Running by feel

Many coaches encourage their athletes to run by feel. There are numerous benefits to training this way: you become more in tune with your body and are forced to learn what a certain pace feels like. In college, I recall having to do some workouts without a watch, running 400s around the track with no splits to guide me. Without my trusty sidekick, Stopwatch, I felt naked, bare. Running scared, I often ran too fast and paid dearly. 

Checking those splits... definitely not running by feel...
But eventually, with time, I learned to trust my body and instead of forcing the pace, let the pace come to me.
Look, Ma - no watch!
So there's a lot to gain from running by feel. Many days, Coach Dad advises me to "let the run happen," starting slow as I listen to my body, finishing fast when I feel good. But what do you do when you feel like crap, all the time?

THIS is joyful running!
"Feeling like crap" is how I'd describe much of the past spring. There were some joyful runs and a couple workouts I rocked, but they were few and far between. I was running lots, running hard, but things just weren't clicking.

Few runs felt good, most runs felt blah, and a couple runs were so bad I just broke down in tears...
...kinda like this.
Try as I might, I'd lost the joy in my running and for the life of me I couldn't tell you why. Something was wrong, VERY wrong.

What do you do when you feel like doo-doo and you can't figure out what's up? You go to a doctor. You talk to an expert before devastating self-doubt takes over. You get some answers that are rooted in science, not in your running-crazed psyche. So that's what I did.

I got some tests. A lot of them, actually. 2 doctors, a 3 hour visit, 5 vials of blood, and $700 later, I had some answers. Low iron (not surprising and thankfully an easy fix!) and, surprisingly, super-low Vitamin D! I guess that's what happens when you move from sunny CA to Cleveland, land of little sun.

Rainy gloomy Cleveland summer
I didn't know much about the effects of low Vitamin D until I did some reading. Vitamin D is not only important for maintaining bone health, but it also affects your athletic performance by negatively impacting energy levels and your ability to recover, leaving you feeling pretty crummy. Nutrient deficiencies are a no-no for elite athletes, so since finding out my Vitamin D was severely low, I've been taking 50,000 IUs of Vitamin D each week to try to boost my levels back up. I'm almost done with a 12-week prescription and am finally starting to feel like myself again.

So I'm out on the roads and the trails each day, letting the runs happen, feeling the pace as it comes. Some days are slow but that joyful feeling is returning, and with it, the fire to compete.