Tuesday, May 7, 2013

hitting a wall... and breaking through it

last week i hit the wall. that wall that all runners talk about and the wall that many runners (if not all) dread.

it started on vacation in washington dc, where a 6 mile run turned into a "i can barely tolerate finishing 3 miles" run. the wall continued with my interval run last wednesday, where the first mile was fast, the second mile was 30 seconds slower and the third mile turned into a half mile. and the wall left me feeling defeated the next morning, when i went out for what i call a "confidence building" 3 mile run that ended with the slowest 5k time with the hardest effort i've put forth in a very long time. 

this was my wall: feeling lethargic, legs heavy, legs tired, legs physically not able to move any faster, heart and body not in sync, lack of mental will power to continue, everything taking 150% more effort than usual. 

and worst of all the wall made me frustrated. the wall made me feel defeated and weak. it made me throw verbally abusive words at myself and towards the one thing i love to do to take care of my mind, body and soul: running. it got to a point where my boyfriend brandon was worried that i was ruining the sport i love by being overly critical and hard on myself. as the image below depicts, running should be my release. it shouldn't turn into something that creates negativity in my life. that's not what running is for.

the wall also caused me to panic. here i was, four weeks away from the race where i'm trying to pr and i was throwing down the slowest times and not able to complete workouts. given my special ability to immediately jump to the worst possible scenario, i was terrified i wasn't going to be able to pr at the end of the month. 

looking back on it now, the "worst possible scenario" seems silly, because there are far worse things that can happen to a person. but when you're training for something you want so badly, not hitting that goal is the worst thing you can possibly imagine. and i was completely distraught with the fear of missing the goal i wanted so badly.

after many frantic conversations with brandon and my sister and my trainer, we came to the conclusion that my "wall" was caused by a lack of proper nutrition after having food poisoning. when i get stomach related issues, i revert to a diet of rice cakes, oatmeal, and pb&j's. while those foods are fine and dandy, they are not sufficient to be the only nutrient source and they are even less sufficient to be the only food to fuel an athlete's body. in more fancy science terms, i was experiencing glycogen depletion and the food i was eating because of the sickness was only exacerbating the issue (by the way, glycogen depletion is basically the cause of the phrase "hitting the wall").

my trainer recommends 300 - 400 grams of carbs a day for being an endurance athlete, so i spent the remaining days of the week doing whatever i could to eat normal, more nutrient dense food again. when sunday came around, i headed out for the scheduled 6 miler and was beyond happy to feel like my body was returning to normal. my legs didn't feel as heavy, i didn't feel like the effort was beyond the pace, the pace itself was in the target range and i was able to complete the run. most importantly, though, i got my confidence back and broke through that friggen wall! 

have you ever run into the wall? how did you break through?


  1. I hit that same wall. My nutrition is probably to blame, as well. Will definitely be making some changes!

  2. I hit that wall and I know nutrition is to blame. But in the past I have hit walls and learned that it is mental. Just a moment of mental breakdown can change everything. These days I spend a lot of time focusing on the mental tricks to get me through. My favorite is one I wrote about. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. That is how I push past the wall.

  3. Can I just say the ONLY reason I want to run a marathon is to be able to consume that amount of carbs and justify it ;)

  4. Hahaha! I cannot tell you how hard it is to get that many carbs in while staying in a reasonable calorie range. Its so tough!

  5. Hi Ann!

    I agree with you on mental blocks. I feel like I am experiencing a little bit of that right now. I need to explore more mental tricks...I once wrote "I can do this" on my forearm for the first 1/2 marathon I ever did on my own. It was a helpful reminder. Maybe I should try something like that again.

  6. Carrie (auntontherun)May 8, 2013 at 9:49 PM

    The dreaded wall. A bad run happens and that's ok! The important thing is that you went out and completed your 6 miler. Good Luck with your race!


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