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 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
So I’m training for my first 50K and I’m excited. The adrenaline is overflowing and I actually look forward to getting up at 5AM these days and putting in ridiculously high mileage.
What’s up with that?
I also know it’s only the beginning of summer. The thermometer hasn’t even hit 100 yet. And every run so far has been like running in a steam bath. Every time I open the door I hit The Wall of Humidity.
But, somehow, it still feels different.
Maybe it was time for a change, a new goal.
One of the biggest changes I’ve made in this training cycle is to run five days a week, as opposed to only four (or even three) like I’ve done in the past. Consistency has been a problem, and led to some minor injuries.
The only other time I ran five days a week was when I trained for Boston two years ago. I was in the best shape of my life because of it, and because I ran consistently.
My weekly mileage for this training cycle will be higher than I’m used to, which means I’ll have to listen carefully to my body, eat well, and get enough sleep. My number one goal is to not get injured.
I’m incorporating yoga and strength training, neither of which I’ve done in the six and a half years that I’ve been running. I’ve been doing yoga almost daily since last November and I can tell the difference in my running. I have a lot less soreness in my legs, and I generally feel more supple and relaxed.
I also decided I have to get up early to run to beat the heat. This is major for me. I’ve never been a morning person, and for me to get up at 5am multiple times during the week can only be accomplished if I know I have someone waiting on me.
Therefore, I make sure I don’t run alone. The group core/speed workout on Tuesdays has been a great incentive, and Bill has been joining me for my Thursday morning hill runs when he can. This week I ran the hilly path alone, and still managed to get up early (albeit 30 min later than usual).
The thing that helps me the most, other than running with someone, is having a training plan. I’ve always made one in the past, but never followed it as consistently as I’m planning on following this one. I usually find one online or in one of my running books, tweak it, and make an excel chart. I color code it, too, to hold myself accountable. Green if I ran the miles, yellow if I ran less, red if I missed the run altogether.
I want to see all green on my chart.
Even though summer heat is my arch nemesis, I’m determined to keep a positive attitude about it. Nothing I do is going to change the fact that it’s hot, so it’s stupid to fight it. Last summer wore me down, and hopefully it won’t be as rough this summer.
I’m hoping my training continues going so well over the next 18 weeks. It’s a lot more fun than being mopey.