I know I am not the only one who has made perfectly sensible plans, only to have them derailed by an unexpected event. Fortunately, though, these disruptions can teach us to be more flexible and creative with our training. Instead of throwing in the towel, we can pivot and find a way to salvage our preparation and still show up to any competition.

The first time I had to rearrange my attitude and training was for my first ultra. I already saw an ultra as an impossible feat, but I was doing my best to turn it into a possible. I had put in the miles, and I had read several books on training. Three weeks before the event I received a call from my niece saying my sister was in the hospital and might not make it through the night. I live in Georgia, and my sister was in Connecticut, so my husband and I jumped on the first plane and rushed to the hospital. We spent the next week and a half spending as much time in the hospital as possible as my sister gradually recovered. By the time we returned home, I was considering not running the ultra, but two things happened that changed my mind. The first was the wisdom of my husband when he said, “Jen, it’s not the week and a half of not training that will matter, it’s the months of consistent training that you did do.” The second thing that convinced me to give the ultra a try was a book I found called The Big Book of Running. In one chapter, an elite runner had been prepared to run an ultra, but she caught the flu shortly before. She decided to run it anyway, only she would run it slower. She was so glad she did the race because she knew she wasn’t running to win, so she was able to enjoy the race more. Both things helped me to decide to do my first ultra, and I am so glad I did.

The second time I needed to rethink my training was because of an injury. Everything had been going so well, and then I tried to push my speed too hard and I strained my IT band. I had an ultra the next week and I decided to tape my leg up like a mummy and do what I could. I walked more than I normally would have, but I loved every minute.

My last experience where my training was disrupted was because of a migraine. It was billed as just barely an ultra at 26.6 miles, and the first one to reach that distance was the winner. I am a human barometer because if the weather changes too quickly, my head revolts. I was about 16 miles in when the pain started to get serious. I decided to start walking and running and eventually started walking. I knew I was getting close to reaching the distance, so I stopped at the table to check. The race director said, “Jen, you have 5 laps to go and the woman in the lead is 2 laps ahead of you.” I forgot about the headache and started sprinting. Then I realized I didn’t know which woman it was, so I stopped at the table and asked. “She’s the one in the paisley skirt.” I sprinted the last few laps and won!

When life throws you a roadblock, don’t automatically give up. Go around it and find a different way to get the job done.

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