‘My Worst Ever Run’–Turning Misery to Motivation
We’ve all been there. What begins as a well-intentioned, seemingly achievable run unravels on the path before you. Whether you prepared or didn’t, believed or doubted–sometimes we find ourselves on the wrong side of the fabled runners’ euphoria. However, it is often within these very experiences, that we find what we are really made of–and live on to run victoriously another day.
This week on the blog, I’ve asked a few of our athletes to bare their souls and share their ‘Worst Ever Run’ stories. Enjoy…
Last fall – Dogwood Canyon: I decided to do the 2-day challenge (like an idiot!). The first, Saturday, was the 15K. I ran it hard and felt really good with my time and my soreness as I went into day 2, the 25k. Somewhere around the 10 mile mark on the 25K, my knee started hurting like someone was stabbing my knee cap with a butter knife. For the first time ever, I had to stop. Fighting back tears of pain and frustration, I started walking. I couldn’t even run the flats. I felt like giving up, but somehow, I made it to the finish line. My time for the 15k was 1:38. My time for the 25k was 3:45. I remember walking right into the cold stream at the finish line, my makeshift nature ice bath. As the cold water relieved some of the pain I was in, I remember thinking that I may be done running.
I wasn’t really cool with that idea. So, I decided to really baby it, and rest it. I took a few weeks off of everything, and slowly started crossfitting, rehabing, and listening to my body. As I crossfitted, I was pain free. So, I knew that I probably didn’t tear anything. I ran here and there, testing the waters, being conservative. My first race back? I ran the Shamrox 5k a few weekends ago, and, ran it pain free. PRAISE JEEZUS!
Long story short? I don’t think I trained enough for the number of hours and the amount of pounding my body was gonna take for the distance at Dogwood. That being said, I rested. I recovered. I rehabed. Thankfully, I am back to running, and, feel happy about that. Starting from scratch for sure, but, starting over is better than stopping for good.
I have never been a distance runner. I ran track in high school and was a sprinter. I hated just running for long periods of time. I have always considered myself to be an athletic person. I’ve played sports all my life and been very competitive. My husband and I decided we would give the endurance class a chance. After our first class I was devastated. I’m not used to coming in last and I was dead last. I know it’s not a contest, but for me it was. I was not going to go back ….ever. But I went to the next class, once again I was last and once again I was devastated. For a few weeks I kept going to the classes twice a week and vowing not to go back after each one but the competitive side in me wouldn’t let me quit. I decided I needed a goal so I signed up for the Go Girl Half Marathon. At first I thought I might have lost my mind. But it motivated me to try harder, to run on my own and not just at the class and not to give up. I completed the race within 15 minutes of my goal time. I felt strong and empowered and accomplished. I am still not the fastest runner and I may still come in last sometimes but I do not quit!! Part of my motivation was the coaches at CrossFit. I’ve never met a better group of trainers and just people in general. I am very grateful for all of their knowledge, help and motivation!
I thought about the question of the worst ever run and there have been several–either because of things going on physically or in my head during the run, or just outside forces/circumstances, but I would say the most memorable worst ever experience would probably be during the Dallas Marathon. I had trained and put in the miles and felt good going into the race. On race day, my half marathon pace was faster than my usual because I think I was excited and kind of got caught up in the crowd and momentum! All of that to say, by the time we were at the back half of the race I was mentally and emotionally finished! At mile 25, I told my training partner and running buddy that I was done and couldn’t finish (while I cried)! She told me that at this point I had gone through the hard part and my body could do it from here. She said I just had to convince my mind that I could do it. I finished the race and was so glad she had encouraged me to push through!
I think I learned several things from this experience. 1) Even though it’s hard to do sometimes, run your race. Try not to get caught up in the pace and excitement of the event and just stick to the pace and follow through with how you’ve been training. 2) Remember that you’ve got to train your mind for the event just as much as your body. Sometimes going to that deep place when you are training is important so that when the challenge comes you remember what it was like to experience that mentally challenging aspect.
I definitely wouldn’t trade this experience at all! I think it made crossing the finish line that much sweeter because of the events that led up to it!
January 2014, running my first 50k. Training was solid, nutrition was good but around mile 22 I started to experience a lot of pain in my right foot. By mile 24 it was so bad I was down to a walk. I had used the same brand, same model of shoes for years and the shoes that I was using had less than 100 miles on them and they shouldn’t have been a problem. It hurt like hell!!! Had to be a stress fracture!!! By mile 27 I realized my foot was going to hurt whether I was walking or running, so I gutted it out to get done planning what I was going to do for the next 12 weeks while my broken foot healed. Right after the race I changed shoes for the ride home and wouldn’t you know it, my foot was better. IT WAS THE SHOES!!! After I had bought them I had only used them for short runs to “save” them for the big race. After several years of running you can still make a rookie mistake.
Hands down, my worst run ever was the Frisco Half Marathon in 2012. I was actually training for my first half marathon, and that weekend was supposed to be a 10-mile training run. Since Frisco cancelled the 10-mile, I decided that I could just run what I could, and if I needed to walk the last 3.1, then that was alright. It was just a training run.
The Frisco Half is an out and back race. That was misery number one. I have learned that it is best if I get some scenery changes if I am going to be out on a long run, and the Frisco Highline Trail has ZERO of those. When I finally reached the turn around (only 6.5 miles in), I was parched and bored out of my gourd. My saving grace was going to be an aid station in another mile or so. They were out of water. Oh! Did I mention I was about 17 or so days into a Whole 30, so I couldn’t have anything but the water? By now my attitude is in the toilet. I try to get moving again, but everything about me is tired. I run/walk a couple of miles. I keep glancing at the Garmin. It seems as though the satellites have stopped orbiting!
Eventually I come upon a group of three older gentlemen. They are wearing Wounded Warrior Project t-shirts. They were very nice to me, as I passed them jogging, then they caught up to me when I stopped to walk again and again. I kept telling myself that I had to keep trying to jog, because if these three gentlemen were out there, I had no excuse. Amazingly, when my Garmin said I still had 2 miles to go, we got to the edge of town, and I knew that the finish was only about a mile away! That finally got me going again, all the way to my first half marathon finish.
The story actually ends a couple of weeks later. At the end of my Whole 30 stood the Joplin Memorial Half Marathon. Not risking dehydration and misery, I took water, but found that it was a well-run race, and to this day, that race is probably the best I have ever felt. The motivation from the three older gentlemen and their cause (Wounded Warrior) translated to the victims of the Joplin tornado, and I had not trouble putting one foot in front of the other!
It was June 2011. Allison and I were on our way to Carmel, Indiana, for the Carmel Marathon. The Whole 30 challenge was hotter than The Atkins Diet of the past. I was almost 30 days into this amazing diet and felt great. We made it to Indiana and everything was smooth. The drive, packet pickup, the weather the morning of the race. I thought to myself “This is going to be a great run and a great day!” The time came and the run began. Everything was going according to plan until around mile five. Mile FIVE!? I fell apart. This was my 16th marathon and I was no stranger to hitting the wall, but not until mile 20 or greater. This great day took a turn for the worse. For 21.2 miles my mind raced (my body didn’t) to figure out why I bonked so quick. Then it hit me! I haven’t had a carb in almost 30 days! I couldn’t believe I had let myself get so wrapped up in the latest fad that I didn’t even think about what my body needed to be successful when it mattered the most. The run was over and I was miserable.
Seven days later, I ran Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, 42 minutes faster than the previous weekend in Carmel, Indiana. The only thing that was different? Carbs. I realized that everyone is different and everyone has their own needs, and I was sacrificing my needs for what I thought was the hot thing at the time. That was my first and last Whole 30 challenge.
**Editor’s Note: You’d better keep up with your speedwork, Irvin. You’re gonna need it next time you see Elizabeth Koch! ;)
Mary Michal Rogers
I think my worst running experience would have to be the very first time we tested 5K Gone Bad. It was approximately 178 degrees with 104% humidity; but I thought it would be fine because hey. I CrossFit. On the first 1000m run, I watched everyone get way ahead of me, which was not particularly out of the ordinary. I generally make up time after I adjust to the idea that I’m actually running.
But that didn’t happen. I remember doing pushups in the sprinkler on pavement that felt like the devil’s BBQ grill while everyone else was doing lunges and wondering what the hell I was doing to myself. I didn’t want to go on. I thought that since I didn’t appear to be any good at it, I should probably just stop and never, ever, ever try to do it again. I didn’t, though.
I finished it. I’ve got a 100% survival rate so far. And while running may not be something I do well, it is necessary. It terrifies me most days, because I know that everyone I’m working out with will leave me in the dust. But that’s why I do it – because it terrifies me. Because it hurts. Because it makes me better for having faced it and given it my best, honest effort. And in the end, I love a run by myself in the middle of nowhere on a warm day. It becomes not about my leaden legs, but the freedom of knowing I have the power to move and decide and challenge.
Well…I don’t have to think long and hard to recall my worst ever run, as it is seared into my memory like a cheap tattoo. It was a 15k training run, two weeks prior to attempting my first half marathon. I’d followed my 13-week training plan to the letter, and had shown steady improvement each and every week. I went into this run thoroughly unsuspecting of the complete and total misery that lay before me. In retrospect, the journey to my undoing started the day before, when I allowed myself to become significantly dehydrated while at work. Follow that up with some “feeling sorry for myself/late night Taco Bell”, and the stage was set.
I ventured out on what was the first unseasonably warm day of the Spring. “Oh this will be great,” I thought! “I’ve only been running in cold weather,” I thought! Idiot. Anyhoo, ask Coach Allison and she will tell you–my running misery does not like company. If I’m coming off the rails, I prefer to do it alone. So my second mistake? Agreeing to a last minute request from someone I don’t typically run with to tag along with me. He’s a great guy–and he’s faster than me. He also likes to talk. A LOT. Three miles in–I knew I was hosed. We were running way faster than my intended pace, it was straight up HOT, and I was overdressed. Mostly, though, I was embarrassed–all the while struggling with an inner turmoil that my friend didn’t seem to pick up on until mile four. Beause he is a gentleman, he casually suggested…”Hey, if you don’t mind, I might run ahead.” That’s what he actually said. Though in my mind, it came across more like the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’. Once he was out of sight, I stopped and walked–and cried. “Dammit!!” I thought. “I can’t NOT finish this run. What if this happens on race day?? This is going to hurt like fourteen consecutive ‘Fran’ WODs! I have no choice, though. Because I’m a CrossFitter. I’m not a quitter.”
The miles toiled on–and they were awful. My pace climbed from 9:00 miles to 15:00 miles. At the 8-ish mile marker, I was nearly back to the gym. I had less than one mile to go. That’s when the searing calf cramps set in, and I’d absolutely had it. In a fit of complete and total surrender and delirium–I collapsed on an industrial mailbox and sobbed. No really. Like teenage-girl-my-boyfriend-just-dumped-me-the-day- before-Homecoming sobs. This lasted approximately five minutes, or two days–depending on how you look at it. I finally pulled myself together, and limped toward the gym–broken and defeated–but mad as Hell and determined to get back to that giant fan that sits by the middle front door at CFS.
Here’s where it gets really stupid. I underestimated my mileage a bit, so when I made it back to the CFS parking lot–the aforementioned fan in PLAIN SIGHT–I had to run three laps around the parking lot to hit 9.3!!! Once I did, I literally fell in the door–writhing around on the floor like a seizing ninny. Mary Michal was the first one to approach me, followed shortly thereafter by BRice and the Taylors. Their faces were like angelic, delicious love popsicles on a hot summer’s day.
Just like bleeding…all pain stops eventually. (Sorry–ER nurse humor.) ;) That 15k was followed by a “am I still capable of running at all?” 5k three days later. I felt…amazing. Thank you, Jesus. I went into my half marathon a week or so later knowing that my “bad run” was out of the way. I had no doubt. A pretty smart guy named Jeremy Mhire once told me, “Jen C–take the best, and leave the rest.” Pretty smart, indeed.
That is an easy question that I was pretty public about in the Facebook Running group recently, only because I was so public about my successes too. As time has gone on, I have grown to appreciate that experience so much and realize that those experiences are critical, common and completely normal when it comes to racing. So almost a year ago my dear friend and yours, Karen Harris came all the way to San Diego to enjoy some of the sun, surf, traffic and crowds of Southern California with us. One of her objectives for the trip was to run the Rock n Roll marathon, so as her travel plans solidified I decided I couldn’t have her come all this way and not join her on the start line that morning so I signed up, too, with about five weeks to train. I hadn’t run a marathon in several years, so as I began to plan my training and think about the race I started to look at what my goal time would be. Everywhere I looked said that I could run a 3:35 (a Boston Qualifying, BQ time). I didn’t completely believe it but I figured what the heck lets give it a try. Well, the abridged version of that story is I came within three min of qualifying which I was pretty excited about, and got me all crazed about really qualifying. So, I signed up for the Ventura Marathon in Ventura, CA (about three hours from my house) with plenty of time to train more, cooler weather, and no major hills. I was convinced that I had this one in the bag, that I would qualify for Boston no problems.
Well, fast forward to race day and I wasn’t confident in my training. I was more worried about packing enough diapers for Alexandra for the trip than my own nutrition planning and was just generally a nervous wreck. Race day morning I didn’t eat my usual breakfast, forgot my Advil pre-race, didn’t sleep well the night before, had to pee really bad as soon as the gun went off, and was SO unconfident once that gun went off. It was a recipe for a disaster. I hung with the 3:30 pace group for awhile until I thought my bladder was going to explode. I ran into a port-o-potty and took a record breaking fast pee and ran out the door to try to catch the group again. I gained a little more of my confidence back once I took care of that issue and tried to catch my pace group again; but then some hip pain started kicking in and I was reminded about the Advil. I began to deflate as my hip hurt more, then my head started filling with all the things I did wrong, all the reasons why it was probably not going to happen, how disappointed Andy would be, how I couldn’t go bragging on FB about how I did it, how hot it was, how much further I had to go…… how much I hated running! I was still on pace to qualify but I was mentally losing the battle. I wrestled with my head for a few more miles and my hip pain and then at the half-marathon and turn around point I just stopped. I was done. I let me head win. Then the water works started and the pity party began. It was epic! I walked for about a mile crying and feeling sorry for myself and then I pulled out my phone and texted Andy an invitation to my pity party. “I’m alive, not going to Boston, I am sorry I made you come up here with me. I’m in bad shape. It will be awhile before I finish. I am sorry”. I tried running some more, then walked, then cried a lot more. A support biker came by and asked if I needed anything…. “an ambulance maybe” I thought, but I replied “Some Advil would be awesome if you have it” He came back about 30 min later (I’m still walking at this point) with some Advil and water for me. And then miraculously I caught up to the 3:30 pace group and qualified ….. not so much! Advil may decrease inflammation and help with minor pain but it does not stop crying or whining. Then the real battle started in my head. “Well, if I am not going to qualify today why not just quit, why even finish” and there in the distance in all its grocery-getting glory was my old my silver mini van, cranky children and super hot and supportive husband waiting for me. I stopped and cried to Andy for a bit and battled him and my brain about just getting in the car and driving home to Oceanside, I mean what is the point in continuing this torture….. I couldn’t do it! I couldn’t face completely quitting. I would have been completely rolling over if I got in that van. Andy trailed me for a few miles offering me water, food…. a ride home but I began a new battle in my head of just finishing. Olivia was the number one person on my mind at that point and what kind of lesson I would be teaching her if she saw me struggle and hurt and just quit when I didn’t get what I wanted that day. God had a different lesson for me that day and it had nothing to do with a BQ time of 3:35. It had to do with just finishing. I think my finish time that day was 4:30 or something but I finished.
I pouted for a long time, I wanted to throw away my race bib and not hang my medal up with the rest in the garage, but I made myself do it and I made myself confess on FB my failures because there is learning and growth in failure. The “W30 hating, marathon expert” Adam wrote to me on FB and offered me some kind words that really lifted my spirits, and my BFF and rock star Coach Jen was there with some words of encouragement and kindness as always. I knew that would be my last race for awhile (I am not exactly in running shape these days) but I am not done trying to qualify for Boston. I learned a lot that day and I think the next time I go to race I will find strength and comfort in my failures because I have learned from them, as we all should.
“Look Up, Look Up”- Elizabeth
My worst run ever also happens to be my best run, as it was one of the top five most difficult physical events that I have ever done. I was proud that I finished it, and proud of the reason that I did it to begin with. Two fellow Marines and I decided this year that we were going to do the Avalon 50-miler on Catalina Island (insert Catalina Wine Mixer joke from Stepbrothers…), and that we would accept donations towards the MARSOC foundation as incentive. Although we made training plans which would cover the six months prior to the race which would have resulted in a well-timed peak, “life” happened, and none of us really trained at all. Like, we didn’t do anything outside of normal physical training. No long runs, no nutrition planning, no speed work, nothing. I knew we weren’t ready, and honestly, I think all of us had considered backing out but didn’t want to be the one to do it. I know that my pride won’t let me do something like that without significantly damaging my conscience in the process.
Anyways, we were all in; donations had been made, and a number of injured Marines, and family members of injured or deceased Marines knew we were doing it so there was no going back. The three of us were anxious going out to the island, and I think the possibility of not finishing lingered on all of our minds. We got there around 4:00 pm, packed our bags (we were carrying 40 pound packs), went and picked up our race packets, and got ready to begin. Although the race didn’t officially begin until 5:00am the next day, we wanted to start early to ensure that we had enough time with our packs. We stepped off around 7:30pm, and although I knew it would be hard, I had no idea how hard. The first “issue” was when I began developing a hot-spot around mile five. I knew that this was way too early for foot issues, and if there was one thing that could end the race early, it was foot problems. However, being hard-headed I shrugged it off and kept going. By mile ten the hot spot had turned into a blister that covered the entire pad of my right foot, along with two of my toes. When I finally stopped to address it, I realized how bad it was. At that point, I actually considered telling my friends to keep going, and that I was going to turn around before we got too far in. I did some basic blister work on it, changed socks and boots, stopped being a bitch, told my buddies I was good, and we started again. At around mile 20 (and probably 2:00 am) one of the other guys took a nasty fall and hurt his ankle pretty badly. Again, I thought our race was done and that we were going to have to wait for the race support to come pick us up. However, his pride took hold, he shook it off, wrapped his ankle and we started again. By mile 30, the skin was essentially gone from a significant portion of my right foot, my friend’s ankle was swollen to about two times normal size, and my other friend’s back had begun seizing up. Oh, and it started to pour rain on us, making the dirt trail even more difficult to move on.
It was about 5:00am, we were cold, my foot was going between numbness and a deep burning sensation, and we were nearly out of water. That’s when I fought my biggest internal battle of the entire race. We were resting while my friend stretched his back when I saw a small, dry pile of leaves underneath a tree, completely shaded from the rain. It was calling to me. I had packed a space blanket, and I seriously contemplated taking it out of my pack, laying in the bushes for a few hours, and sleeping until the support trucks started coming by. I have never been a quitter, but I was so close at that moment that I still feel disgusted when I think about it. I wanted to quit so badly, but I didn’t. I got back up, so did my friends, and we started moving again. 40 miles came and went, and eventually we crossed the finish line, limping and broken, but as a full team.
I found out later that they had both fought those same internal battles, but none of us gave in. Was it fun? No. Absolutely not. In fact, it was one of the least fun experiences of my life, but I am proud of myself for pushing through the pain and mental anguish that I encountered. And as I sit here on my couch typing this, I realize how lucky I am to have been blessed with the health and ability to compete in an event like that. We did the race for the MARSOC Foundation, which is an organization whose purpose is to help heal Marines whose bodies have been mangled and destroyed. Think about what they would give to be able to run just one mile…
Oh, and next year I’m going to do the Avalon 50 again, should anyone want to join me!
This Week’s WODs
Short Interval (Mon 5pm): 20 x 100 with 60 seconds rest between efforts
C2: 20 x 125m Row with 60 seconds rest between efforts
Long Interval (Thurs 5pm): Run 1200 Meters, 8 “Over and Back” Hill Repeats on the Bridge, Run 1200 Meters
C2: Just go run on the bridge. :)
1. DAYTIME CFE RETURNS!!! Beginning the week of May 1st…join us at 6am on T/Th for CFE! Night classes will remain the same…5pm on M/Th. Tell all your friends!
2. Like our Facebook page, “CrossFit Running”, for up-to-the-minute information and updates!