Some Runs Are Just Bad Runs

Like the title says. And today, I had one.

I’ve been using the Maffetone Method for training since late September. I wrote about the results one month in back in the tail end of October. I was doing well, feeling strong.

Well, that was not the case today. Today I ran 3 miles at a 12:02 pace, and my heart rate was averaging 150. In some cases, it was all the way up to 159. This is a big change from where I was on October, when my pace was down to 11:37 and my average heart rate was about 143. Hey, bad runs happen. Fact of life.

I recently took a two day workshop sponsored by my job entitled “Problem Solving and Decision Making”. In this workshop, the facilitator stressed that when something was working and suddenly stops working the way it should, your first question should be “What has changed?”

Taking that approach, when my run was done and I saw the results, I asked myself that very question. Here’s the list of things that were different when I started this run, compared to my normal runs:

  1. It was 2:15 in the afternoon – Most of my runs are early in the morning, starting around 5:20AM, but because it’s so cold and so frickin’ dark now at 5:20AM, it’s harder to get out and hit the road.
  2. I was pretty agitated – I knew I needed to get out and run. It had been nine days since my last run (Halloween to be exact). I was chomping at the bit, and because of some unusual activities this weekend, I didn’t have a set schedule of when I would do certain things like running. When I finally got out this afternoon, I was far too anxious to just take off.
  3. My route was different – I usually run the exact same route. But after a while, I yearn for something a little different. Today was that day. I wanted to mix it up a little, so I changed the route. I’ve already got a lot of hills to contend with (in my best Jesse Pinkman: “This ain’t Kansas, yo. This is New England. We got hills and shit.”) Despite the fact that I always deal with the same elevation, today seemed like I was running uphill more than ever.
  4. I had consumed a Snickers bar, a PB&J sandwich, several handfuls of Good & Plenties, and a diet A&W Root Beer only 1/2 hour before my run – I know it’s bad, I’m still trying to shake off the Halloween sugar addiction. Don’t judge me.
  5. I hadn’t run in nine days I went on a 17 mile hike last weekend, and my legs were stiff through Wednesday. Okay, not really an excuse. I could have been back out there Wednesday morning, but I had no motivation to run in the dark and the cold. See point number 1 above.
  6. I changed how I measure my heart rate – Before I would start the heart rate monitor during my warm up and allow the low heart rate then (and during the cool down) to impact the average heart rate. Today I started the monitor as I started running and ended when I stopped running.

So, in effect, lots of things had changed. And I ended up having a really shitty run. I don’t know that I could pin it on one thing or the other. And I know that part of the problem is that the Maffetone Method is a slow burn kind of thing. If you want to see instant results, you’re gonna be disappointed. The entire winter season, a good five or six months, are all about building a great aerobic base from which to race. The means running ridiculously slow, even though I feels like you’re getting nowhere. Which is a tough pill to swallow in our instant gratification world. Because of this I tend to run faster than I’m supposed to (my heart rate should be about 140).

Yet even while I was moping about my shitty run, my wife reminded me that at least I got out and ran, which is better than sitting on my ass at home.

So I’ll try again on Monday, for which I happen to have the day off, and see if I can’t do better.

Live to run another day.

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