You know...your race just got cancelled. It's still happening as COVID cases rise...again.
Or maybe your running plans just got foiled by wildfires, sickness, injury, a family emergency, or some other unexpected event.
It happens. And you basically have two options.
Option A: Cry yourself to sleep over running plans that don't work out. Swear off running. Maybe even eat extra dessert.
Option B: Be flexible. And change your running plans at the last minute, maybe once, twice, or even three times.
When some epic running plans fell through for Lucie Hanes, she was disappointed.
Option A just didn't make sense. Not in an epic running town in Colorado surrounded by miles of trails.
But changing her running plans proved to be a little harder than expected.
What are you going to do if your running plans fall apart?
Lucie's last minute change in running plans ended up taking a little more patience and planning than expected.
Here's what happened..
Running Plans: Expect the Unexpected
After nearly two years of cancellations, uncertainties, and travel restrictions, runners have been looking forward to a more “normal” summer season for races and adventures.
COVID conditions, natural disasters, economic shortages, and any number of other unwelcome surprises have all forced us to put many of our dreams on hold.
No matter the reasons behind it, missing out on a big event hits hard.
Been there, done that?
Most runners structure entire training blocks around these key goals. Losing the chance to put that hard work into play takes a toll on your mental health when it comes to the identity you create for yourself as an athlete and runner.
In the end, though, we can’t always control the outcome.
Even when all our running plans do come to fruition, there’s no way to guarantee that they’ll live up to our expectations.
Can you relate?
If these pandemic years have taught us anything, it’s that nothing is predictable.
The nebulous future can always throw us for a loop. All we can do as runners when hopes fall short is put our best foot forward - literally - and make the best of what’s left to work with.
I had an exciting line-up of fall running plans planned for myself...
Run my first 50-mile ultramarathon at the Leadville Silver Rush.
Pace my good friend in her attempt at the Leadville 100-Mile Ultra.
Complete the Four Pass Loop - a gorgeous, challenging, and long marathon-distance endurance effort through the Maroon Bells mountains
Then go for a hard PR effort on a new 50k course in southern Colorado.
The first two steps in that plan went swimmingly.:
I recovered well from my race, helped my friend secure a second place finish at the Leadville 100, and buckled down for my last big training block of the year.
My long runs increased in mileage. My workouts ramped up the intensity. My easy runs filled in the spaces between. I felt strong, fast, resilient, and ready to forge ahead…so I thought.
And then just like that, my running plans were forced to change. And the problems came in droves:
Last-minute cancellation. First, my partner that I intended to run the Four Pass Loop with had to cancel amid a last-minute move to Idaho.
Back-up runner. Luckily, I have cultivated a strong trail community over the years and begged another friend who knew the area well to take the day off of work and join me. Thanks to the loop’s picturesque reputation, it didn’t take him long to agree. We made plans to get all the details together that weekend.
Bike accident. In the middle of a bike race the day before our meeting and three days before the run, my friend crashed and injured his knee. Bruising, swelling, limited range of motion, the whole shebang. He was down for the count and my plans once again fell into a state of flux.
Ever had your running plans fall apart? Do you go with Option A or Option B?
I had a choice to make: Attempt the loop alone with my admittedly subpar navigational skills, or cut my losses and find an alternative adventure for the day.
Ever stubborn, I decided to try my luck on the trail alone. I’m quite an experienced trail runner, but have a tendency to get lost easily. I sometimes have trouble getting around my own neighborhood if I take a wrong turn.
How are your navigation skills on new running routes?
Needless to say, I knew I was taking a risk in in going alone and took the time to dive deep into the route logistics.
I downloaded multiple GPX files to my watch and phone.
I printed out physical copies of the map.
I wrote down step-by-step directions.
I plotted out exact water stops.
All in all I felt good to go and was proud of myself for flexing my independence muscles.
And then my backup running plans failed...
Apparently, COVID precautions, an influx of visitors, or some combination of the two have changed the permit protocol in the Maroon Bells wilderness.
I didn’t learn this until I looked up driving directions.
All visitors must either apply for a parking permit or reserve a spot on the shuttle. By the time of my frantic application, no spots for either option were left available.
I was crushed.
After all the frenzied running plans and desperate solutions, I felt truly defeated and disappointed in myself for failing to notice such a small but important piece of logistics.
The sadness came on especially strong because I’d also had to drop out of my upcoming 50k race due to pressing health concerns. So this adventure was supposed to be my “last hurrah” before an extended break from hard running.
How do you feel when your running plans don't work out?
Ever had to adjust your running plans, once, twice, maybe even three times?
Here were go again...
Because this day held such importance in my mind, I wasn’t too willing to just let bygones be bygones.
I quickly pieced together another route that I’d been meaning to explore...
A tough 20 mile run up and over Hope Pass in lofty Leadville
Then back up and over again on the way back: the aptly named “Double Doozy.”
I’d never done it before but had exact directions from a friend and am much more familiar with the Leadville area than the Maroon Bells.
I actually felt more comfortable with this plan than venturing through Four Pass on my own.
Excitement washed over me once again.
It would be just as challenging and nearly as beautiful as winding through Four Pass.
I could always tackle that one next summer.
Plus, I have dreams of running the Leadville 100 myself in the next year or two, and getting to experience the crux of that course now would just motivate me towards that even more.
But my running plans were foiled...again!
On the way back from a day out climbing before an early bedtime and dawn patrol start at the trailhead, my car broke down.
I made it home, but there was no way it would survive the three hour round trip to Leadville and back on remote dirt roads.
My boyfriend’s car, and only other option, was already in the shop for another issue. I’d been foiled again.
When All Else Fails, Change Your Running Plans
Obviously, there are much bigger problems in the world than a failed adventure. I can easily recognize that and put my privilege in check.
I am safe.
I have a loving family and close friends.
I have a roof over my head
I have the ability to run at all.
These things stand true even alongside my grief about cutting back on running in the near future.
I’d planned to go out with a bang and end the season on the highest note imaginable, but that kind of finisher just wasn’t in the cards and I had to accept the unpredictable nature of reality.
Ever felt disappointed when your running plans didn't work out?
Even though my original running plans didn't work out, it made me reflect on a few things I can be grateful for:
I live in a beautiful mountain town in the Western Slope of Colorado.
I am lucky enough to have access to a huge swath of trails just a few steps beyond my front door.
I run them all the time and know them each like the back of my hand.
I could probably run them blindfolded, and sometimes do close my eyes as I grind up the grittiest hills.
In short, they don’t carry the same novelty as either of the adventures that I’d hoped for.
They do, however, hold a metric ton of memories, emotions, and experiences from all the time I’ve spent on them over the years.
I’ve poured rivers and oceans of myself into these trails throughout some of the best and worst moments of my adult life.
They represent so much of who I am and who I’ve become since settling down here.
Running these trails may not feel new and exciting anymore, but it does feel like home.
So, for my last hurrah, I chose to celebrate home.
I ran a marathon course all over and around my local trails, part of the same route that I ran in one of my first serious races a few years back.
I hadn’t been back to some of the deeper sections since that race.
I loved rekindling those memories as the runner I am today.
Running such familiar trails also meant that I was able to let loose, chase speed, find my flow, and follow deep trains of thought instead of putting all that focus into safety and navigation.
Forced to Change Your Running Plans? Look for the Positive
I wrapped up that day full of everything I’d been looking for in the first place:
Peace of mind.
I’d come to terms with the chaos and disappointment of changing my running plans, and found the beauty in falling back on the comforts of home.
I made it out the door and embraced what matters most: the pure and simple joy of running.
On this and any other day, that’s enough.
Did something force you to change your running plans? Tell us about it.