Finding Yourself in a Failed Workout


Finding Yourself in a Failed Workout

Last Saturday I had one of the worst workouts I’ve experienced in probably the last 4 years of my career. By worst I mean, how I felt, how I failed the paces, and how I was so far off of what I expected to be able to accomplish on the day. Coach Ben had written the workout as 3 x 3 mile with 1 mile jog rest at 5:35 pace. We drove down to Camp Verde dropping from 7000ft to 3500 feet. A pleasant reprice from the oxygen deprivation we so encounter on a daily basis. However this fateful morning there was no reprieve for me. 


As I warmed up with my teammate Scott, who by the way is in ridiculous shape, I felt nervous but excited for the challenge of the workout. We jogged the 3 mile loop that we would run for our workout to get a feel for the wind. We felt it.. big time. It was gusting upwards of 15-20mpw on some sections which meant we would have a headwind for half of each 3 miler. The temperature was also rising as is the case in the high desert of AZ in April. 




I went through my set of drills and strides, slipped on my flats, took a few sips of water and headed into battle. At least that’s what it turned out to be. It’s a pretty amazing phenomenon how within a few minutes of certain workouts you know whether it’s going to be a good or bad day. Races can also go like this sometimes. 5:34 through the first mile and I knew it was going to be a bad day. I can’t exactly describe how I felt but I was just off, sluggish, and tired. I came through mile 2 in 5:42 and tried to keep squeezing down the pace. 5:37 for my last mile which had an incredible tailwind for the last 800, thank the lord. Ben handed me water, I choked it down breathing laboriously and wiping dryness from my mouth. I told him the effort felt like I was reaching and not comfortable or relaxed. He said, “today’s a day to grind”.


I set off for the 2nd set and tried to compose myself. 5:40 for the 1st mile, and then the doors fell off, 5:55 with Ben barely reading my split, clearly discouraged and yelled “tried to rally” last mile. I told my legs, get your crap together and go. I made the last left in which you have about 1200m of open road ahead. On days where you are hurting this long stretch of road felt so daunting I had to keep my eyes and head focused on the ground just to carry my feet from one step to another. 5:43, all was not lost. 


I grabbed my water bottle from Ben, chugged as much as I could without filling up my belly, wiped the sweat from my eyes and coach Ben was relieved to see I brought the pace back down. He was close to cutting the workout but could tell I was fighting. He jogged with me for a minute and then said one of the best lines I’ve heard from a coach “well you’ll find something out about yourself on this last one.” Try to run 5:45s. Clearly my target pace of 5:35s was out, I was nowhere near this. I thought if I could go into it relaxed and with a slower pace I could hit it. It was hotter and windier as the minutes went on and there were excuses all over the place to throw in the towel. I came through the mile at 5:55, turned into the wind and here’s where the workout was defined. My legs and arms were swinging in tandem but my body wouldn’t give me anymore. 6:15 through mile 2, a time that I could run at the end of a long run up in Flagstaff. I felt embarrassed, frustrated all within a span of a mile stretch of road. My brain never gave up. I had 1 mile to go and my pain and suffering would be over. In that moment it would have been easy to run another 6 something mile and call the workout a wash. Then I pictured myself out on the race course, in the middle of a bad patch in the marathon and remembered one bad mile can’t define your race, but fighting through to find one good mile can make it. As I made the last right turn I knew I’d had that friendly tailwind behind me so if I could reach within myself I could run a respectable last mile. Everything hurt. I was tired and thirsty. I closed the workout with a 5:45 mile and a revelation about bad days. 




Bad days will happen in training cycles. They are inevitable. I didn’t know at the time but this workout fell on the end of my first 90 mile week in 3 years. That’s huge, that’s a win. I was also probably a little dehydrated. My fault? Yes but some morning with the kids, getting out the door with just my watch on is a win. Days in which weather conditions are tough make for good excuses to throw in the towel on a bad workout. Letting go of your goal time and just getting through the workout is far greater practice than quitting. Although I came nowhere near hitting 5:35s, I didn’t question Ben prescribing that pace. He was testing my fitness to see where I’m at. He has the big picture of The Olympic Trials in July at the forefront and everything is geared towards that. I don’t think I’m not in shape because of that workout. I think I fought to train another day. 





  • Jamie Holowaty

    29.04.2016 at 21:34 Reply

    You are amazing

  • Jen

    02.05.2016 at 21:08 Reply

    It’s so helpful to hear this from someone like you. Thank you so much for your honesty and for showing us to believe in ourselves even if we experience workout fails from time to time. You are a rock star!

  • Sarada

    03.05.2016 at 22:22 Reply

    Hi Steph,

    I just found your blog by accident, but what an incredible connection! I love your frankness, your enthusiasm for life, your clear and open way of expressing yourself, and your gusto for getting out there and living no matter what. I also experienced Diastasis and could find so little support at the time. It was frustrating and depressing to me, I was so unprepared for my postpartum condition. My first son was 11lbs14ounces 22inches at 42 weeks and I had natural childbirth with no pain medication. I was so overwhelmed with the physical strain of having him, my whole body felt broken and I could not enjoy my new baby. It was such a stressful time for me. Even now, after almost 5 years, I haven’t really come to terms with the trauma. It took me so much physical therapy to pull my body back into alignment. So few physical therapists even knew what to do for me. I did find one Pilates studio that seemed to understand the physiological issues.

    I recovered more than I ever thought I would, but then I got pregnant again. My second son was 10.5lbs. I was checked very closely to make sure I did not have gestational diabetes. Still not sure why I had such big babies. And the Diastasis occurred again, but I have not worked on it as much as the first time. I often feel sad about how my stomach looks, I feel isolated and embarrassed around other woman. I feel that I ruined myself by having children, even though I do love having them in my life. It’s just a passing longing for my “old” self. I’ve never met anyone else that this has happened to. Thank you so much for sharing .
    Please share with me what you have learned about why Diastasis happens and ways to repair the stomach muscles. Is there anything that can be done for the skin?

    You are an inspiration to me. I am inspired by your productivity and success in moving forward to achieve your dreams. The Olympics! Wow! I am inspired to run more, move my body more, do more, think less, and reconnect with ‘me’ again. You are so strong and beautiful. In this brief moment, you have given me a little strength too! All the best with your training….thank you for reaching out into the world.


  • Maya

    04.05.2016 at 13:37 Reply

    You are an inspiration

  • Tina P

    11.05.2016 at 05:24 Reply

    Just stumbled upon your blog. Amazing. You are such a positive role model for what it means to be fit, determined, and strong as a mother.
    Thank you for your honesty and frank commentary!!!

  • Cathy G

    05.07.2016 at 14:54 Reply

    I had my twins this past February and my body experienced major trauma. I have diastasis recti and although I do the exercises almost every day, I feel that it is a long road to recovery. I saw the picture of you and your belly in People magazine, I think, and I thought that you are so brave. Thank you for sharing your pictures. It lets me know that I’m not alone. I’ve kept a great weight all my life, ate well, exercised (including long distance running but trust me, I’m nowhere near Olympic shape) and I still ended up with diastasis recti. My kids together didn’t even weigh a lot when they were born! Together, they were 9.5 lbs! I guess it happens to the best of us.

Post a Comment