Redlining and the All Important ‘E’

Warning: you are approaching empty.
runner tired
This post is inspired by two things, so bear with me. The first is this hilarious picture from SkinnyRunner’s blog…who amongst us hasn’t played chicken with that empty gas alert gauge on our car? (okay Seinfeld fans smile at the flashback to Kramer here)

Is it just me or does it constantly seem like I’m trying to one-up the empty gauge. With gas, part of it is because I cringe as I whip out the debit card…it just seems like with gas I don’t get an actual, physical return. Yes, it gets me to where I need to be, but what do I actually GET…it feels like wasted money.

We play chicken with the E in other areas of our life too. Just how much can I accomplish in this hour…I work best under pressure, so come the 11th hour and it’s crunch time you better watch me churn things out like a tornado. (little tip here: I know this about myself, so I try and ‘trick’ myself by setting a pre-deadline deadline…I’m anal about having something important done early)

With running, there are TONS of E’s…but here is where it’s a bit odd. Some of these E’s you need to avoid and others you need to kind of embrace and play around with. An obvious E is fuel, this is one you don’t want to play chicken with…we’ve all made the mistake of mistiming our eating (or making a really bad food choice too soon before a run…those curly, cheese and bean fries don’t taste too good the second time, no?) and it doesn’t feel too good to bonk.

dog hot dog

Probably another not so smart food choice...


Injuries could count as E’s to avoid…especially if you sense one coming. Danger, Will, Robinson…abort. We feel that pull, get the sinking ping in our gut and know, “Uh-oh…I pushed it a little too far, shoulda been smart. Hope this one isn’t too bad.”

But here is an E that we need to always be working towards getting more comfortable with. This is where I tie into the second thing I read at Jay Johnson’s site: Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Pain. That little red alert gauge starts to light up when we feel that pain, that burning, the lactic acid shuffle. Our mind starts telling us to back off and cool it, but here is where we need to play chicken with that blasted little needle and E alert sign.

Redlining it, pushing the envelope just far enough, straddling that line. Sometimes we overshoot and bonk the rest of the workout or race…this is where bad races/workouts can be excellent teaching tools. But practice makes perfect and the more often you callous yourself to that uncomforted the better you get at reading yourself and properly straddling that line, so you finish with a killer workout and get the best out of yourself.
girl runner
As Coach Jay puts it, you fail sometimes, yes, and end up with a less than ideal workout result. But that’s why we do them, they are practice for the races and you know what they say about all that practice…eventually you’ll get it right. So play chicken with your brain in the pain drain. Running is so mental, and this aspect of mental toughness, grit, is something that we can forever be improving at. Hardening ourselves up ever more, reaching different levels.

1) What other E’s do we have as runners? Is it one to avoid or one we need to play chicken with?

2) We all have moments of coming out the loser in our game of chicken…any good fail moments to share?
So many…I’ll do this one: a 10k track race and my splits were all over the place; not so much in the actual mile times but the laps, one super-fast then slow to compensate, like a fartlek in a race. Not good for the old bod and never got into any kind of rhythm. Well, the mile splits still were looking fine and I was on track for a good PR, so I pushed the fifth mile. Crazy how much difference a single lap can make, night and day. BAM…that last mile was about a minute slower, and that last 0.2 of that 6.2 miles never felt looooooonger.

3) What is a great lesson you took away from a fail moment?
Get into a rhythm dorkette.

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18 thoughts on “Redlining and the All Important ‘E’

  1. “Dorkette”…love it! What a great post! I just experienced this in my marathon, the end I was beyond E and it was not pretty.
    In workouts I have a tendency to shy away from the pain, always worried about an injury or like you mentioned, having nothing left to give for the rest of the workout. But you make SUCH good point that it’s okay to have workouts that don’t turn out like you wanted them to!! That’s the whole point of training your body…to push it beyond the limits it currently capable of. Ahhh what a lightbulb moment for me…I need to think of this my next workout! Thanks girl! And I’ve missed you…I haven’t been reading blogs for about a month, ahhh!

    • as she lives and breathes!!! hehe…so happy to see u’re back, but TOTALLY understand, u’ve got the dream job and are crazy busy! so thanks for stopping by. :) sorry to hear about the fuel issue with ur marathon, but everyone makes mistakes and going forward think of it as a lesson learned. :)
      u put a smile on my face, i’m glad the post helped and now i kno u’re back i’m popping over to ur blog!

  2. great post, dorkette.
    i have to work on pacing myself in the beginning of a race to be a little faster bc in my mind, im “saving” myself for the last 6 miles of pain. im ok with it then but for the first half i go way too easy in anticipation of the pain coming. aargghh, why is running so mental?!

    • thanks for stopping by!
      hey, u did push urself to go out faster on one of ur last marathons…so u’re working on it! :) but i totally kno wat u mean about wanting to save urself, the only ‘trick’ i can suggest is just don’t even think about the end. split the race up into chunks, so set a goal time to hit for halfway and then at halfway pretend u’re ‘just’ stepping out for a 13 miler…no big thang. lol. anyways, regardless, with the amount of mileage u put in u deserve rockstar status; no one i kno races as many marathons as u do!

  3. The crazy thing about this mental game– sometimes even a two mile quick run can be a challenge. Sometimes it is your eighteen mile long run. Sometimes it is the first step. And for me…it ALWAYS is the treadmill! :) Great great GREAT post!! :)

  4. Ok, I’m loving the analogy here. I definitely need practice with getting the right amount of fuel – as was evident in the marathon, when I was desperately in need of fuel.
    And PS now you were on SR you are basically a famous blogger. BAHAHA I read you first. I feel like those super cool hipsters who stop liking bands once they go “mainstream” —except I’ll never stop liking you!
    :)

    • awww, bgosh, u’re so funny! sadly even in my own mind i kno i’m not a ‘cool’ band, but trust me, there is always room at the dorkette table for my main gal vanessa!! u were my first follower after all! ;)

  5. As usual, I love this post :) I need to stop testing the E on fuel and injuries! I have no problem testing myself with pain. Actually, the problem might be that I tend to try harder than I need to on some workouts, which can be really detrimental! I think another E is the mental aspect of running. Some days you don’t feel mentally ready for a run, but you have to push through!

  6. Oh man I loooove playing chicken with E!! I think it’s actually one of my biggest weaknesses as a runner – I don’t like easy recovery runs. Before I got injured, every single time I went out I would try to beat my time from the previous time I’d run the route. And the injury…yeah I did not stop when it first started bothering me…I waited till I had to limp home in the middle of a run. LESSONS LEARNED!

    totally doesn’t mean I’m going to be scared of E once I get back out there though haha…

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