Those Days I Should Have Stayed Home
It’s 95 degrees. I’m out of water. I’m seven miles from home.
It was a bad idea; taking my mid week marathon training long run in the heat of the day. A really bad idea. Now I’m on my very dehydrated ass, using the shade of a small tree as a medical tent. Fortunately, I’m carrying my phone and can call for help. I call my wife. Help.
She calls them the “Epic Fail Runs”, and I’ve just had one. The really bad runs are never really finished, they just kind of finish you instead. You have a tendency to experience more of them as a newbie, but even well trained, high mileage runners are going to have bad days.
The most important takeaway from the Epic Fail is to note if the grand failure has been self inflicted.
My being the idiot on the street in the heat without enough water clearly qualifies. Acknowledging the breadth and scope of one’s own arrogance and stupidity ensures that local first responders will never be interrupted with this type of mindless mistake.
Some failed days are brought on by circumstances beyond your control. That gives them a special nuance in the annals of really bad runs. They become more like traumas. Such was the day we were trail running and suddenly my wife was covered in horse flies.
Ask Mindy to tell you about that fail the next time we’re out for beers. Her perspective is much better than mine, of course, since I was only the runner following and witnessing the apocalyptical swarm. Okay, maybe it wasn’t so many flies that it turned the back of her shirt black, but it was enough flies to send us to the nearby Medical Center. And that’s enough flies to qualify for an Epic Fail run.
Some may argue that we could nudge this day into the self inflicted category. It was a warm day. We ran in the State Park known for trails zig zagging through wetlands. We hadn’t covered ourselves in bug spray before the run.
It’s well known that horses, first brought to southeastern Virginia by the Spanish, somehow, centuries ago, mated with the common coastal fly to evolve a breed whose sole purpose seems to be terrorizing and devouring hikers, runners, or any and all innocents in their domain.
We run these trails often, and yes, do expect to get bit by our indigenous airborne broncos. Still, getting attacked by a raging blood thirsty herd was unexpected. So, to this day, we tell the story from the victim’s perspective, not the perpetrator.
The day we ran out of food on our long run, now that was our fault. I, however, should clarify. It’s not that we ran out of food. We had plenty of food with us for the planned 12 miles ahead. It’s just that it melted. In our pockets.
We were close to race day for an upcoming half-marathon. The 12 miler was the last long run on our Higdon on the fridge training schedule. Trying to get away from the yucky energy gels, we began a wide range of kitchen experiments which included baking and making our own power bars and trail mixes. On this day, we headed out with fresh homemade power bars, plus a secret weapon, store bought chocolate covered espresso beans. Never mind that no successful runner has ever left the line with this type of buffet stuffed into there vests, belts, bottles, or pockets. At this stage in our early running adventures, we were certain of our trail blazing approach to nutrition.
And on this spectacularly bright, sunny, blue sky couldn’t be bluer day, it all melted. Melted in Epic Fail.
Granted, it wasn’t supposed to be that warm in early very March, but warm it was. Late Spring warm. We kept our pace low, respecting the climbing temps, and planned for one of those confidence building pre race long runs that remind how all the training was worth it.
Unlike the day of the flies, where tragedy struck with breathtaking speed, these failed miles unfolded like decelerated scenes of Shakespearian tragedy. The first act being the awareness that our energy supply was quickly changing to some type of indescribable goo.
Act II went on far too long, with our hands, then clothes, covered in the mix of chocolatey, sugar rich paste, palatable only a few hours before. Act III saw us trying to suck what calories we could from our fingers, our palms, the ends of our shirts. Without enough water to wash any of it down, the final act brought us to walking to the car. We never made it those twelve miles. Epic Fail.
We went to the running store that evening and bought a bunch of gels.
Luckily, neither my wife or myself, in our years of running adventures, have had an Epic Fail run on race day. I’m very thankful for this. After any major race event, it’s always hard to see fellow runners post their race day injuries, DNF’s, or other mishaps that transform what should be a wonderful day into a not so wonderful day.
Failed runs are part of running. And some of them are worse than others. Sometimes you do it to yourself. Sometimes shit just happens. What’s most important is the Epic Fail runs bring laughs with hindsight. And lessons, yes, they should bring lessons.
But let’s have another beer and agree laughter should be the main benefit.