The Breakup & Comeback – (a #runlove tale)

I touched on it briefly in my Totally Trials posts, but wanted to spend some time honestly sorting through and explaining my recent love/hate relationship with running.

After Ojai, I was burned out.  Not in your traditional “ugh I can’t stand the thought of running another step” way, but in a weird exposed and demeaned way.  Sure I was a little battered/bruised physically from the intense (for me) training schedule, but what really needed repaired was my mindset.

The Ragnar/Eugene/Ojai training cycle was like a roller coaster – a huge climb-climb-climb to the very tip top, and then free-fall without brakes all the way to the bottom kind of ride.

For the first time I enjoyed the entire training process; I never got “sick” of running and learned a lot about myself and the sport along the way.  (talked about here).  The measurable improvements at the track, well-executed long runs, and general excitement about running catapulted me into “goal week” – where Ragnar Ultra exceeded all expectations and a 20 minute PR (3:37) at the Eugene Marathon validated all my hard work of the past 10+ weeks.


that’s 20 fingers for each of our 20 minute PRs, in case you forgot

I was riding a high of consistent success, but was greedily hungry for more. 

I quickly registered for Ojai2Ocean, just five weeks away, and told the world my plan to Boston Qualify.  The Eugene PR was great, but being so close to BQ (3:35) left me with a feeling of unfinished business and cockiness. 

And after the spontaneous bonus-training and shit-talking, I failed to own up to that promise.


For the first time that cycle, I had a set back.  And as they say, it’s a long way down to fall from the top.

Missing my goal in Ojai (in the most elaborate of fashions) was hard. Defeating. Humbling. Embarrassing.  Plus, when you whore your goals out on the internet those feelings get magnified a bit.


I first tasted the evil side of social media accountability last year at Long Beach, where I built up, and eventually blew up, my goal of a Sub-4 hour marathon.   It wasn’t just being disappointed in myself, but after investing others in my goals there was a huge feeling of letting them down as well.

So after sticking my neck out like that for the second time (in Ojai), I needed some time off.  Not from the sport altogether, but from the pressures of high value goals and public expectations

Sure I could just stop broadcasting my goals, but that would just be bandaging the wound.  I can’t go on forever sneaking behind everyone’s back running “secret” races.

Plus I wouldn’t have anything to blog about then.

It’s no secret my mental game is one of my biggest weaknesses.  Learning to manage these feelings and pressures is going to be key if I’m going to continue growing and progressing as a runner.

So I took these last few weeks off.  No scheduled workouts, race countdowns, or feelings of obligation towards running.  I ran when and what I felt like, including two 5k’s where I had time “expectations” but not necessarily goals, and didn’t run when I didn’t feel like it.

Getting back on “my terms” was refreshing and exactly what I needed – once I began regularly hitting the pavement again, pressure-free and with the past behind me, I felt ready to test the waters again.

The Trials in Eugene was the final turnaround I needed.  Being around amazing runners – peers more so than the pros – who adore the sport and are genuinely excited to lace up every day was infectious.  While those three runs were hard mileage and pace-wise for me, they were SO great for my frame of mind.


running in the rain! with the Oiselles! it’s fun!

It’s great timing really, since Fall running is just around the corner.  While the rest of the summer will still be dedicated to running fast & base building, because I’ve got some big things coming up – Hood to Coast (which I have some major hills to get ready for) is just 8 weeks away, I’ve got a goal half this October, and am committing to a full 16-week training plan for CIM in December.

So this rekindled Run Love really couldn’t have come at a better time.

Get ready for a lot more running talk around here.  I don’t wanna call it a comeback, but…

Ok maybe we can call it a comeback.

      * Do you struggle with burnout?  Do you let pressures (internal or external) F with your head so much you spend half your runs drafting mea culpas for future use?  Can somebody make me feel less like a headcase, please??



44 thoughts on “The Breakup & Comeback – (a #runlove tale)

  1. Headcase- um no? I get so worked up about my goals and pressures of running my family has to tell me to shut up on a regular basis and I drink Immodium like water (okay not quite, but I probably should). That said I had a big blow this spring and have been dealing with injury so I’m learning to be better at adjusting my expectations and remembering I’m young-ish (at least for a runner, in SoCal, I’m an old maid) and have plenty of time ahead of me to reach my goals. Luckily, most women distance runners peak in their 30’s – huzzah!


  2. I really liked this post…I could definitely relate. I ran my first marathon in March and wanted to BQ but I was about 9 shy…my friends and family were so happy for me that I completed a marathon and although I was too…I realllyyy wanted a 3:35. I ran the Vermont marathon in May and did the BQ but I was OBSESSED with training…still am even though I don’t have any races coming up, lol. Races give me extreme anxiety because I put so much pressure on myself for some reason. I don’t really race a lot for that very reason…I need to work on my mental game as well. My friends and family don’t really “get it” because they don’t run but I think it’s easy for what seems like just a goal or expectation..for it to become all-consuming…so that is something that is a work-in-progress for me…to run just to run…and throw expectations out the window sometimes. Sorry…that was kind of long-winded, lol.


  3. Burnout? Yes, ABSOLUTELY. After my NJM fail, I wanted nothing more than to quit running. So I did. For about a month or so. Turns out it was just what I needed to get the I WANNA RUN RIGHT NOW GIMME MY SHOES I’M READY feeling back. You’re so right – the mental game is UGLY. It’s unfortunate because no matter how great your legs feel or how incredible your endurance is, once Mr. Negativity jumps onto your shoulder it’s a slippery slope all the way to Failureville. I’d like to never visit that place ever again. EVER.

    Best of luck with your training girl. After a strong 16-wk training cycle for CIM, no doubt you’ll BQ that bitch.


  4. Running is such a mental game. Sometimes I get so pressured with the goals I make for myself that I forget that I actually love running, and whether I am fast or slow….I love it, and it doesn’t matter.


  5. I do think that bloggers do make themselves vulnerable to this type of thing, being so very public about running goals. I can imagine that it makes disappointment all the harder to handle, knowing how everyone knows about it. I hope you realize that your readers just basically are rooting for you and are sad for you when it goes tits up. I’m glad you’re back in love with running again, sounds like the Oiselle weekend was just what you needed.

    Hurrah for CIM, apparently it’s ridiculously fast!


  6. I totally do! The mental game is a weird one for me – I play the “I used to” game a lot and even allow my friends’ successes mess with my head a bit (even though I hate to admit because it makes me sound like an awful person!). Lately, I’ve had to have several “pull your head out of your ass” meetings with myself so I can focus on my own training. Not to mention, I put a lot on my blog about “recommitting to training”… a lot… as in probably once every two weeks! Haha, oh well, I’m getting better with just rolling with it. Congrats on your reinvigorated love of running! It’s a great feeling and I consider you a major success!


  7. Not a headcase at all. I chased a NYC qualifying time for 2.5 years. Those years were full of times just like right now…where I wanted to throw in the towel, be ok with being a slower runner, times where I wanted to stop setting goals because I was just SO.tired of falling short. But every time I stomped my foot and said “I quit!”, I’d realize that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t give up.

    I have to say, I think those failures taught me a LOT about myself and about running. I learned to handle them gracefully (gracefully enough anyways). I learned that in EACH failed race is a lesson. If you don’t learn that lesson, you’ll just be destined to repeat it, so learn quickly. And most importantly, I learned that failing doesn’t make me a failure. Not reaching a goal just means you need to adjust something or train harder. There is always another race. But if you quit…well, that’s real failure.

    Success is much sweeter when you struggle for it. So hang in there. You will get there. And it will be worth it.

    PS – have you tried visualization? I attempt, it sounds stupid, but it works.


  8. Your writing is so honest and fresh. Running can really break your heart at times, but it is also so wonderful! Good luck in the future! :)


  9. I feel like I’m constantly dealing with burnout. I think part of it is that I see all these runners on Twitter and Blogs constantly setting goals and crushing them and I feel like I should be aspiring for more. Then I set loftier goals and get discouraged when things don’t go my way. I’ve just been running lately for fun and not setting goals and trying not to beat myself up in the process. We’ll see where that leads me but right now it’s a few miles here and there with my dogs. I’m happy you’ve found the love part back but I have to say the hate part is reaaaalllyy funny to read about :)


  10. I feel freaking burnt out right now even though I desperately want that run love you speak of back. When I started marathon training I thought a PR was in the bag. Especially when I dominated the first half of the training cycle. Then I sucked it up the last half and sure enough, didn’t PR. BLAHHHHH!!!! And now I WANT to want to run, but then I don’t. Ugh I suck. Inspire me!


  11. I love that you are so honest and throw it all out there! It’s risky because like you said if you don’t meet those goals the disappointment can be that much more of a let down. I think you have been wise since Ojai2Ocean and great things are going to happen for you at CIM. I think you are an amazing runner and have come a long way in a short period of time. You are the perfect example of what hard work can bring on..your time in Eugene was awesome!! Enjoy Hood to Coast!


  12. I literally had this EXACT same experience with my “goal” race in April. Blew up in my face BIG time. So much went into it, and it all of the mental pressure got to me. I could have written this exact post about my experience and my emotions about it. I know for me, I got too into the plan and the running, and over confident about the marathon. I almost tried too hard instead of just letting my mind and body do what it wanted to do and trust in that. I am running nycm in the fall with a totally different attitude (but still a pretty ambitious goal) I do a lot more runs garmin free and have taken a lot of the extra pressure off. Lessons learned and you start moving back up!
    Have a speedy, happy summer of running!


  13. YES YES YES CIM! I ran it last year as my first marathon and had the time of my life. I’m running it again this December, hoping to BQ… and you will too! It’s a great course, has fantastic crowd support, and the “rolling hills” are so minimal you won’t even think about shredding your legs. Also I hope you’re aware that we should probably run a couple of the miles together. Just saying.


  14. I think I just commented but I’m not sure it went through. Basically it was YAY CIM! I ran it last year, it’s a great course with fantastic crowd support and very minimal “rolling hills” throughout the first half. You’ll love it, and I genuinely think you’ll be able to get that sub-3:35. (I’m gunning for it too!)

    I think there is something to be said about publicizing goals – it holds you accountable, and you figure if you put it out there for all to see, you’re going to push yourself that much harder. On the other side of things it puts an insane amount of pressure on you, and you end up getting stressed out. I’ve been on both sides of it, so I’ve started running for me – I don’t bring my watch with me every time and I have to tell you – my running has never been better. I map out the distance on mapmyrun before I leave and just run… when I feel like it, I pick it up, when I don’t, I dial back. It made running a lot more fun, especially before I officially start CIM training.

    Novel aside, I think you’re going about it completely right… and I would love to meet you/run a couple miles at CIM together! (Also I found the best spot last year for post run beverages/burgers). Priorities.


  15. Someone who only has successes is nothing like me and i’m not interested in reading about their experiences. I like the reassurance that I’m not the only one with ups and downs, so please keep writing about both!


  16. My blog post today, which isn’t up yet because I have a cranky kid who needed to get out of the house early today is on this same topic! Burnouts are common & totally normal! Especially when you have big goals! I had burnout that lasted years and now running better than ever! You are awesome and will come back from this burnout stronger!


  17. I’m always in my brain over analyzing everything so of course that’s magnified by a billion while running. Neat. I think the mental toughness comes with time and that’s where some runners have a leg up who’ve been running forever. It’ll come, but it won’t be easy…. Huzzah. P.s. green and yellow shirt? Must have. Link? Brand? HALP!


  18. My God I struggle with burnout. I trained for my first half marathon last October and literally didn’t miss a run. Then I signed up for a slew of races throughout the winter and spring (I love in Florida, so that’s the best running). I was on runner’s HIGH. I ran a weekend of races at the beginning of March where I did a 15k and 5k one day and a half marathon the next. I LOVE LOVE LOVE racing. But dear LORD I was tired of all the running alone. Since March I’ve kept my mileage really low…like 5-15 miles per week, because I just can’t run without hating it. I’m getting married next weekend, headed on a Hawaii honeymoon, then having surgery in August, so I’m hoping after a big break from all things working out (because I still do workout 5-6 times a week), I will have running fever like whoa! My goal is to sign up for the Disney Marathon in January and hit it hard training when I recover from surgery…that’s my plan! I hope it pans out…


  19. I really wanted to run a particular time at a half marathon recently. It completely didn’t happen, and I felt like I sucked and I had let myself down and what the hell was I doing thinking I could be a runner anyway. Yep, definitely been there. And then this weekend I ran a race distance I’d never run before – the elusive 15k – and had the best time because I had zero expectations about how fast I should go or a time to beat. It reminded me that I love running, and racing, and I need to get the hell out of my own head.

    CIM looks fun and fast. I wanna do it.


  20. I just ran my first marathon after coming off an 11 min PR on my half time and I really thought I could break 5:15 if not 5 hours and then I totally got my rear end handed to me on a platter by that marathon. Between my head bugging me out and the heat and the hills I was done. Thats been two months and to say I’ve put running on the back burner would be an understatement. I love reading about other people’s running but when it comes to mine – I don’t feel like a “runner” so again I psyche myself out and just don’t run… Thanks for this post! I think we can all relate to our head talk getting in the way of something that we really enjoy and love doing.


  21. I don’t think your mental game is a weakness at all. You are brutally honest about your ups and downs and that will give many others cause to second guess, but what I see is someone with lots of energy and enthusiasm, who is learning how to train and race in the best manner that her body and mind allow. It’s a balancing act, much like what I imagine a new mom learns to deal with, only we have all these crazy expectations that managing ourselves should be easier than managing others.

    Peaks and troughs. Such is running. Such is life.

    Shoot, 8 weeks to HtC? I better get my shoes on and out the door.


  22. I completely get what you are saying/feeling. I built myself up so high when I ran the St. George Marathon last Fall, sure I could hit a BQ time and then came crashing down. Another shot at it in January was a fail. Then I missed then next 3 marathons, having to drop out just days before each. It has been a huge roller coaster this year. Thankfully I did just hit my BQ last week, and as a friend told me, it’s that much sweeter because of the journey I took to get there. I’m still not sure I buy that, I would have been just as happy to qualify 10 months ago! :)


  23. Burnout over here for sure, you’re not alone!! I had a mental breakdown (and some physical) right before the San Fran 1/2 marathon a year ago. After the race I took time off from running and ventured out in search of new cross training workouts. That’s when I found barre and haven’t looked back. Not saying you should do that though. :-)


  24. great post sara! i’m a headcase over here. i just signed up for my first full and my last two races have been shit. it’s like right when you build the confidence running bitch slaps you. but the highs make it worth it (and now i sound like a crack head).


  25. Having failures and posting about them makes you real. I can relate to that. I cannot relate to making every goal. And the way you work through your challenges inspires me and has helped me get through my own. Keep up the great work and great posts…


  26. totally feel ya. i think I way over raced this spring, and none of it was for time, i made myself run for fun (spend 2011 chasing PRs) but i’m still feeling that burnout feeling. i’m contemplating the coach route to see if that will help me stick to my goals/weekly runs. i post them on my blog and then i disregard them. and that is definitely not the point. i also agree with you on the vulnerability of the goals on the blog-it’s almost as if there is an expectation from readers on how you “should” do. again, that’s another reason i “ran for fun” in the spring. i needed a break from my garmin (but, don’t you worry-i still ran with it and analyzed every run).


  27. I relate to this 100%. I ran pretty hard for nearly two years without realizing it and around may this year I lost all motivation to run. My life because really busy with school and sailing and running just got brushed aside. I got my mojo back but it’s hard knowing my easy runs are almost a minute slower than they used to be. At the same time though, I know I can get back to that level if I just keep working hard over the next few months. Sometimes we just need a break and when we come back we need to set new goals.


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  29. I’ve never commented on your posts before, but this is the perfect one for me to make my first comment on because it sums up why I like your blog so much! You are a good, fast runner but are humble about it and are not afraid to declare your goals even though you may not meet them. Oma much smaller scale, I can sort of relate….. For my last two marathons, my goal was sub 3:30. I just needed to take 2 minutes off my PR. I posted on Runners World forums and made my goals well known. In Boston this year, I ran my slowest marathon yet! (not good conditions this yearbut still….) and then my next marathon in May, I was 4 minutes off of my goal. I was embarrassed and felt like I let people down!

    Anyway, my point is, this is my favorite running blog and it’s definitely because you are so relatable to your readers. I’m glad you are loving to run again and I will be cheering for you in your upcoming races!


  30. Yep! Always feel like I should be running faster, but when I run just for myself and to clear my head I always do run faster. Not sure how to get the time expectations out of my head either. Good luck in 8 weeks…Lucky. :) I’m from Cbus, Ohio and think you should also do the Columbus Marathon!!


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