Many factors positively or negatively impact performance during a run. Training is all about stacking the deck in our favor: we try to eat nutritious, whole foods, stay hydrated, get a full night’s sleep, buy the right shoes and clothing, etc. But life throws obstacles at us and every runner has to decide whether to dodge the shrapnel or take a hit in order to stay on schedule.
At mid-week I’d planned to do a 6-mile tempo run on Wednesday, cross-train on Thursday, rest on Friday and do my long run — 8 miles — on Saturday. But life started hurtling obstacles on Tuesday afternoon.
I had a fender-bender accident on my way home from work on Tuesday. It was my fault; I was attempting to make a left-hand turn out of a parking lot, inching across a lane of traffic. A car actually hit me, driven by a woman who could not have been driving defensively. There’s no way she couldn’t have seen me, had she been looking out her windshield. But that’s neither here nor there. If I hadn’t been in her lane, she wouldn’t have hit me at all. My bad.
It was stressful, to say the least. My car was munched, I got a traffic ticket, and the other driver wouldn’t stop yelling at me. I’d missed lunch that day and the accident report took a long time to complete, so I missed my mid-afternoon “meal” too. I didn’t sip water all day long. Camel. Gah!
I slept badly that night and was up early Wednesday morning in order to fit a 6-mile run in before work. It was no shock that my run sucked. My body felt sluggish; I needed to walk a lot. My overall pace was just plain sad. But, I completed the workout.
Fast-forward to Friday. It was another busy day at work and again, I worked right through the lunch hour. I left a few minutes early to check my daughter out of school because we had back-to-back eye doctor appointments. The appt. ran long, and we got back to our neighborhood right at the dinner hour. We dashed into the grocery store to pick up something to eat. Coming out, the car wouldn’t start. Turning the key resulted in nothing but silence. Battery was completely dead. Long story short, I was outdoors in 97 degree weather dealing with it for an hour and a half, got nice and dehydrated, and didn’t eat dinner before 8 p.m.
I decided to postpone my Saturday run.
It’s a delicate balance when you’re training for a race, deciding when to stick to the schedule and run through any “issues” you may be having, verses when to know it’s best to deviate, give yourself the time you need to perform to the best of your ability.
One day later, on Sunday, I did my long run. It was still tough, but I know I got through it better than I would have if I’d run Saturday after the dehydration and lack of adequate calories from the day before.
You can’t always put off a run. And let’s face it, life could throw an obstacle at you the day before race day. You have to be ready for anything. But sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is take a day off, or run less miles with less intensity than you’d planned, in order to perform better and preserve the mental balance you must maintain through your training.