Sunday’s 20 mile trail run wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t even remotely cute. I seemed to do everything wrong.
As I walked the last two miles back to the car, feeling miserable and sorry for myself, and slightly unhinged from the 97 degree heat, I started making notes in my head. Here are some of the things I wish I had told myself before the run:
- Don’t run 20 miles when you have a stomach virus. You’ll feel miserable, won’t have enough energy, and your overall confidence in running long will plummet.
- Less than six hours of sleep two nights in a row doesn’t cut it. You need more rest than that, even if the Olympics are on.
- Don’t go into a 20 mile trail run with a sore quad, even if it means taking an extra day off during the week. It will only feel worse during the run, especially on the hills.
- Don’t wear a hydration vest with a racer back tank top. Really stupid idea. Mid-back chafing hurts, and you’ll wind up slinging the backpack across one shoulder the rest of the run.
- Don’t forget to apply copious amounts of Body Glide. Stepping into the shower after the run will let you know all the places you forgot about.
- Slow and steady gets the job done. Find your own pace and stick with it, even if you get left behind. Don’t worry about keeping up with anyone else. Listen to your body and trust what it’s telling you.
- Nutrition is more important than you think. If you don’t eat well, it will especially show up in your long runs.
- When you’re not on your A game, pay even closer attention to the trail. If you don’t, you’ll trip and fall. If you feel tired or fuzzy-headed, take a walk break.
- Don’t beat yourself up when you have to walk the last two miles. At least you finished. It still counts, especially on the trails.
- Have cold beer at the finish. Just knowing it’s waiting at the end will keep you going, even if you aren’t much of a beer drinker. Gatorade is almost as good, too.
In hindsight, I did what most runners do. We put our heads down, hope for the best, and get the job done. There’s no shame in that. There will be better days.
*Photo by: By Mary Hollinger, NODC biologist, NOAA (http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/line2365.htm) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
This week I definitely felt the effects of three weeks of a build up in mileage.
MON: Yoga (lower body and upper body) – 40:00 – Running rest day – Am getting a little bored with my regular yoga DVD, so I decided to try another one for lower body, abs, and upper body. I did the lower body section, then half of the upper body. I still can’t believe how good I feel the day after a 16 mile run. I almost don’t feel like I needed a rest day, but I need to be smart. I’ll push myself the next three days, and there is the 18 miler on Sunday.
TUE: Run – 4.21 mi, core/strength workout, yoga (twists) – 20:00 – Tuesdays are exhausting. I started at 5:45 at the SMU track, ran 1.25 miles while the rest of the group arrived, ran 2 tempo-ish miles in the neighborhood with the group, then came back to the track field to start our core workout. Oh boy, this means burpees. Each of four core sets is followed by a fast lap around the track. Today was a sweat fest, with 92% humidity. After the core workout with the group, I came home and did an upper and lower body strength DVD, then twenty minutes of yoga. I’m beat!
WED: Trail Run – Oak Cliff Nature Preserve – 6 mi, yoga (back bends)- 20:00 – Ran on the Oak Cliff trails for the first time. I really enjoyed these trails. The ground is soft and doesn’t have as many roots as Grapevine or Rowlett. Hard to believe I grew up just a few miles from there. As for the run, I felt a little sluggish all day, and could tell I was still somewhat fatigued, maybe from yesterday’s workout.
THU: Run – 4.7 mi/hills, upper/lower body/abs strength workout – 47:00, yoga (forward bends) – 20:00 – This was the first day in six weeks I briefly entertained the thought of bailing on getting up so early for a run. Only the thought of my friends being there got me out of bed. Even though it was tough, I was glad I got up early for the run. As always, it was a great hill run. Felt a little bored with the strength and yoga workouts, but was also glad I stuck with it and got them done.
FRI: Yoga (hip openers) – 35:00 – Running rest day – Today I didn’t feel as restless as I usually do on my rest days. Maybe it’s because I know I’m running 8 miles tomorrow and 18 on Sunday, and both days will be hot and humid. Time to turn the brain off and just plan on getting the job done.
SAT: Run – 8 mi – East Dallas – Cooler temps but still humid for our 8 miler from Liz’s house on the east side of the Lake. Running in the sun was tough. I’m definitely not used to that. Kept a 9:24 average pace, and it felt very comfortable. Anxious about tomorrow’s 18 miler on the trails . . .
SUN: Trail Run -18 mi – Grapevine – A great, though exhausting, 18 mile trail run. We got lucky with the temps (only in the 80’s), but it was humid enough to nevertheless make for one of the sweatiest runs ever. I ran this run on very little sleep, as the next door neighbors decided to play loud music, first in their backyard around the pool, then on the front porch, until 11pm. Running 18 miles on two nights of little sleep means heavy legs, especially towards the end. I’ve never enjoyed finishing a run more.
STATS for WEEK 6: Run – 40.9 miles, Yoga – 2:00:00, 2 Core/Strength workouts
I love my training plan. It’s a fairly conservative first timer’s 50K plan with three days of running during the week, followed by two back to back longer runs on Saturday and Sunday. After three straight days of running, yoga, and strength training, making it to Thursday feels like a Friday.
Early Tuesday morning is a combo core/track workout. Even though Monday is a much-needed rest day from Sunday’s long trail run, sometimes I’m still fatigued. Getting up in the dark when it’s hot and humid, to go run 5K pace repeats and do burpees and pushups, takes sheer willpower. Knowing I’ll be sweating it out with the group is the only thing that gets me out of bed.
Wednesday’s 7:00pm longish run is always fun because of our large running group, even if it’s guaranteed to have temps in the upper 90’s-low 100’s. Dinner and beer afterwards is a great incentive.
This, however, makes an early morning Thursday hill run even more challenging. With less than 12 hours between runs, it almost feels like a two-a-day.
Getting up early on Thursday mornings to beat the heat is tough, especially when I almost always get to bed late the night before. Sometimes it’s tough to cajole and talk someone into meeting me nine hours later for another run, especially when there are hills involved.
Some Thursday mornings the only thing that gets me up is knowing tomorrow is a rest day. Knowing I can take a nap later in the day makes it easier as well.
Waking up on Friday, I almost always feel restless, like I should be doing something. I tried doing my second strength workout on a Friday, but felt like it didn’t give my legs enough rest for the back to back Saturday and Sunday runs. Something has now turned into yoga, which seems to give my legs enough rest and enough stretching to be beneficial for the long runs.
Getting to Thursday always feels satisfying, just like getting to the end of a work week. It means I’ve made it through the meat and bones of the running week, and the payoff will be good, strong runs on Saturday and Sunday.
Another great week of training. Despite the high temps and extreme humidity in the mornings, I managed to get in all my runs and strength workouts. Even better, I had two trail runs this week and stayed on my feet the entire time. I could really feel how much stronger I felt on the trails, and felt more confident about my footing and stability on the rocks, roots, stumps, and other assorted hindrances that seem to jump out at me when I run. The strength training has a lot to do with feeling stronger on the trails, but consistent training still probably makes the biggest difference of all in training.
MON: Yoga (standing poses and hip openers) – 40:00 – Running rest day. My legs felt surprisingly great after yesterday’s 14 mile trail run, but I did feel fatigued when I woke up. I can also feel the tendons in my lower legs, near the ankles, that are adjusting to be used so much in running. My knees don’t look as bad as I thought they would today after falling twice on the trail run. I dreamed of trail running last night.
TUE: Run – 4 mi, core/strength workout, yoga (twists) – 20:00 – The day started out worrisome with a strange tweak in my left leg, just above the knee (I actually first felt it Monday afternoon). Everything disappeared during my first mile on the track, so I guess it just needed to be loosened up. Very humid, but despite the fact that my body feels fatigued from Sunday’s trail run, it was a great workout. The repeats on the track felt easy, and it was my fastest overall average. My first strength workout a month ago I could barely do 3 push ups; today I did 15 without stopping.
WED: Trail Run – Rowlett – 6 mi, yoga (back bends)– 20:00 – Great early 4th of July trail run with a huge group of friends. First trail run where I did not fall down! I really needed to have a fall-free trail run after falling twice on Sunday. Barely made it through my yoga workout because I was so sleepy from two very early days. Spent the rest of the day almost entirely on the couch, napping and catching up on the Olympic Trials. I’m not much of a couch potato, but I really needed this lazy day!
THU: Run – 4.4 mi/hills, upper/lower body/abs strength workout – 47:00, yoga (forward bends) – 20:00 – Met Bill and Hari for our Thursday morning hill run, and added on a few extra hills. Felt strong the entire run. Muddled through arms, legs, and abs weight training at home, then some relaxing yoga. I love finishing up on Thursdays mornings because I know I have tomorrow off. I love running, but I do also look forward to my rest days!
FRI: Yoga (sun salutations and hip openers) – 35:00 – Running rest day – Woke up feeling very fatigued. Decided to do some sun salutations and hip openers to stretch out and prepare for another hard weekend of running. 16 miles on Sunday makes me scared.
SAT: Run – 6 mi – Plano – Great run with the WRRC running group. Another hilly route, but I felt strong despite the incredible humidity. A dip in Lauren’s pool afterwards, plus breakfast and mimosas with the crew, was again the best part of the run. Feeling nervous about tomorrow’s 16 miler at Northshore.
SUN: Trail Run -16 mi – Grapevine – Tough run, but we got it done. Heat, high humidity, getting lost the last 4 miles, and struggling with the heat were the main obstacles of the day, but I felt strong most of the run. I didn’t fall, and can tell I’m generally stronger and more confident on the trails. All in all, for me, an excellent run.
STATS for WEEK 5: Run – 36.6 miles, Yoga – 2:15:00, 2 Core/Strength workouts
Early on the morning of the Fourth of July, a large group of runners converged at Rowlett Creek Preserve for a 6 mile trail run. It was hot and steamy, but everyone had a great time.
Still bruised and scabbed from Sunday’s trail run, I celebrated staying on my feet the entire run.
It was a good day.
This summer I knew I would have to come up with a good plan in order to force myself out the door and into the sauna we call summer in Dallas. Part one of the plan was to run early in the morning. Part two is to run with friends.
These two small actions have been an overwhelming success so far. Getting up early to run hasn’t been as painful as I thought it would be, mainly because of the second part of the plan: running with friends. If I know someone is meeting me, and I’m not going to be running alone, then I have a responsibility to get my lazy butt up out of bed and not leave them hanging. If they can do it, so can I.
Knowing that it will also be much cooler than later in the evening is another huge incentive. I have one evening run on Wednesdays, when I meet my running group. We start at 7:00pm, and the temperature is usually pushing the 100 degree mark–or above. Misery loves company, so knowing others are willing to get out there and run in the sweltering heat means I have no excuses not to join in. Running in Death Valley temperatures makes it somewhat of an adventure.
In the summer, knowing a cold beer will be waiting for me afterwards is usually enough of an incentive to keep me going. Sharing it with friends who’ve also sweated gallons beside me on the run makes it that much better.
I am incredibly lucky to have so many running friends. Most of us started out running around the same time with a local running club. We ran our first half marathons, then our first marathons together, became pace leaders and coaches with the club, then splintered off to form our own running groups. Some got involved with triathlons, some with trail running, and some with running ultramarathons. No matter what we’re doing now with others, we still come together to run.
I used to run mostly solo, especially during the week. I loved the time to myself, to ponder life and the things I struggled with at work, but now running alone is more of a chore than something I look forward to. Quite simply, it’s just not as much fun to run alone.
Running with friends keeps me:
- Motivated: If we’re training for a race together, I know they will help me get through those runs we occasionally have that don’t go the way we planned. If I struggle in a run, I know they will push me if they can. If I have a bad run, I know they’ll understand and make me feel like the next run will be better.
- Sane: I know the miles will fly by as we kid each other, laugh at the dumb things we do, push each other, gossip, complain about our aches and pains, and catch up on what’s going on at home. We may give each other a hard time and make fun of each other, but it’s only because they’re like family.
- Accountable: If we’re all training for the same race, they’re going to know when I’m not being consistent with my training. It will show in our runs. Peer pressure is alive and well with me and my friends, and I know they’re going to call me out if I say something stupid or start acting like I’m the next big thing.
- Humble: They are all amazing athletes. I can only take their advice and follow in their footsteps and hope to be half the runners they are.
- In stitches: My friends are funny. They’re also gross, uncensored, unflinching, and will say just about anything. “What’s said here, stays here” applies on every run, so there’s never any need to hold back on being outrageous. And when we’re not running, they throw good parties.
There are other reasons I run with friends. Sometimes they buy me breakfast when I didn’t bring any money, let me crash in their rooms at destination races, and run with me when they really don’t feel like it–just to keep me company. Mostly, running with friends is something I always look forward to. I might have to talk myself into running alone, especially in the summer, but if I know my friends will be there, the battle’s already won.
* Photo courtesy of Kevin Roberts
This past Sunday our small group of trail runners headed out for our third trail run, this time at the Rowlett Creek Preserve in Garland, TX. It was hot and humid at the start, with not the slightest breeze, but the trees kept us shaded for most of the run. This was vital since we were running 14 miles–our longest run so far on the training plan.
It was the best trail run yet, despite the fact that four people fell (and I fell twice). The trail itself was mostly flat, with less roots and rocks than either of the other two trails we’ve tried. There were, however, a lot of small stumps, and that’s what took me down the first time. I try to stay attentive when I run on the trail, and make a huge effort to pick up my feet, but I still don’t have the hang of it. The injuries were minor, mostly road rash, but it’s still no fun to suddenly find yourself headed face down for the dirt.
I was very nervous about running 14 miles on the trail, especially since our longest trail run up to that point had only been 7 miles (and felt like 20). Heather was on vacation the previous week and we rearranged the training plan so she wouldn’t have to miss out on the 14 miler. It was very clear to see on her face just how tough a hot, sweaty trail run can be after a week on the beach in Mexico. She did great, though, despite her own fall at the very end of her run.
All week the topic of our conversations was SNAKES. Rumor had it that the preserve had been overrun with copperheads this summer. Thank goodness we took Hari with us. Watch the video to see his solution to the problem.
Back home after the run, I felt similar to the way I felt after my first half marathon. It was that much of an accomplishment for me, and I felt great. Trail running is certainly challenging, and it felt incredibly satisfying to make it through the run and still feel so good afterwards.
This was a tough week. My body woke up from its coma of denial that I’m really training for a 50K trail run. This week it struggled to adapt to the increased mileage, core and strength workouts, and the high temperatures. I didn’t eat as well as I should have before my weekend long runs, and I didn’t get enough sleep. I learned the hard way this week how important rest and good nutrition are in training.
I made three trail purchases: Brooks Pure Grit trail shoes, a Nathan Intensity Hydration pack, and a pair of Tifosi sunglasses.
MON: Rest – Started the day by stepping on the scale, like I do every Monday. Shocked to see I was two pounds heavier than last Monday! I’m seriously hoping this is an aberration. No soreness from yesterday’s trail run, but the ankles and Achilles felt like they had been through a good workout. Felt antsy all day, like I should be working out, and I had to keep reminding myself that rest days are just as important as running days, that I won’t get stronger unless I rest.
TUE: Run – 4 mi/incl speedwork + core/strength workout, yoga – 40:00 – Tough workout this week. Slept poorly, woke up tired, and tendons around the ankles felt tweaked from Sunday’s trail run. I just wasn’t at my best. I felt off. I know this is merely the result of my body (and mind) adjusting to the increased workouts. Yoga: Forward Bends and Twists.
WED: Run – 6 mi easy, yoga – 45:00 – My body doth protesteth. Very sore and achy in the morning, so I did a longer yoga sequence focusing on back bends and stretching the legs. Felt much better afterwards. Evening run with the group was tough. It wasn’t as humid as it’s been, but it was 95 degrees. Legs felt good on the hills, but I’m still simply physically tired.
THU: Run – 4 mi/hills, core/strength workout, yoga – 20:00 – Getting up after last night’s 6 miler was no fun. Gutted it out for a hilly, humid 4 mile run with Bill and Lauren. Felt really tired. Came home and did core and strength, then relaxing Forward Bends yoga.
FRI: Core/strength workout, yoga – 20:00 – Running rest day. Boy, did I need it! Hip Openers yoga in the afternoon.
SAT: Run – 8 mi – Sunnyvale – Worst run ever. A fail of epic proportions. Hot, humid, and hilly. Didn’t eat dinner. Started out too fast. Didn’t get enough sleep. Had to walk the second half, especially up the hills. Miserable. I even felt chilly during the run, so I suspect a small dose of heat exhaustion. I’m going to have to start earlier than 7:00am. It’s just too hot. Today was a good lesson on what not to do on a semi-long run. Jumping into Kevin’s pool afterwards, though: heaven!
SUN : Trail Run – 7.23 mi – Big Cedar – I’m dubbing the trails today “The Tetons of Cedar Hill.” It really was that challenging. Some of the hills today were hard to walk up, not to mention run up, because they were so steep. This was one of the toughest workouts I’ve ever had. This made last week’s trail run look like a walk in the park. Fell once, at mile 1, and almost tripped over roots twice–both times going steeply downhill, which would not have been pretty. I was cursing the uphills most of the way. There was one one flat, magical mile or so where the trail was soft and smooth, with no rocks or roots. I could have run on that section all day.
After Saturday’s horrible run, I was not Pamela Positive. However, once I was done and sitting in the shade with an ice cold water, I felt great. Time to do a lot more strength training and get my quads and calves in better shape. New trail shoes were so much cushier on the rocks than the Nike Free’s, and I liked the water pack much more than fuel belts or hand held bottles. Since I was holding my new sunglasses when I fell, one lens is already scratched up. <sigh>
STATS for WEEK 3: run – 29.2 miles, yoga – 2:05:00, 2 core/strength workouts
This week my mind and body are holding a protest. It’s week 3 of 50K training and they are not happy.
It’s to be expected. I haven’t worked out this hard since . . . well, ever. Even training for Boston I didn’t do any core, strength, yoga, or track work. I focused on hills, tempo runs, and mileage only.
Monday was my rest day. I take my rest days seriously and did nothing athletic the entire day, not even yoga. I really do feel strongly that I need at least one full day off to give my body a chance to rest and regenerate.
I’ve always read that rest days are necessary to allow the muscles, tendons, and ligaments to repair themselves, and therefore get stronger. I’ve seen many running friends get injured because they pushed too hard with the mileage and didn’t take enough days off.
I was grumpy all day on my rest day and felt tired, even though I got plenty of sleep the night before.
Part of this could be an adjustment to getting up much earlier to beat the Texas heat, and not going to bed as early as I should–meaning, I’m simply not getting enough sleep.
I felt antsy all day, like I should be running or working out. I slept poorly that night, and dragged through the track, core/strength, and yoga workouts. I felt sluggish all morning. I finally ate something small, then did something I rarely do.
I took a nap.
Miraculous! I rested only 45 minutes and felt one thousand times better afterwards. I’ve always struggled with taking a nap during the day (believe me, I wish it was otherwise). I felt so refreshed, even though I don’t think I slept at all.
I have to remind myself that I’m working out harder than I ever have. My training this past year has been wildly inconsistent, so I’m determined to stay focused and stick to my training plan.
All of this makes me thankful that I’m following a 20 week training plan. By doing so I’m giving myself enough time to work off of the base I’ve already built up, and ramp up comfortably to the much higher mileage.
I know it will take a while for my body to catch up with the new demands I’m placing on it. And in order to make that happen, I’ll need a lot of rest.
The mind and body may protest now, but by October 20th I expect to be in my best shape ever–and ready to kick some serious trail dirt in Palo Duro Canyon.
Another great week of training in the books. Since we’re following a hard week/easy week plan, this was our first easy week. The core/strength workouts are starting to pay off, and I can feel how much stronger I am this week than last. Most importantly, I had my first official trail run–and loved it.
MON: Rest – Did nothing athletic. Zilch. Nada. And loved every minute of it.
TUE: Run – 4 mi/incl speedwork + core/strength workout, Yoga – 40:00 – Went 15 min early and got in a mile before the group’s 2 mile warm up so I wouldn’t have to run it alone at the end (and to beat the heat). I didn’t run the speedwork laps quite as fast as last week (8:04 as opposed to last week’s 7:57), mainly because I don’t want to get injured. Whereas last week I could barely do three pushups, this week I could do eight in a row. That’s still pretty puny, but it’s a start. I definitely felt stronger. Went home and did yoga: Forward Bends and Twists.
WED: Run – 4 mi easy, Yoga – 20:00 – Yoga (Back Bends) in the morning, then met the running group for the Run My Hood hosted by Ann Marie and Greg in their neighborhood at 7:00pm. The skies were dark when we left home, but it was mostly just hellaciously humid and hot. I was glad Bill, Hari, and I only ran an easy 4 miles. Mexican food and beer afterwards was the reward. Came home to a disaster zone one block from our house, with leaves covering the ground and broken car windshields and house roofs. The culprit: softball-sized hail. We were lucky to have missed that by a block!
THU: Run – 4 mi/hills, Yoga – 20:00 – Ran the hilly path at the lake by myself at 6:30am. Despite the heat and humidity, kept up a fairly good pace (9:08 average). Running hills is one of my favorite workouts. Came home and did yoga: Forward Bends.
FRI: Core/strength workout, Yoga – 20:00 – Running rest day. Did core and strength exercises from the Tom Holland Marathon Method book, then yoga: Hip Openers. I’m actually starting to look forward to crunches and planks. Sick.
SAT: Run – 4 mi – Run My Hood hosted by Hari in Allen. Only ran 4 easy miles, but it was very humid and warm and we walked some. Great breakfast afterwards with the group. Decided not to do yoga and rested instead.
SUN: Trail Run – 6 mi, Yoga – 20:00 – Our first trail run! Ran at Rockledge at Lake Grapevine at 7:00am, joined by Melissa, Julie, and Susan. Met three women in the parking lot also doing their first trail run, so we had a good group. It was nice and cool on the trail, but Bill tripped over a rock and fell at mile 1.7 and I tripped over a root and fell to my knees at mile 1.85. It was hard work, but fun. We were all exhausted and felt like we had run at least 10 miles instead of 6. I was nodding off on the couch before 9:00pm.
STATS for WEEK 2: Run – 22.3 miles, Yoga – 2:00:00, 2 core/strength workouts
NEXT WEEK: Another relatively easy week since Heather is out of town.