musings on running, life, and everything in between

When you’re feeling burnt out, crispy, and wondering what this whole “running” thing is about after all

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I know…it’s been ages. I’m still alive. Perhaps barely, at least in the running sense.

Before I did Ragnar Great Rivers, I had gone in to see my doctor about my constant fatigue and growing depression. I wanted to check my iron, ferritin, vitamin D, and thyroid. They ended up turning out all ok, but an article about “overtraining” had come across my Facebook feed that same day. After seeing it a couple of times, I decided to click on it. Bingo.

I had avoided clicking on it previously because it had seemed frivolous and silly to think it could possibly apply to me. Yes, I was marathon training, but I was hardly an elite, and I was doing the LOWEST Advanced Marathoning training plan. It seemed pompous of me to think I could possibly qualify for that term. However, this training fatigue/depression seemed different than before. You are almost always granted at least a short point in a training cycle where you hate it, wonder if it’s worth it, and get bitter/angry/etc. At one point, I posted this sign in my office:


It’s part of training, especially when you’re peaking, that you’re tired, hungry, and stressed (trying to get everything done and all your mileage in).

This was different. Almost every run was vaguely dreaded. I had trouble hitting any of my time goals in my speedwork. I was chronically exhausted. Not just tired, but bone-deep, soul-crushingly exhausted. I felt like I had no emotional reserves to deal with anything. I was on edge. My legs felt heavy and not quite recovered in between runs. Not every run was horrible, but I wasn’t walking away from very many runs feeling fantastic. Maybe not ANY runs. And my husband, who is incredibly supportive of my running, uttered the words, “Maybe you shouldn’t run so much” because I was complaining constantly. He immediately backpedaled when I turned my death stare on him, but he did encourage me to think about whether I NEEDED to continue in the manner I was.

Reading that random article and some further Googling, I found a few things that confirmed I indeed might be over-training, some that said only elites could over-train, and a host of various remedies. Mostly involving rest–but again, ranging from a few days to a few MONTH. Others involved massive changes in diet, sleep, and activity. In short, the jury is out. In fact, that is part of the reason I took so long to write this article. I wanted to read as much as I could and provide a pithy Reader’s Digest version of all I found.

It became too much, though. There’s not enough known, and not alot of this is really familiar to traditional general doctors. And while some articles recommended testing for things like cortisol levels, others provided a short mood/attitude check-in.

My own primary care doctor seemed to think it a possibility, but also indicated little familiarity with it. She did point out that the last couple of years, I had started coming in around the same time (June/July) complaining of fatigue. In one case, my ferritin levels were on the low end of normal, and I’ve been taking iron supplements since then. Talking it over, I think it is a matter of 1) crashing from the frantic pace of the school year and 2) ramping up of marathon training. THIS school year was particularly difficult, and my training has definitely been much more intense, so it would make sense that this cycle would be harder. Talking to Bill, my running coach from last fall, he pointed out that I basically haven’t stopped since last fall. I ran 3 marathons last fall, 1 this spring, 2 Ragnar’s, and have 2 marathons slated for this fall. I think if I were not chasing a time on those, I would actually be ok. However, I think my near-constant speed training since last summer and the intensity of the training this cycle in particularly has really pushed me to the edge.

I’ve done enough self-care work and know enough about mental and physical burn-out that I did a few things immediately.

  1. I talked about how I was feeling and reached out to friends about what was going on.
  2. I took two back-to-back days off from running and have cut down my mileage a bit.
  3. I’m trying to be much more protective of my sleep time. My Fitibit is actually really helpful for point out how much ACTUAL sleep time I am getting versus time in bed. In other words, I need to be in the bed for LONGER than the amount of time for which I need sleep.
  4. I re-evaluated my running goals and how I felt about running. I did a self-check if I’m addicted (I don’t think I am. I’ve cut down runs and don’t feel compelled to run everyday, etc. And I LONG for this training cycle to be done). And I’m trying to make peace with whatever happens at Geneva. Whatever the outcome, I’m going to take some time from “chasing the unicorn.” The pressure of running for time and training so hard has taken all the fun out of running for me. I enjoy training, but this is a different beast. It feels way more individual and I miss the camaraderie of running with whoever shows up and not who can keep pace.
  5. I’ve been good about keeping up with the massage therapy sessions, not so good on keeping up with the yoga, cross-training, and stretching. I am TIGHT, and Bill told me that will contribute alot to a sense of fatigue.

So, my friends, Got 14 tempo-ish miles for the long run. Wish me luck. T minus 14 days…or 13, depending on how you’re counting.

Author: runNerdier

Marathoner. Academic. Mom of 2 ankle-biters.

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