The anatomy of a solo long run

Earlier this week I was considering dropping to the half from the full. I wondered if maybe I was burned out and should keep running but do less mileage. Then I thought about how far I’ve come since June with a new 5K PR (26:49) and a long run pace that sometimes has me wondering if I’m wearing a jetpack (10:15-10:35ish).

I had a sucky interval run on Thursday; I felt sick the whole time. But yesterday after working on school work at Starbucks, I decided to hit the trails and not get lost. ūüėČ That’s when I said to heck with my insecurities and laziness.. just DO IT! There’s no sense in wasting all the endurance and fitness I’ve worked so hard at, and I have my first 50K with my husband in May (Jemez Mountain Trail Run in Los Alamos, NM).

I was out late last night, which means I slept in this morning. I sat around my house, downing Pop-Tarts debating with myself if I should run today or tomorrow. 12 miles or 14 miles. I was debating which route to take, and if I should take the dog for a few miles. My brain was a hot mess.¬†Since my husband deployed, Saturdays have just been weird and my least favorite day of the week, so I figured that I might as well do my long run. If anything, I’ll feel better afterwards.

I had plans later in the day so I calculated the latest time I could leave for 14 miles to get back in time to shower and get there. At 11:05, I laced up my shoes and leashed up my dog and we were out the door. Missy is such a great running partner, so we did about 3.8 miles easy as a warmup.

I brought her home, got my GUs and half-full water bottle, and I was out the door for the other 10.2. It was very strange weather here today…. cloudy and cold, even at 11:45. I couldn’t find my earband so I just grabbed a hat I got at my first ever trail race in Illinois. I ditched the gloves, though… my hands get warm fast.

Mentally I was in the game. I knew exactly the route I had to take to get those 10.2 miles, and I could envision myself at different point during the run. It felt strange to be running my long run on a Saturday (I got into the habit of running Sundays) and in the middle of the day.

The warmup was perfect and set me up to get in mostly negative splits. I had a lot of miles in the 9:00’s. That was definitely not my goal; my 7-miler last weekend was slow and torturous, and this week I just wanted to get the miles in and do it at a comfortable pace. However, by mile six I knew I’d be running faster than last week.

The first part of my route today had some shady characters…. a guy purposely slowing down and staring, random groups of kids…. that’s my part of town for ya. However, by the time I hit miles 9 and 10 I was running through a pretty neighborhood that reminds me a lot of roads I ran in Illinois.

When I hit the halfway point at mile 7, I started feeling really good. I always, ALWAYS have a hard time getting out the door, but I get progressively happier throughout the run. By mile 9 I started to feel my quads… and they HURT. It’s been awhile since a run has made me sore, but honestly I’ve kind of missed it. The great part about my route today was that by the time I started hurting, I had a slight downhill. It was probably only 1-2% but it made a difference.

I kept the last few miles strong and finished 14 miles in 2:24 (10:19 pace!!!). I got a new 13.1 PR. I felt so good afterwards. I was cold but one of the best rewards is a hot shower followed by FOOD.

I think this month will be good for mileage. I’m finally out of the post-race slump/resting period and can hit the pavement hard. This month so far I’ve run 34 miles already!

Moral of the story? Get your ass out the door. It’s hard and you don’t want to, but you’ll be so glad you did. Every long run gives you bragging rights. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

Ready to roll

A 15-week training plan sounded like a long time, but here we are, two weeks away from putting that mountain under our feet, literally. Today we had the last really long run (14 miles) before we do one more “normal” week, run 8 next Sunday, and then we have one week of taper.

Just in the past few weeks, I’ve really been ramping up my training, following our printout of all the runs to the T… and guess what? It’s starting to show. My running was consistent during the summer, but it was hot and I hadn’t trained for a race in a long time. I was happy with just getting the miles in. Now, I’m hitting paces that make me proud and really feeling good on the runs.

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It was a chilly 53* when we started. I’ve become such a pansy to cool/cold weather since moving here. But what can I say, it just makes me fit in with El Pasoans more. ūüėČ I wore a long-sleeve shirt which was a good idea; I encountered my running high a few times during the run and it always gives me goosebumps.

I felt strong going up the inclines; there were three big hills. Going back over Scenic after I’d already come over the other side AND run to the edge of the canyon (Alabama is straight and uphill) I still felt strong. When I hit mile 7, I knew I had this run in the bag.¬†I didn’t have negative splits like last week, but I was smiling from ear to ear when I reached the top of Scenic on the way back over and hadn’t stopped to walk. I felt like a rock star.

I bypassed the last water stop at mile 11-ish because I had my Camelbak and I was rocking a good pace (around 10:00), so I just kept on runnin’. Around mile 12 my legs started burning, but it was just a sign that I was almost done and I was gonna make it!

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I mean, look how consistent those last four miles were! That’s what I want when I race in two weeks.

I confess that when I completed this run, I almost started crying. I’m like Kristen Bell that way: “If I’m not between a 3 and a 7 on the emotional scale, I’m crying. I’m crying if I’m too sad, and I’m crying if I’m too happy.” I just couldn’t believe that I’d come to El Paso HATING running, I mean… HATING it. It was too much elevation, too much like an oven… and now I feel like I’m back to where I was mentally¬†before the Illinois Marathon in 2011.

The other fantastic thing about today was that I felt comfortably vulnerable during church today. When I get there, my body and mind are spent – I’m tired, sore, and still HUNGRY (but caffeinated with a venti extra hot extra vanilla nonfat caramel macchiato), but the transition from runner’s high and to the presence of God is pretty great. I love worship and I really gave Him my all today. I was in a place of complete surrender.

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Moral of the story: I’m not gonna be upset. All that’s left to do for today is take a nap, foam roll the heck out of my legs, and feel satisfied because while y’all were sleeping, I was running. Go get you some.

Absence of Running

I’ll let you in on a little secret..

I’m not one of those people who just can’t wait to get up at the wee hours before dawn and run.

Most of the time on my runs, I count the miles I have left.

I run to eat.

I eat to run.

I’m not fast.

Running in the desert heat has been a huge struggle for me.

BUT. I can feel a change in my body and mood when I don’t run. I become lazy and start teetering on the brink of depression. I’m anxious. I mentally count every calorie and feel guilty about things I shouldn’t be eating. ¬†I start comparing myself in a negative way with other runners/athletes I follow on Facebook and Instagram.

I took a couple days off because I had an “upper respiratory infection”. I’m not even going to lie; I didn’t mind having a reason not to run. I ran long on Sunday, begrudgingly, and even more so because I had to start earlier than normal. It was okay… not great, not defeating. Just.. a run. So for the past couple days, I slept, a LOT, and didn’t actually miss the getting out to run part that much.

This morning I Skyped with my husband, which is a usual thing on Wednesdays, so I decided to run this afternoon. It was 79*, HUMID (67%), and super sweaty, but it was good. My pace was “slow”, but since I got the run done I really didn’t care.

During a run like I said I’m usually counting down the miles if Nike+ isn’t doing it for me. I’m trying to control my breathing and my stride. I love it when I run early and can see my shadow on walls or my reflection in windows… I look strong, fit, unstoppable. I’m usually the only person running when I’m out and I own it.

When I get home from a run, I’m so glad it’s over. But I love that I have a good reason to take a hot shower, to eat some food and stretch. I don’t know about you, but it feels weird to stretch when I haven’t done anything! If the run is less than 6-7 miles, I feel energized. I feel proud that I can post proof of my run. It feels good that I got through the mental battles of “Should I run or not?” and “This part of El Paso is not pretty at all, and it stinks like dog crap.”

I wish I could be one of those runners

that just can’t wait to get out there,

that gets crazy taper madness (I so look forward to resting more in those weeks before a long race!),

that goes crazy during “zero week” (I enjoy every single minute of it!!),

that has energy to cross-train after running or on rest days….

but in a very strange way, the absence of running does make my heart grow fonder.

 

 

A mild setback

So, I kinda sorta thought I would run the New Mexico Texas Challenge Half or Full.. I think it’s gonna be the half. I ran a couple times this week, but as soon as I stepped off to run yesterday morning, my right knee was hurting. Not a 10 on the infamous “pain scale”, but enough that I couldn’t run on it. I walked back to the house, feeling utterly defeated. It’s like the world heard my proclamation on the interwebz that I WAS GONNA RUN A LOT, MAYBE AN ULTRA, AND ALL ELSE BE DAMNED. But that’s okay, it just means that I need to stretch, maybe slow down, and not run too many miles all at once. Derp.

Of course, this would happen on the same day I get my bee-you-tee-ful new NB Minimus in the mail… srsly. They are gorgggg. (Just kidding, I don’t say gorggg.)

This is unrelated, but I’ve had a revelation about social networking. I’m DONE with following or responding to negativity online. I get enough of that just by being a human on¬† Planet Earth; why in the world would I subject myself to it of my own accord?? I’m going to be pruning down my newsfeed(s) for sure.

Still long distance

I don’t know what’s happened in my brain in the past couple weeks, but I want long distance running to be a way of life. I want to¬†want to run most days of the week, and get antsy on the rest days. I want to challenge myself. I want to run an ultra.

I have to be crazy, but then that just becomes par for the course, right?? Anyone willing to run anything over 26.2 miles, either on the road or on a trail, has to be a little off-kilter. It’s the mental and physical challenge that draws me in, and the sense of adventure. The training for an ultra is simple: run. Lots and lots of miles.

KISS. Keep it simple, stupid. Tell me to, and I can run lots and lots of miles. I have a harder time following a specific training plan for a specific number of weeks with a specific amount of miles at a specific pace. Anything that requires a treadmill is gonna have to wait, because going to the gym is really not in my repertoire right now. I enjoy the gym, I have to make my workouts work for¬†me, instead of being a slave to them. I have a dog who needs to be run or walked every day, so it’s a win-win for us.

I’ve been dwelling too much on my past experience as a first-time marathoner. That was two years ago.¬†Two. It’s about time that I grieved that wonderful experience of training with an¬†amazing¬†running partner. There are few things that I’ve done or experienced that have topped crossing that finish line, let alone under my goal time. But I can make it happen again, with a new partner (my dog and/or my husband) and new goals.

It pains me that it’s taken me this long to figure out what’s been blocking that part of my brain that wants to run. I made all kinds of excuses. It’s hot here. It’s windy. It’s hard to find a [safe] open road to run on. We’re at 4,000 ft elevation. I have to get up super early to beat the sun. I have to take Missy running before the kids start walking to school so she doesn’t freak out. Excuses…

I’ve tried other fitness programs. And in the end, this is not about me being a certain weight or BMI or whatever other mumbo-jumbo is out there. This is about me preserving my body, saving my sanity, and making my training do the work for me, not the other way around. Running works for me. It’s cheap, it’s portable, it’s easy… just one foot in front of the other. The rest is gravy.

Biscuits and gravy. On a sunny Saturday morning after completing 12 miles I honestly wasn’t sure I’d do or not, and by 9 AM to boot. That’s the first long run on a Saturday morning I’ve done, besides races, since we moved to Texas. So, running and I? We’re still together.. and long distance works for us. It makes the heart grow fonder.