On changing plans when your goal becomes a bad idea

Week five of 25k training for a trail race, including a 10 mile trail race.

At the beginning of the year I set a goal to run a 38K trail race in July. As you probably guessed, I’m not running it. The first reason is just that I won’t actually be in town that weekend, but for right now finding a similar race is also a bad idea.

Trouble actually showed up the first month of training, in the form of fatigue and shakiness. I have autoimmune-type crashes once or twice a year, and they’re gone within a couple weeks as long as I dial everything way back. So I thought this would be the same. Long, frustrating story short: after many doctor visits and tests, I don’t have a diagnosis and I do have fatigue. (We did figure out the shakiness was due to constant tiny muscle twitches; they’re not caused by a serious disease and are controllable with medication.)

Some people, possibly people more reasonable than I, would say it’s a better idea to stop running for now. But some days I feel better after running. (Some days I feel worse, but I can usually recognize those days and not run then.) I do not, however, feel better after long runs – roughly an hour and a half or longer. I know from previous experience that long runs are pretty exhausting even when I’m 100% healthy. So training for a long race, trail or road? No. Bad idea for now. But…

How do you handle a change of plans when life makes your running goal a bad idea?

I also know from previous experience that my body recovers faster from short speedwork than from long slow runs. I could just not train for anything, but I need some external motivation right now…so I’ve gone to basically the complete opposite of a long trail race: training for a 5K.

Because I need to ease back into speedwork, I’ll be using the workouts in this mile training plan for the first few weeks, then transitioning to this 5K plan once I feel ready for the longer speedwork. I likely won’t follow either plan exactly – I’m aiming for 3-4 runs (10-16 total miles) and 1-2 hikes per week. The long(er) runs will stay on trails, because you know I can’t give up trail running completely.

As for everything else, I need to be consistent with gentle/restorative yoga to stave off joint and muscle aches. I’m aiming for a minimum of 15 minutes, 3 times a week. Planning strength workouts is tricky – they can simultaneously make me feel better and drain a lot of energy. For most of the year I’ve been doing ~45 minute workouts twice a week, so it’s time to try something different: I’m going to see how my body responds to much shorter (~10-15 minute) but more frequent workouts.

That’s the plan for now, but it’s subject to change – even significant change, as I’ve learned. I’ve only talked about training priorities so far, but priority one is remaining a semi-normal and functional human.

How do you decide when a goal has become wrong for you?

Linking up with Wild Workout Wednesday & Coaches’ Corner & Thinking Out Loud

17 Comment

  1. I admire you for realizing that your body needs a break and taking that break before injuring yourself.
    Deborah @ Confessions of a mother runner recently posted…What To Do When You Get Your Period On Race DayMy Profile

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      Now remembering to actually do it is the tricky part.

  2. Kim G says: Reply

    I think you are so smart for coming to this realization! Sometimes when we don’t listen to our bodies and keeping pushing too hard, an injury can happen.

    Whenever I’ve hard to change plans, like a DNS for a race, I allow myself to feel bad briefly and then I tell myself that there will be other races to run, etc

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      Yes, very true! The races will still be there 🙂

  3. It’s difficult to make that kind of decision for ourselves (but often times, it’s pretty obvious to those around us LOL). I’ve had to change some training plans, and take a DNS here or there (and even a DNF one time). I found debating about the decision was more stressful than actually just making the decision itself. I felt so much relief and peace once the decision was done and I no longer had to dwell on it. Good luck with your training!

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      Yes, definitely – I think once the decision is made everything becomes easier.

  4. It can be so hard to let go of a goal because we think we should or just really want it, but I’ve definitely learned over the years that a lifetime of running happily supersedes a single race
    amanda -runtothefinish recently posted…A Cheat Sheet for Supplements and What Runners NeedMy Profile

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      Very true!

  5. Farrah says: Reply

    It’s hard to have to make these types of decisions, but I’m glad that you’re giving yourself a rest (of sorts) and I really hope they figure out what’s going on soon! <3
    Farrah recently posted…How To Make NerikiriMy Profile

    1. Hannah says: Reply


  6. So very sorry to hear that you’re having health issues too 🙁 Like you, short bursts of speed work don’t seem to bother me as much on my bad days (like the handful of 5Ks I ran over the last two months) but longer runs aren’t in the cards. I’m glad you were able to keep a positive perspective and change your goal so you don’t feel so lost. I hope you start to get some answers soon. Keeping you in my thoughts <3

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      Thank you! Hope your surgery goes well.

  7. So sorry to hear abut your health issues and the impact it has on your goal to run a trail race but racing a 5K is no easy feat there so I hope that at least is a consolation.
    All the best with your training and race and I would love to hear all about it.
    runwright recently posted…Write Me A Love SongMy Profile

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      That’s true, racing any distance is tough!

  8. It’s always unfortunate when our race plans have to change due to factors out of our control. I hope you enjoy shifting to a 5K training mode, and I hear you about the trails – they’re hard for me to stay away from too!
    Janelle @ Run With No Regrets recently posted…5 Favorite Spring Races You Should Run Next YearMy Profile

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      And the trails are shady! That’s important this time of year.

  9. […] the whole time. It’s annoying, but it happens sometimes. Then I picked up my packet for the 5K I’ve been semi-training […]

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