5 Running Lessons Learned From My Worst Race

I’ve had quite a few bad races in my past. There have been plenty of times that I was under-trained—or hungover. Times I was too tired, too hungry, too full, too thirsty. There is one race that stands out in my mind as the worst race I’ve ever run. That race was Hood to Coast 2018. So, not just one race but a collection of three. From that one experience, I learned many things to avoid doing in the future.

While I was undertrained for Hood to Coast last year, I was also quite out of shape for Wild Rogue Relay this year. I still managed to have a great time and not feel like I was the worst athlete ever at the end. Due to my experience last year, I was able to make some changes to not only my running preparation—diet, hydration, etc.—but also to my attitude.

Lesson 1 – Hydration

Historically during relays, I am not adequately hydrated. I forget to drink the amount of water I need. Not only that, but I neglect to replace the sodium I lose during my run. I’ve been a staunch anti-sports drink runner for the past few years, but I recently read Matt Fitzgerald’s book Performance Nutrition for Runners. If you haven’t read this book, check it out—it has some useful information between its pages.

Fitzgerald suggests that runners consume a sports drink before they run. It loads you up with carbs, sodium, and gives you a boost of hydration. I tried this during the Wild Rogue Relay, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked. I didn’t feel as sluggish or thirsty during my legs.

Lesson 2 – Chafing

Oh goodness, how I chafed during my last leg of HTC ’18. I was wearing a cheap hydration vest and a tank top with thin shoulder straps. The pack didn’t fit; it moved around a lot and rubbed my collarbones for over 7 miles. I still have scars on my collarbone where that stupid hydration vest rubbed.

What did I learn? Be careful how you pack and buy a better hydration vest! I have a new one that fits much better now. It fits snuggly and doesn’t jostle around while I’m running. I also take care to pack tank tops with wide shoulders that will ride underneath a safety or hydration vest.

Lesson 3 – Bonking

I hate the dreaded bonk. It felt like I was in a constant state of bonk during my first and third legs last year. I had no energy. 

This year, I focused on what I needed to do to avoid bonking during my WRR legs. I made sure I ate better during this year’s relay, the sports drink helped with extra sodium and carbs, and I made sure I had Gu with me on my lengthier legs.

Again, Fitzgerald’s book helped me come up with a good plan to keep my energy level up while I was running.

Lesson 4 – Exhaustion & Lead Feet

I was so exhausted during my third leg of HTC and had a difficult time picking my feet up as I ran. I tripped over my foot and did a full-on hand and knee skid through gravel. Not only did it hurt like crazy, but it was embarrassing too. I had a group of runners behind me who witnessed the entire stupid event. They were nice, though, and asked if I was okay. Other than the dripping blood and ripped leggings, the only thing broken was my pride.

I tried to get more sleep during WRR, but we had to add an extra day onto our trip for the long drive to southern Oregon. I was already bone-tired before we started running. I had to remind myself to pick up my feet during my last run so I wouldn’t have a repeat injury. There is nothing worse than falling in front of a bunch of people.

Lesson 5 – Fueling

My last experience has everything to do with eating correctly. During HTC ’18, I didn’t pack the right food. I think I had three almond butter and honey English muffins, and that was it. What was I thinking? Lucky for me, I was able to bum some food from my van mates.

This year I planned a little better and took advantage of some real food at the major exchanges. There is nothing quite like a garden salad and a huge baked potato with all the dairy (butter, sour cream, and cheese) to revive a tired runner.

That wasn’t the best thing I ate, however. The food that tasted like heaven was Chicken in a Biscuit crackers. They are so salty and carb-o-licious. They were the perfect snack after a run.

I also really enjoyed the salami and cheese I brought with me. Getting protein in your body right after a workout is so beneficial to your muscles, and it tastes fantastic too.

Have you learned some valuable lessons during one of your worst races? I’d love to hear about them.

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About Liz Ward 101 Articles
Liz Ward is a running fanatic, avid reader, and amateur farmer. She lives on the Oregon Coast with her husband, three kids, and a small herd of animals.