August 18, 2013

Cumulative fatigue

Wow. When I started the Hansons' Marathon Method training, I thought I knew what it would feel like to accumulate fatigue as a runner. Multiply that tenfold, and that's pretty much how I felt during today's run.

Today, I had 10 miles at 9:38/mi pace on the schedule. On paper, this workout didn't even make me blink. Ten miles at 9:38 pace? No problem. (I later took those words back, as I got the full understanding of "cumulative fatigue" on the Hansons' plan).

I had to wait until 8:45 to head out the door (the time I run usually depends on Jerry's work schedule). By that time, it was already 70 degrees and humid outside. I briefly considered running on the treadmill, but 10 miles is a long time to be on the 'mill. I figured I was just feeling spoiled by the cool weather we've had lately!

I decided on a new route, to keep from getting bored. It's an out-and-back from my house, and the first half of the way out was familiar, but the second half was all new territory. It was on a very busy road, but it had a paved shoulder (for most of it). Unfortunately, it was all new asphalt, and with the sun out in full force, and the humidity, I felt like I was running in an oven. It was kind of a relief every time a car would go by, because the rush of wind felt great!

I turned around at mile five, and then at mile six, things started getting interesting. I couldn't believe that I was so tired just six miles in, and at an easy pace. I honestly felt like I hit "the wall". Mile seven felt like it took forever. When I reached mile eight, it was honestly all I could do to put one foot in front of the other.

I can compare it to miles 24-25 of a marathon, where all you want to do is stop running, and your legs feel like lead. Then someone always shouts to you, "Just a couple more miles!" and you want to cry, because you still have a couple more miles--which might as well be a hundred.

I was really fighting with myself about stopping the run, and just walking the rest of the way home. It was really, really tempting. It was then that I had an "Aha!" moment. Everything that I'd read in the Hansons' book said I would feel like this during training, particularly on Sunday's runs. The whole point of their method is to accumulate fatigue so that long runs DO feel like the last part of a marathon. Even though I was "only" running 10 miles today, I felt like I did after my 20-milers in previous training. It's really kind of brilliant!

These runs are training my body to push through the fatigue (without over-training) when it feels tough and makes me want to quit. In previous training, the only way to get that feeling was when I was running a really, really long run (18-20 miles). So even though I read all of this in the book, I really experienced it first-hand today, and it was a key moment for me.

That thought helped me get through the last couple of miles, and I finished.

That "feels like" temp had to be a typo! I think it felt like 90*.

I was really hot, and all I wanted was to jump in a cold shower. I didn't even stop to take a picture or anything; just ran right into the house, stripped off my clothes on the way to the bathroom, and cranked on the cold water. After the initial shock of cold, it felt amazing.

I was curious how much water I'd lost due to sweat, so I got on the scale--my weight was down four pounds from before my run! I knew the heat and dehydration probably made the run that much harder, so next time, I'll make sure to drink more often while I'm running. I got dressed and drank a whole quart of water, then made a Blueberry Muffin protein shake for breakfast (I really wanted something cold, and it hit the spot).

The appetite that I managed to lose yesterday was definitely back today. I'd burned nearly 100 calories per mile today, which is much more than normal (I always burn more when it's hot). I had 21 activity PointsPlus accumulated between yesterday and today, and I decided to splurge on a brownie from Monica's, which is 20 PP.

A reader asked me recently if I ever feel like quitting during a hard run, and if so, how I overcome it. Yes, I feel like that all the time! Today was a great example. Getting out the door is always hard for me. Sometimes, I'll make a deal with myself. For example, if I'm scheduled to run eight miles, and I really just don't want to run, I might tell myself that I can "just" run six. And always, once I get to that point, I think, "What's another two miles?" because I always feel much more accomplished when I complete the goal.

I think out-and-back runs are great for preventing quitting during a run, too. An eight-miler sounds so much easier if I think of it as four miles out, then turn around and run back. If I were running two-mile loops, it would be so much easier to quit early, each time I passed my house or car. But on an out-and-back route, the "out" part usually feels pretty easy, because it's the first half of the total distance. Then, once I turn around, I know that I have no choice but to get back home or to my car, so I have to keep going (and running will get me there faster than walking).

Finally, when I'm feeling like quitting or skipping a run, I think about my overall goals. Today, when I wanted to quit, I reminded myself that what I do during training now is going to make the marathon that much easier or harder. I want the marathon to be a good experience, so I have to train for that. When I was done with the run, I was SO glad that I stuck it out, because I felt great! (Super tired, but great).

Anyone else have tips on how you stick through a workout when the going gets tough? Or even how you make yourself do your workout when you want to make excuses not to?

Just a reminder, tomorrow is Motivational Monday! If you have a picture to share of a health/fitness accomplishment this week, you can e-mail it to me at SlimKatie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com with the subject "Motivational Monday", and I may include it in tomorrow's post :)


  1. Since I'm not a runner (just yet) I'm only beginning to eat better and make more wise food choices. I'm not 'tricking' anyone but myself if I make a poor choice. No one is watching me - but me!

    Cyndi, Toronto

  2. Words cannot explain how badly I want that chocolate concoction right now... and I'm not even a fan of chocoloate!!! lol

    Great job making it through your run today! I'm currently nursing some tendonitis in my right foot so I'm trying to live vicariously through other runners!

  3. When things get really tough, I try and think about the people that wish they could be active but due to injury or illness can not. I also love the old Biggest Loser theme song that asked the question "What have you done today to make you feel proud?" It may be difficult while you're in the think of it, but you'll feel amazing after at what you accomplished, both physically and mentally.

  4. I'm using Hansen's plan to train for chicago too- but this will be my first marathon. Did you know they are based in southeast michigan? You can go talk to some of the team members about training and they're super nice!

    Yesterday I ran 12 (I only ran 12 during last week's 15 miles so I tried to even it out) and I hit that same wall SO hard. And then- because I hadn't taken any gu or electrolyte stuff with me, but I'd had a lot of water, I got really dizzy and nauseous after I ran. Please remind your readers that electrolytes are so important- especially on runs longer than 90 minutes or so!

  5. Great post Katie. I ran a 5K race in Ann Arbor yesterday, and boy were you right about that humidity! I was much slower than normal because of it, and when I got in the car afterwards and the thermometer read 69 degrees, I was like "WHAT?!!"

    I second your out-and-back training strategy. I always have strength for the first half, and once you've done that much...its faster to run home than walk!

  6. Way to get through the run! Interesting to see the Hansons' Method "in action." What you described sounds like me during miles 16-21 of my run this weekend. It was really a mental battle (one that I did end up winning though).

    I tend to not do out and backs very often for two reasons. One, I am vain and like my GPS maps to be impressive and a big loop looks so much better than an out and back. Two, I like new scenery, I think it makes the run go faster. However, I do love the fact that you can break the run up and that you don't have an option after the turnaround to cut it short or cheat in anyway.

  7. I'm an indoor exerciser (so the weather is never an issue, and I can go miles and still be seconds away from the kids if I'm needed) ... it does have its cons too though, because it's easy to quit. If you're running and are 5 miles away from home, you still have to make your way back. At home, I get tired and want to quit ... I just step off the treadmill. My long term endurance isn't great, but I make up for it by putting in lots of little workouts throughout the day (one of the pros of a home gym) ... saying I can't go do 20 minutes? Who can't do 20 minutes? And then I do that 6+ times a day.

  8. The out and back is definitely one of my key tricks. 4 miles is so much more doable than 8. When I get to that 4th mile and turnaround, what else is there to do but run home to get there as soon as possible? I also meditate on that great feeling that I get after a long run. I have really found nothing like it. I crave that feeling and use that as a main motivator.

  9. Out and back or a long one way is a must for me. I hate laps. I ran my first 18 miler this past Thursday, struggled really hard with my breathing only to be diagnosed with Bronchitis the next day. Ha. From this point on whenever a run seems hard I can always remind myself that I ran 18 miles with bronchitis.

    I was just looking at the Hanson method last week. After my marathon in October (first marathon, Milwaukee Lakefront), I am going to definitely try out the Hanson method. I need to learn to run fatigued and learn how to power through it stronger.


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