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The decision to DNS a marathon

How I feel while writing this

How I feel while writing this

I haven’t really posted about it here yet, but my training for Grandma’s Marathon has completely fallen apart. I don’t know exactly what caused it, but it’s gotten really bad. When I say bad, I mean I’ve been heavily considering DNSing (did not start) the race for the last couple of weeks. Yeah, that kind of bad. I’m not injured, I’m just…my body hates me.

Rather than make you read this whole post to get to the important takeaway, I’ll just drop it right here. I have officially decided not to run Grandma’s Marathon in two weeks.

The last time I checked in with y’all here, it was halfway through training and things felt like a positive-leaning mixed bag. I had some good weeks, I had some bad weeks, but I was still hopeful to have a good race. I still felt like a 3:30 finish was possible, but I’d likely just go for sub-3:40 and use that as a jumping off point for the fall.

Unfortunately, since then, things have sort of nose-dived. Hard. Into a volcano. Filled with alligators…that can somehow survive the lava.

It started three weeks ago with my 19-mile long run. Two days before, I had skipped an 8-mile run to give my legs a little extra rest, but didn’t think anything of it. The 19-miler went reasonably well, that is, it felt like most long runs do. The only weird thing was my left calf felt a little tight from the start. It wasn’t too bad so I didn’t think much of it, but it stayed like that for the whole run. Because we had a wedding to attend two hours away that afternoon, I had gotten up very early to knock out my run and get ready. This didn’t leave me with any time to stretch it or ice or anything afterwards. By the time I was showered and ready to go, I could feel my calf didn’t feel right. It felt kind of like I had pulled something in there. Luckily, I was able to wear flats to the wedding, but it was outside with a lot of walking up and down hills and such to get to different parts of where the wedding was. Throughout the night, things didn’t get any better.

I took the next two days off, which involved missing one run and pushing one back a day. At first I wasn’t too worried, but the pain stuck around without getting much better. I ended up missing that whole week of running minus a four-mile trail run. I even missed my 20-mile long run that weekend.

I tried to get back into things the next week, but my body was exhausted as if I had been pushing myself hard. I had no energy and my legs felt about how they do 4-5 days after a marathon. I missed another long run. I tried to get out there to do it, but I stopped after four miles when I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go the distance. Since it was a Saturday, I figured I’d just give it another shot on Sunday, but when I went out there Sunday, everything hurt right away. Calves, quads, knees. It was really bizarre. Because I hadn’t been running, my legs should have at least been rested. It was the kind of pain that said “do not run through this! Stop now!” I listened.

This brings me up to this week. I’ve done one 4-mile run and it felt like garbage. Surprisingly, the very easy effort I gave turned out to be a pretty quick pace. Still, my legs felt awful. Again, it was that whole feeling like I just ran a marathon 4-5 days ago thing.

I really don’t get it, but that last run was the final thing to push me over the edge to a DNS. Could I finish a marathon right now? Probably. Could I still finish somewhere in the mid-3:40s? Probably. But what does that get me? What does running on a body that’s clearly telling me not to do for me? I’m risking actual injury by doing that. If I didn’t have the Chicago Marathon 16 weeks after Grandma’s, this might be a different story. I might just go for it and have fun. But Chicago can still be a good race for me. It’s where I scored my PR. Running Grandma’s does nothing but put more wear on my body when I could instead take the next couple weeks to recover myself and get ready for Chicago training.

If my marathon goal is to a BQ, running a marathon just to add another tick to my marathons-run total does nothing to help me. If I were in good shape, it could be a good tune-up and jumping off point, but that’s not the case. It can do nothing but push me further from my goal.

I’m super, super bummed about this and I’ve been pretty depressed because of it for the last couple weeks. Unfortunately, running is tied very closely to my emotional well-being. This works great when running is going well, but when it’s not…yikes.

The thing is, though, there will be other races. This isn’t the end of the world and I know I’m making the right decision.

The weird thing is since nothing is refundable, I’m still planning on getting on the plane and going out to Duluth in two weeks. I’ll hang out and cheer and just enjoy the scenery, I guess. Since everything is already paid for, it doesn’t cost me anything to go.

My real concern right now is I don’t know what really happened. I don’t know why my legs feel like a boy scout troop used my muscles to earn their knot tying badges. In reality, I don’t feel a ton different than I did this time a year ago. I see a lot of parallels between now and the last couple weeks of training before New Jersey Marathon and the months following. The warmer weather is definitely a contributing factor to both, but only a small piece of the puzzle.

A lot of me wants to just say I pushed myself too much, but I scaled back quite a bit from what I did for New Jersey and I still burned out. Maybe hormones have had more of an effect on my fitness than I thought and the minor tweaks to my marathon training aren’t enough. I tried adding cross-training. I was reasonably good about strength work. I started foam rolling daily. Maybe I need to completely rethink how I train. I really don’t know and that’s what upsets me the most. I don’t know what I to learn from this and how to prevent it from happening again. I had fallen back in love with running pretty damn hard in February, March, April, and early May and I was crushing a lot of runs. I know I still have it in me. I just need to figure out what I keep tripping over.

10 Comments

  1. Are you on Sprio? If so, any chance that a potassium buildup or K/Na imbalance is going on?

    • Huh, you know? I didn’t even think of that, but yeah I am on spiro. I tend to not think much about potassium at all. I always figured “well, I don’t have to worry about not having enough since spiro will take care of that and I don’t have to worry about having too much because running will take care of that.” Maybe the second part of that logic is flawed.

      Do you know what the symptoms would be?

      • The symptoms seem to vary depending on the level and individual, but arrhythmia and muscle fatigue are often mentioned. Since muscle contractions rely on the sodium/potassium pump, and you’re losing sodium through sweating and urination faster than potassium, it was the first thing to come to mind.

      • Like she said, symptoms of elevated potassium typically are muscle cramping and muscle weakness, with arrhythmias usually coming after… Signs of hyponatremia or low sodium are weakness, fatigue, nausea or vomiting, confusion… If you’re on something that can alter your electrolytes, definitely get them checked if you’re feeling off. It’d be better for them to be normal and have looked than not to have paid attention to it! It can be really dangerous to have your K or Na off.

  2. Smart smart smart smart smart. I know it is tough now but I am so impressed by how smart you’re being.

  3. really bummed to read this but it sounds like maybe kat above is on to something? def seems like it’s worth looking into because the really frustrating part of this seems to be the lack of an explanation. at least that’s what would really really frustrate me!

  4. You are correct too. You can’t force yourself into a marathon or any race for that matter. Honestly, I think you are making a really wise decision. Like you said, there will be plenty of races to run.

    I do hope you find an answer for what’s been going on. When you DNS, I think not having an answer is just as hard. I hope the potassium knowledge is part of it. I have found that warmer months contribute to overall muscle fatigue and we really heated up the last few weeks. I was just discussing with someone the difference (in a bad way) this weather is making on my personal training.

  5. Ahhh so bummed for you but glad you are taking a break to let your body get itself back in order. I hope you start feeling better soon!

  6. Definite bummer, but so proud that you are listening to your body. We runners are terrible about that.

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