest more.
    I had a bad run on Saturday, too – only did about 2/3 of my planned distance. I think it was a combo of the weather, running two days in a row, an intentionally hilly route, and that spoonful of PB I ate on the way to meet my BRF. I’m not training for anything, so it really didn’t matter that I stopped early, but it still felt good to give myself that grace. (I don’t think I ever have before, even though I’m not at all competitive when it comes to running.)
    This is the first time I’ve really just run for the enjoyment of running – the mileage just comes because my BRF is in training – and it is lovely. (PS thanks for helping me realize you can run just to run!)
    Hope you can get things figured out!

  • Reply
    Lauren
    at

    Great post, Teri! I’ve trained for and ran nearly 20 marathons and I still get bummed out from bad long runs. It can be frustrating. I hope you get some rest! I completely understand your issue as someone who has chronic insomnia. I’d love to see your post on tips 🙂

    • Reply
      Teri [a foodie stays fit]
      at

      wow, 20 marathons?! so impressive. I’ve trained for 3 but have only run 1. I’m so prone to injury!

      I just hope my legs stop feeling like lead soon – they are protesting my increased mileage!

  • Reply
    Meg
    at

    Any ONE of those factors could have made for a sucky run. It was the perfect storm of bad run mojo. Good to listen to your body rather than muddle through the last 5 miles. Ugh. At least you got the bad run out of the way and it won’t show up on race day!

  • Reply
    Fiauna
    at

    Maybe I should cut out the caffeine before running. When I have stomach issues during a run I usually blame it on something I ate. I hadn’t factored in caffeine consumption…

  • Reply
    Melissa C
    at

    Sorry to hear you had crappy long run 🙁 It sounds like there were many variables that played into it. When I have a crappy run I have an internal struggle of “I am being a wimp, tough it out” vs “quit early and try again another day”. I usually quit early since it is not enjoyable for me to suffer through a bad run, and I run for enjoyment. I envy that you were able to complete most of your long run even though you felt awful. I find that I have stomach issues when I a) eat a protein rich breakfast before a run, b) drink alcohol the night before, c) eat sugary foods the night before or day of a run. Have you tried fueling with a larabar during your run?
    By the way, how is your IT band?

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