Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Well-Read Runner: The Confidence Buster

Week 5 of training for the Mystic Half Marathon is complete...and it was a doozy!

Total distance for the week: 21.33 miles

I mentioned at the end of last week that I got a cold and was having a bit of a rough go.  I thought it was nearly kicked by last Sunday, but I was most certainly wrong.  The Cold From Hell stayed with me all this week, and made working out a major struggle.

Was it a head cold or a chest cold?  I couldn't really tell.  Should I stop running entirely until I was 100% better, or just rearrange the week and go easy on myself without skipping workouts?  I ended up doing the latter, and while I'm glad I was able to get all of my miles in, I was left with a week of running that basically kicked my confidence down the stairs.

Monday: Rest.  Today was supposed to be a stretch/strength day, but I took it off completely for some extra recovery time--MUCH needed.  My core training for the day consisted of non-stop coughing.

Tuesday: 4 miles, easy pace.  This run sucked all the way around.  I felt good early in the day, so I thought I'd be fine for a late afternoon run.  Unfortunately my chest congestion came back, and I ended up running slower than usual (9:59 avg), started coughing on the last half mile, and just overall did not enjoy being out there.  Blah.

Wednesday: 3 miles, easy pace.
  This was supposed to be speedwork day, but no way I was trying that yet.  I did Thursday's workout instead.  I thought I felt up to it beforehand, but yet again was left with a disappointing run that I struggled through, mentally and physically (10:06 pace this time).  The one saving grace was that I did it on the treadmill, so I didn't get as much coughing afterwards from cold outdoor air.

I know I was only a few days into the week, but by the end of this run, I was really stomping myself mentally.  How am I going to PR a half marathon if I can't even run 3 miles with confidence?  When was the last time I jumped above 10 minute miles on a 3 mile distance?  Thoughts like this plagued me all day.  It sucked.

Thursday: Rest.  I took Friday's rest day and moved it to today, in the hopes of finally kicking this thing.

Friday: 7 x 400 intervals.  By Thursday night, I really was finally feeling quite a bit better.  I told myself I was going to get up Friday morning and just kill it.  I even left myself this really super positive note taped to my treadmill:
Edited the language for delicate eyes.  Aren't I just so nice to myself?
You can also see my hash marks for counting my intervals.  It's hard to keep track of 7 intervals at 5:30am.
This was not my most amazing speed workout, but I got it done.  I did okay for the first 3 intervals, but during interval 4, I really and truly thought I was going to puke.  I usually do a slow jog between intervals, but after #4 I brought it down to a walk, and considered giving up the last three.  However, I decided to give them a go (with walks between intervals instead of jogs) you can see, I wasn't able to push myself very hard for the last three sprints, but I got them done:
(I did a walking cooldown at the end, but turned of my Nike+ as soon as the last interval was over)
This is one of those workouts that I'm not sure if I should have just skipped it for the week, or if it was good that I pushed through it (even if I wasn't at optimal condition).  But either way, it's done.

Saturday: 8 mile long run.  Friday afternoon, I found out that we were leaving for my in-laws for the weekend on Saturday morning.  Normally, my long run is Sunday, but my in-laws live in a super not-runner-friendly area (very high speed limits, almost no shoulder on the road, lots of blind turns, etc).  Plus, it's very rural, so running in the early-morning dark would have been really creepy for me.  The thought of trying to do 8 miles there was painful.  So I decided to cap off this not-great week of training with an 8 mile long run at 5am before we left for the trip.

Surprisingly--it went okay.  It was slow (10:22 avg pace) but a long run can't be too slow, right?  I went easy on myself and felt pretty good by the end.  My cold was FINALLY feeling nearly gone by this morning, so this was a better 8 miles than I was expecting.  Huzzah!

Sunday: 3 miles easy pace.  This was supposed to be Saturday's workout, so I did it when we got home from my in-laws instead.  I was feeling 100% better by this point, and told myself that I needed a run to help me get my confidence back--even if it meant I went a little faster than "easy".  I ended up with a 9:21 average pace, and that was with 3 pretty decent hills mixed in.  I was tired when I got home, but I felt GREAT.  I'm glad I pushed it a bit.  I think I needed a run solidly below the 10 minute pace mark to make me feel (mentally more than physically) like I was getting back on track.

Lessons learned this week:
1. I probably need to give myself an extra rest day or two when I get sick, instead of pushing myself too hard.
2. I have some work to do on my mental game--a few sub-optimal days during illness shouldn't be able to completely derail my confidence in my running abilities.

Let's hope that Week 6 brings a turnaround, both mentally and physically!

How was your running week, friends?

Do you tend to (mentally) beat yourself up pretty easily, or do you have a bit more mental fortitude than I??

What are your tips for keeping up confidence during a rough training week?


  1. I had a tough training run yesterday (wrote a blog post on ego, inspired by it). The tough runs are the ones that push us--we need them! Even tho they suck.

    1. I agree! It was a hard week, but at the end of it, I do feel proud that I pushed through. The night before my long run, when I was telling a friend about how I had been sick and now I had to get up at 5am for this run, she was like, "Wow, I would just skip it and sleep in for sure!" And that never occurred to me as an option...which made me feel good.

  2. I have learned too that sometimes you just need a couple extra days off- I know it is hard but in the long run I think it is better for us! Happy Monday!

    1. Yes, absolutely! I push myself too hard through illness sometimes, and I need to learn when it's okay to wave the white flag for a bit.

  3. Kelly, I've gotten a LITTLE bit better over the years about beating myself up; I think I've discovered that a few bad runs (especially when you're not feeling well) are definitely not going to define a training cycle or my ability to accomplish my goal. Just remember that your training is a process and that there is always some extra time built in to a training schedule to account for these things; you're going to be fine, as long as you take care of yourself. You were smart to adjust your schedule this week! Great training and I'm so glad to hear you're feeling better! Thanks so much for linking up with the blog, and I hope you have a great day.

    1. Thank you for the supportive words! YES re: training is a process. I keep reminding myself that one or two bad runs (especially this early on) do not define my outcome. Even the bad runs leave me something to learn from. I'm looking forward to what this new week will bring.

  4. I'm sorry you've been sick....that is the most frustrating when you're training for something! I've found taking a day off and then coming back with an easy day works pretty well for me....especially early in your training. And - I liked your second lesson - no need to let being sick bust your confidence. Leave that for running badly while perfectly healthy! Cheers to a better week this week!

    1. Thanks Sarah! Yes, I think one extra rest day probably would have helped me immensely. At least now I know for next time. I'm hoping that with the warmer weather, we will see fewer germs and I won't need to worry about illness as much either!

  5. I'm glad you're feeling better but I agree with you that it's probably best to rest a bit more before jumping back into hard workouts. I hope you feel 100% within the next couple of days!

    1. Thanks! Cough is still lingering a little, but I'm getting there. So hard to take extra rest days sometimes!

  6. I'm afraid I'm that hard on myself too. Sometimes I wonder how I can even do 13 miles when I can hardly get 3 down during the week. :(

    1. I TOTALLY know that feeling. I have 3 and 4 mile run days when I don't know how I'm ever going to finish a half! But then I have to remind myself of all those long run days when I've felt great. You will get there!

  7. I think I'm tougher on myself when I'm tired. Being sick is probably the same thing. Sometimes runs of any distance can be just plain awful. It happens to everybody. Great job of getting your runs in.

    1. Thanks! And yes re: tired too. It seems ridiculous to be hard on ourselves when it's a physical thing somewhat outside our control. I suppose I should save the harshness for days when I'm just being a slacker!

  8. Being sick sucks. I hate missing training but I know it is better to recover than jump in too soon. I also know that crappy workouts happen. I had a total speedwork fail this week. Was supposed to run 5x1K speed intervals and in the humid gym in FL I couldn't even run 400m intervals at that pace. I was running 400m repeats at my tempo pace. Ugh. But I ended up with a good race this weekend anyway. I guess they just happen sometimes. Hang in there and feel better!!

    1. I'm so glad you had a great race anyway! That's the thing, I need to remind myself that a few bad workouts here and there do not mean that I will be unable to race well when the day comes. Sorry about your speed workout though...sounds like the conditions were definitely not ideal!!

  9. I don't beat myself up over bad training runs only after a bad race. If I am having a bad training run I just switch it up. If I had wanted to do a short fast run or intervals but I am not feeling fast then I make it a longer slow run. I figure that any kind of training is still good. Sometimes the opposite can feel like the run will be bad but somehow you get extra energy and it ends up great! I hope you are feeling way better and have yourself a wonderful 6th week of training!!

    1. Thanks Diane! Good idea about switching it up. Sometimes I tend to stick way too rigidly to my training plan. An extra easy-pace run instead of a speed day when I'm sick isn't going to kill me.

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