50K Training, Weeks 17 and 18: Betrayal

We think we are in control. We schedule, make a plan, eat healthy, and put in the time. We pound hours of our weeks on pavement and trail, preparing for a race that will prove to ourselves that we’re almost invincible. Almost.

After 17 weeks of training and a second 26 mile trail run, the taper begins. You look forward to running only a short trail distance of 10 or 12 miles the last few Sundays before the race, and you have your first 20K trail race to look forward to as a precursor to “the real thing.” It’s all coming together.

Only sometimes your body betrays you. Your legs and mind are strong, your heart is ready for the upcoming challenge, but something goes wrong. What you thought was invincible gives in only too easily.

It has no other choice.

What starts out as asthma turns into a incessant dry cough, the kind that keeps you up at night and you find yourself running at 5:30am on two hours of sleep.  You cough so much and so hard that you crack a couple of ribs, and the pain stops you in your tracks at mile 3 of an easy run. You realize you have a fever, your body is fighting back, and you forget your body’s only doing what it was made to do: protect itself.


For someone who spends the greater part of each day working their body and getting stronger, you realize how quickly everything can change. Even when the mind may be willing, you can’t always talk yourself into doing something your body can’t. If the body isn’t on board, all your plans come to a complete standstill.

It doesn’t have to be anything life threatening. It just has to be something bad enough to knock you off your feet and land you on the couch for a few weeks.

It’s not the end of the world. But it might be the end of what you’ve trained for.


MON: Rest Day – Ouch. Feeling very sore from yesterday’s 26 mile trail run, but not half as sore as I’ve felt after running a marathon. I feel such a sense of accomplishment today. Yesterday’s run was really good, and though I’m still nervous about running a 50K, for the first time my brain knows that I can do this. More than anything, I’m amazed at how much I enjoyed the run. I was very tired, and it was hard to keep running towards the end, but I did it, and I did it well. (It doesn’t mean I’m not still looking forward to the taper!)

TUE: Run – 4 mi- This was a very tough run today. Yesterday was nothing but a huge cough fest, which continued through the night until 3:30am. Since I had to get up at 4:30 to meet Bill, I essentially got no sleep. When the alarm went off I prepared a text for Bill telling him I wasn’t going to make it for the run, but decided I’d rather be running than sitting home beating myself up for missing my first run of the week. Even more alarming, all the coughing yesterday caused either a muscle pull in my abdomen or some cracked ribs! I know this is possible, I’ve cracked ribs before, and the pain made the second half of the run very painful. I will try to put some ice on the area, take Advil, try a cough suppressant, and see if anything helps.










STATS for WEEK 17 and 18: Run – 4 miles, Broken Ribs – 2, Discouragement – a lot



  1. iRuniBreathe

    You’ve got a great perspective on it all, but it doesn’t mean it’s not discouraging. I’m thinking about you for sure! Have you thought about maybe taping your ribs — if you are ready to get out again? Health is a tricky thing to play with… running with a fever is about the limits of exertion. Good luck with it all and keep me posted.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      Apparently taping your ribs is a bad idea. They need to have good blood flow. The only thing they need is time to heal. I broke a few several summers ago on a trail run in the Tetons so I’ve been here before. It took a few weeks before I could run again without pain. Heavy breathing and jumping up and down are hard on the ribs! It is what it is, and I’ll survive. I’ll keep you posted!

      • iRuniBreathe

        Right. That makes sense. Taping your ribs would impede mobility and not benefit much.
        Take gentle care of your ribs and your mind. You are strong and know what to do.

  2. MikeW

    Listen up to your body and don’t feel any shame in that. There is a seasonal change that gets a lot of athletes down this time of year. Factor it in if it gets you every year about this time and plan competitions around this change — train according to what keeps your immune system strongest and shortens your time out of training in seasons when you may react to changes in barometric pressure, pollens, harvest season crop dust, spores and the like.

    If you manage to run in the goal race, may it be your best race ever. If not, may this experience itself be a training installment in the next race you are able to enter with your body in harmony with your plans. Remember, healing is part of training.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      Thanks for the advice. I always enjoy the training more than the actual race anyway, so I will be okay if things don’t work out. There will be other races in the future, and for me it’s all about getting to the start line healthy and ready to go. You’re right, we have to learn to take everything, including illness and healing, as part of training.

      • MikeW

        Hey, the distances you’re taking on, you’re an inspiration to all. It’s why I’m dodging in here to check in, to glean all I can from experienced runners.

  3. Christina Hughes Babb

    Angela – so sorry to hear this. I came down with the flu a couple weeks ago. It wasn’t as bad as this, but it caused me to lose some ground in training. Maybe the rest will do you good. Maybe it will work out, if not, there are ways to make it up at another time, another race. You have had a great journey preparing for this thing. It is not wasted!

  4. Lauren

    Just so you know you are the only person whose blogs I actually take the time to read(they’re that good). And I’m really sorry that you’re not feeling good. I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone. I got strep the night before a half marathon that I was really looking forward to about two weeks ago. As mad as I was, I got through it and I know you will to. College has reminded me that I primarily run to have fun and that even though I would be frowned upon by my recent training schedule I’m not going to give up. I know that you can get through this and I hope you start feeling better soon.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      It’s so good to hear from you, Lauren, and so sorry to hear about your strep throat and missed half marathon. I still have two weeks to try and salvage the race, so there is hope. If it doesn’t work out, so be it. For me it’s all about the running, and a race is only one day of my life. I ran two 26 mile trail runs in two weeks–something I’ve never done before–so I have that to be proud of! I hope you’re having a great time getting to run in the mountains.

  5. AndrewGills

    Oh no! I hope you recover quickly. I hear your frustration! But if worst happens, other positives will arise. My injury-forced break from running has reignited a passion for cycling and I’m having a great lot of fun cycle commuting, which I would have missed with the running.

    So while I hope you get well in time for your race, I also know all will be ok if your body needs a little more time 🙂

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      Yes, I will be okay whatever happens. I’ll still be able to run, and will just need a little time to build back my speed and endurance. I love how your forced sabbatical from running has brought you back to cycling. It will make running that much more fun (and easier) when you take it back up again.

  6. gtarallo

    I hope you recover quickly! You have put so much time into the training!! Your determination and good attitude will get you through this, no matter the outcome.

  7. mlchaplin

    Tapering is all about letting your body heal and recover so your fresh for your race – and that’s exactly what you’re doing, albeit, you’re healing a little bit more than you planned! Good luck with your recovery. If nothing else, all of the training you’ve been doing has no doubt given you great insight into your body and what it’s capable of, so you’re ready to do what’s best for you as the race approaches.

    Get well soon!

  8. glw

    When life catches you off guard with a round house punch, lie low and breathe.
    If, when you rise up you are caught by an upper cut, step back, close in and breathe.
    Pummeled by the blows, “by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”, hang on.
    Let those waves wash over you then come up and breathe.
    You are stronger now.

  9. runawaynotes

    I am so sorry to hear about your setback. 😦 I hope you feel better soon and that you are back in the saddle again in no time. I had to miss two races last year that I had really wanted to run because of a pesky virus that had turned into acute bronchitis, so I can definitely relate to all the feelings of frustration and discouragement. But you are right – regardless of whether or not you get to run the race, the training itself was already worth all the hard work because it had made you that much stronger. Good luck to you, and get well soon!

  10. runwritelivelife

    There’s nothing more disheartening for a runner as an injury that needs time to heal…I know none of us want to be told to take time off from running, and even less so when so close to a race we’ve been training for. It’s one of those times in life, as I’m sure you know, that you have to face something you really don’t want to but have to. Sometime later (much, much later), I’m sure you’ll reflect on this frustrating time but till then……feel better (and fast!) 🙂

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      Thanks. I ran this weekend and it felt so great to be running again. It will just take time to get back to 100%. As long as I can still run even just a few miles, I’m happy. The race is just one day out of my life.

  11. Pingback: I am (not) okay | i run with it

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