I Hit A Wall

Published June 12, 2011 by Jasmine

Per my training plan, I am supposed to run 12 miles today. I feel slightly guilty that this is not going to happen, in fact, I am not sure that I will be running at all today…unless I am running to my bed.  I hit a wall yesterday.  I don’t know how it happened or why, but it did. I have some ideas on what could have caused it and as I reflected on this week maybe I should have seen it coming.

On Sunday I started the week with a 9.78 mile run, during which I felt like I was struggling.  The remainder of the day I actually felt pretty good. Mondays are always rest days for me. I was incredibly tired today and it felt like it was taking all the energy I had just to stay awake.  Tuesday I felt pretty good, wasn’t really tired, and I ran 6 miles. Wednesday was so-so.  I don’t remember feeling great or overly tired.  I wasn’t sure that I was going to run the 8 miles on the schedule, but I did up doing so. The reason I say this is that I usually take Wednesdays as a third rest day, even though my training plan usually calls for a run.  Thursday I was again incredibly tired and feeling like it was taking all of my energy just to stay awake.  I was supposed to run 6 miles but knew this was not going to happen. I was too tired and my body felt run down. Fridays are always rest days, just like Mondays. About half-way through the day I was starting to feel really tired again. That evening I made the mistake of going to the casino with my mom and sister…we didn’t even get there until 8:30. I was so tired that I was nodding off while sitting at the keno machine. I didn’t get to bed until about 2:00 a.m. on Saturday and I literally felt delirious. Saturday morning I woke up after only sleeping for only about 5 hours. Saturday was my easy day as I only had to run 4 miles.  I really wasn’t feeling tired or anything, but I was being lazy and decided I didn’t feel like running at all.  Later in the afternoon I did decide to go for a 2 mile run to see if I could beat my previous time for this particular route. It was shortly after this run when I hit the wall.  I had come inside to lay down and cool off for a bit and I was out. I woke up and felt as though I had been drugged. My eyes were heavy, almost feeling as though they were swollen.  My body felt as though it was being held down by bricks. For over two hours, I couldn’t even get up I was so physically exhausted.  I finally forced myself to get up because I wanted to be able to sleep that night. It took every last ounce of energy I had to do anything. All I wanted to do was crawl back into bed.

The consensus has been this is my body’s way of telling me it needs a time out. This last week I have run the most miles in a week since I started running back in January.  By Wednesday I had run 24 miles, and the most I had run in a week prior to this was 21 miles.  By the end of the week I had run 26  miles.

While I have no doubt that running contributed to me hitting this wall, I have to wonder if there is something else going on. I question this for a couple of reasons. The first being that I really don’t think I should have been nearly as tired as I have been. I have had insomnia for 10 years, so my body is very used to getting by on little to no sleep. On average, I probably sleep through the night only 6-10 days per year.  However, this past month I have been sleeping like a baby. I am so exhausted at night that I am sleeping within minutes of getting in bed, and am sleeping through the night. This is like heaven because I don’t know what it feels like to sleep through the night as it is a rare occurrence for me.

The fact that I have been so tired, despite the fact that I have been getting my best sleep in years, leads me to believe I may be having issues with my iron stores again. About 5 years ago I was having blood work done, and my doctor called to tell me I needed to see a hematologist because my red blood cell count was low.  The particular doctor I was referred to was at the Cancer Center…that was not reassuring! Turns out that not only was my red blood cell count low, but my iron stores were low as well. I still don’t fully understand “iron stores”.  I wasn’t diagnosed as anemic, have never been anemic, in fact, my hemoglobin has always been normal. It never was determined why my red blood cell count was low, this is usually due to bleeding. I hadn’t had a period in years due to my birth control, I wasn’t having nose bleeds,no internal bleeding, and I had a colonoscopy which came back normal. Based on this same information the doctor wasn’t sure why my iron stores were low either. The two most common ways to lose iron are through blood and sweat. It turns out the most likely cause was that my body doesn’t seem to absorb iron. The doctor first had me take an iron supplement which didn’t seem to work.  Then he had me take Vita-C which is an iron supplement with calcium which is supposed to help absorption, and that didn’t work. The last resort was an IV iron infusion. This finally seemed to work, as it delivered iron directly to my bloodstream. I continued to have my iron stores monitored for about a year and everything seemed good.  However, I have not had it checked since 2007.

Low iron stores could be the culprit once again.  The biggest thing I remember from that period of time was how exhausted and tired I was, and I was not even working out at the time.  I would get home from work between 6-7 and immediately go to bed because I was so exhausted. So I guess it is time to keep a watchful eye on how my body is feeling, and probably wouldn’t hurt to start taking an iron supplement again in the hopes that my body will actually absorb the iron.

I do feel guilty for not running today, but know that it is probably in my best interest. Of the all the running information I have read, the one thing that is emphasized time and again is that you have to listen to your body. Losing 12 miles still kind of sucks, especially since I have a half-marathon coming up on July 4.

After this past week I am about 90% sure that I am going to forego the full marathon this year. Just putting this on paper causes me to feel like a failure.  But as Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you will be judged and criticized anyways.” I may have been overly ambitious thinking that in 10 months I could go from not being a runner to running a full marathon. Although I had a 18 week training plan, and a 17 week mileage build up plan I am not sure they were the right plans for me. I didn’t do enough research, and went with the first plans that I found.  I didn’t realize there were training plans that were geared specifically for someone running their first marathon. Nonetheless, I wrote this plan in my calendar and knew I needed to follow it. The first week it had me running 14 miles, and I am not sure I had even run 10 miles in a week prior to this. In hindsight, I may have been setting myself up for failure all along.

I read the following in Runner’s World magazine and I didn’t really appreciate the advice until now. “Many new runners just follow a schedule even if their bodies aren’t adapting…they need to remember to start where they are, not where they want to be.”  I think this is me. I had a plan and I was sticking to it. I’ve been trying to figure out why I can’t seem to get any faster and maybe this is why. Maybe the “plan” is too much for my body, and I am overdoing it. Maybe this is one of those situations where “less is more” is actually true.

So today I will rest, reflect on my past runs, and create a log in which I can detail every aspect of future runs to see what works and what doesn’t (this is something I should have done a long time ago).


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