Monday, March 28, 2011

What's My Problem?

Something isn't right, and the most frustrating thing is that I do not know what.

Until two weeks ago, I was training for my second marathon. I'd been on a great path with solid long runs and several workouts designed to increase my pace. I was feeling great and seeing real progress. My wife even suggested that the training was helping me lose a pound or two. That's never a bad thing!

Enter a sinus infection. Since we moved to Alabama many years ago, sinus infections have become a regular nuisance. I take allergy meds daily, which decreased their frequency from six or more a year to two-three a year. When I do get them now, they're almost like having the flu in terms of what they do to me physically. And they seem to wait until the end of the week to strike so they get a couple days jump on phoning or seeing a doctor to get the usual treatment started.

Anyway, this last one carried out the usual butt-kicking for about five days. Although frustrating, I didn't expect to lose that much of my recent running gains. I've missed that many days before and bounced back with minimal loss. But this time, something is different.

Although I feel fine otherwise, when I set out to run, I'm getting fatigued far too soon. I've tinkered with my diet, both timing and food, with no change. It is a miserable time for allergies here, but the infection cleared, and I've been able to train through the spring in years past.

I don't think it's mental. I'm going into my workouts with my usual determination and do not sense my mind abandoning me. If anything, I want to run more than I seem able to do right now.

I'm smart about water and sodium levels, and have tinkered with both with no difference in results.

I'm at the end of what I know to try to overcome this funk. Today I looked realistically at the state of training and decided to abandon the planned second marathon. It will have to wait until early summer or fall. In the meantime, I'll continue trying to determine why my progress has suddenly been stopped in its tracks.

Ever faced such frustration with a student? I know I have. Sometimes it seems like no matter what you do as a teacher, you cannot enlighten a certain student's mind. I've noticed that when I face such a challenge, my other students are often my greatest help. I can't tell you how many times another student has turned to a struggling classmate and explained something in such a way that the classmate's face lights up with the dawn of understanding. Sometimes it's what the helpful student said. Sometimes it's how the helpful student said it. Sometimes it's just a matter of timing. Nonetheless, I've seen many a student step in and accomplish what the guy with the education degrees could not.

So, my fellow runners, I'm struggling. Any insights, suggestions, armchair diagnoses, or wisdom will be appreciated!


  1. Kevin,
    A couple of thoughts...

    1. Patience, my man. Patience. Think back to your marathon, were their times during the run that you had to just power through, knowing that on the other side you were going to catch you wind. Well, the same thing is happening now. Your in a rut, but just know that when you come out on the other side you will be stronger for it.

    2. Shock your body. Do some short, quick pace work, maybe a track workout.

    3. Lift weights, do push ups, work on your core. Build your muscle mass, that will help you power through these spurts.

    4. Just enjoy the time out running. Forget about how you feel and enjoy the experience.

    So... a couple of thoughts from this sometimes runner.

  2. I'll chime in and agree with #2. Track workouts may be what your body needs to get out of a funk. I found that when I spend too much time running long, I need to recharge with a weekly track workout to keep the leg turnover fresh.

    Trying fartleks (run faster than usual for 800 meters, jog for 800 meters, repeat) is another option.

    Fatigue sets in for me when I am not well hydrated. You mentioned keeping a close eye on it, but it's always worth a second look.

  3. Thanks, Tony & Matt. Will give these thought and try them out. Appreciate the insights!

  4. Hi Kevin,
    I'm having a lot of trouble now too. I have 4am runs, both long and short, scheduled 6 days a week from now through June, but I've skipped today and went back to sleep. 4 hours sleep hasn't been cutting it and I'm not sure how to make it work. I'm too stubborn to give up, but I'm not sure where to look now. I think a running partner would be of great help to us both, although I don't know any locals who even like running, let alone at 4am.
    I wouldn't give up on the second marathon, but I tend not to put too much stock in schedules and you are more knowledgeable than I am. I have to change my marathon to June because of a family obligation, but I still am going to do it.
    Worst case scenario, do what I did. Try to fund raise for a charity and tell everyone you now that you are going to run it. A combination of pride/shame may keep you going.
    Good luck.

  5. I'm guessing you have, but is your diet for this training regimen much different than what worked last time? I know my body is still getting used to eating almost completely healthy and organic.

  6. Are you sure you are getting enough rest? It could be that your body is trying to tell you it needs more time to recover, be it from the infection or from the previous runs, or work.

    Perhaps taking an easy week, perhaps doing yoga, pilates, stretching, walking or other gentler exercise instead of running might help? Also I like the other suggestions, if it is not just tiredness or overtraining, perhaps variety and new stimuli will help.

    In general, I've found that fitness improvement is far from a linear path, lots of (usually smaller) downs in the middle of the ups. Luckily so far the general direction has been up...