I ran for three years before I had any desire to run a marathon. I thought people who ran 26 miles were crazy. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why anyone would want to put themselves through that much pain.
Six marathons later, I’m training for a 50K.
Training for a marathon and a 50K trail race are similar, but there are differences. I’m new to trail running, and it’s definitely not the same as running on pavement. Other than the obvious difference of concrete versus dirt (and roots, rocks, and stumps), I’ve been surprised to discover a few things I’ve never experienced in marathon training.
Run, don’t walk:
The biggest surprise happened this past Sunday, when my friend Hari and I ran 23 miles on trails. We started slower than usual. Complete darkness, no moon, and huge spiderwebs–with spiders–spanning the trail forced us to slow down. Later on we took walk breaks and walked the steeper uphills. The last few miles of the run, when I was bone tired, I was surprised to discover something I had never experienced before.
For the first time ever, even when I was exhausted and ready to be done, running actually felt easier and less painful than walking.
This was huge. My brain normally begs me to walk those last few miles of a 22 miler or a marathon–and walking feels good. This time I was not only able to start running again, it actually felt physically better. I’ve read about this from ultra-distance runners but never experienced it myself before Sunday.
Something salty, please:
I alternate drinking water and Gatorade in a race, but only because it’s there. I’ve never craved Gatorade in a race, even when it’s humid and warm, and I’ve never noticed it having any effect on my performance. On the trail, however, especially this summer in the extreme heat, Gatorade is like an elixir that brings me back to life. I keep it in a cooler with ice, and crave it’s salty sweetness until I get back to the car. It seems to make a difference in my running and energy level, so it must be replenishing my salt levels. Potato chips after a run are good, too, but not like an ice, cold Gatorade.
I’ll take dolmas with that pizza:
My stomach tends to shut down on both very long runs and marathons. I completely lose my appetite, so figuring out what to eat is a big concern of mine. On the trails, I’ve discovered that real food gives me much more energy, before and after the run, than GU’s, gels, and Honey Waffle Stingers. My best run so far was when I bought dolmas at the Greek pizzeria the night before and brought them on the run. They were easily digestible, tasted delicious, and seemed to give me much more energy. I had a sandwich after the run (my friend Susan’s post-run meal of choice) and felt great the rest of the evening.
Last week I didn’t bring real food and had the opposite experience. I ate only chocolate GU’s and Honey Waffle Stingers and could barely choke them down by the end of the run. I brought a sandwich for afterwards and barely made it through the first bite. Not eating enough made me feel sluggish and spent the rest of the day and evening.
Eating real food seems to give me the most energy, but it’s hard to force myself to eat when my appetite is gone. Maybe I should try pizza next time.
Rainy days and trail runs always get me down:
I never “zone out” on my long trail runs like I do on the streets. I focus so intently on the trail, and on not tripping, that it’s mentally exhausting. My legs feel amazingly great the day after my Sunday long trail runs, but my mind seems to take a beating. My Mondays, and sometimes Tuesdays, too, can be kind of gloomy. I feel like I have nothing left in the tank. My first run on the road after a long trail run always feels so easy, mainly because I don’t have to concentrate so hard.
I have to wonder if this is also tied in with figuring out the best nutrition for these long runs, or if it’s nothing more than extreme tiredness. I know it’s common to feel somewhat down after a marathon, so I’m wondering if it’s a similar syndrome. Any post-marathon depression I might have experienced in the past was merely a result of accomplishing a goal, and feeling somewhat aimless until I jumped into training for the next race.
Running is running, right? One foot in front of the other and just keep moving. Not quite. It’s not that simple, and moving up to a new level is teaching me that this old dog still has a lot of new tricks to learn.
9/6/11 – 6.4 MILES
It is finally, FINALLY cooler in Dallas! All day I wanted to get in a good run with the beautiful weather, but of course I couldn’t get my lazy butt up out of bed this morning when it was in the 50’s. I took a short walk at the lake to take some photos for a post, and noticed I had no energy. I decided to meet up with Bill anyway for a late afternoon loop around the lake to celebrate the cooler temps and get in a nice, easy run.
I struggled from the first steps. We had to keep slowing ourselves down–which made us feel good–but we had known our “fast legs” would kick in once the weather got cooler. We were pushing it, but I knew I shouldn’t feel as bad as I did, even at a slighter faster pace. I felt as if I couldn’t catch my breath, had no energy, and kept getting cold chills as I ran. My legs wanted to go, but my lungs were holding me back.
At the 4 mile mark, at the dog park, I had to send Bill on his way and turn around on my own. I considered continuing on to the other side of the lake, but didn’t want to hold Bill back, who was having a good run. I walked some on the way back, but managed to finish with a 6.4 mile run nevertheless. The cold chills continued, and I started to get a headache. I seriously had no energy to run longer than half a mile at a time.
Some thoughts on my downfall:
- I have been trying to cut back on my carbs and might have overdone it. I was trying to eat healthier and get most of my carbs from vegetables and fruit, and cut out rice and pasta and sugar. I’ve done this before, and it always makes me feel tired. Maybe trying to cut out so many carbs in the middle of marathon training is kind of a dumb idea. (You’d think I’d know this by now.)
- I think the wind and cooler temps might have dumped some pollen in the air. Also, the wildfires may have affected the air this afternoon. I only smelled smoke once on the run, towards the end, but last week ragweed was high. I rarely have asthma, but something was definitely messing with my breathing. Running with asthma usually makes my legs feel dead.
- We ran at 4:30PM. Even though it was only 84 degrees or so, way cooler than we’re used to, the sun was still pretty intense that early in the day. It was noticeably cooler in the shade, but full on sun was tough.
Michael chastised me about my low carb eating (again) and made pasta with red sauce for dinner. Hopefully it will do the trick and I’ll be back on track tomorrow. I’m looking forward to some rice next!
Stats: 6.4 miles @ 9:24 pace, 1.6 mile walk
I’ve been trying to eat better this summer. As a matter of fact, I’m always trying to eat better. I think I do fairly well, but I have one really big vice: SUGAR. There is nothing more glorious in the world of food than brownies or chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven.
I have a terrible sweet tooth, and it’s at it’s most extreme when I get into high mileage running while training for a marathon. I especially crave sugary desserts the closer I get to my 20 milers.
Oh, who am I kidding? I crave sugary desserts when I’m running 3 milers, too.
I’ve always had a sweet tooth. When I was a kid I used to save our coke bottles (in those days they were glass and you could return them for a deposit), strap on my roller skates, and take them to the 7-11 a half mile or so from our house. I would spend ever single cent that I got back from the deposit on candy, returning home with a bag full of Tootsie Rolls, Sugar Daddys, Jawbreakers, and anything else that caught my eye.
I came across this video of Jack LaLanne, the Godfather of Fitness, on The Primal Blueprint, a website dedicated to eating more like our ancient ancestors. I used to watch LaLanne every morning during summer vacations when I was a kid. His fitness show was broadcast from 1951 to 1985, and and was the longest running television exercise program. He passed away this January at the age of 96.
I think I can cut back on just about everything on his list, except that #11, soda pop, will be the hardest. I only drink one, ONE!, Dr Pepper a day, but I really look forward to that can of liquid candy at lunchtime. It’s been a week since I had my last DP, and just thinking about it makes me want one. I’m thinking of what I can do to reward myself.
Does this mean I have to give up my 90% cocoa supreme dark chocolate, too? This could get ugly . . .
I guess I truly am addicted.