Good day for a 15 mile run, right?
This run ended up being a FAIL, but not for the reasons I was expecting. We were up nice and early, but then we ate breakfast really slow and dawdled too much, so we didn’t end up at the trail until around 9:30am – when the sun was already beating down. But we were prepared with LOTS of homemade sports drink and ice cold water.
Casey is awesome and has re-arranged his running schedule so that he can do my long runs with me, and he does his on Tuesdays. I know, I am very lucky. :) The two of us set out with a strategy to ensure we would have water every three miles. And with that…
Lesson #1: Fueling/Hydrating During Runs
I get a LOT of emails from readers asking about the best ways to fuel and get enough water during long runs. I always wish I had a better answer, as this is something that I still struggle with myself. I know that for some people, carrying water on them is the best solution. I have tried the fuel belt, CamelBak, and just simply carrying a water bottles, and I absolutely can’t stand any of them. For me, the weight and sloshiness of carrying water is not an option – it drives me crazy. So instead, I choose to plan my runs around water fountains or water bottles.
Typically, I either leave a water bottle on my front porch and loop around to it, or I take one to the trail with me and leave it halfway along my route (keep reading…). While I know that other strategies have worked for many other runners, this just happens to be what works best for me. Today we planned to run out and back on a 6 mile trail, leaving a bottle at the 3 mile halfway point, and with water options on both ends of the trail itself.
We started off strong, and I felt pretty good. Yes I was DYING in the heat, but that brings me to my next lesson…
Lesson #2: Dealing With the Heat
This is another one that I struggle with, but I’m doing my best to figure it out run by run. Now I may get some criticism for this, but my personal belief is that you physically can run in any condition, as long as you are careful and well prepared. Today I ran 12 miles in 100 degree heat. Was it fun? No. Did I die or even come close to it? Absolutely not.
Knowing that it was insanely hot, and running half the time in full sun, I knew that the only way to have a successful run was to not over-do it and slow my pace. It is always frustrating to run slower than you know you can run, but in extreme conditions you need to adapt your pace to the environment. So today, despite my wishes to run faster, I stuck to a slower pace. I even took walking breaks! A lot of times I beat myself up for needing to take walking breaks, but on a day like today, I knew it was important if I wanted to finish the run and not bonk halfway through. Which brings me to…
Lesson #3: How to Get Faster
Another very popular question! Between my first marathon and my third marathon (we won’t talk about marathon #2), I shaved 46 minutes off my finishing time. How did I do it? A combination of the following:
Strength training – running is soooo much more than just putting one foot in front of the other. Doing weights consistently 3x a week gave me a very strong core and upper body, that carried me through the final miles when my legs had nothing left to give.
Losing weight – it should come as no surprise that the more you weigh, the more effort it takes to move your body. But the more I moved, little by little more weight came off, and with each pound I lost, my pace continued to drop.
Running with a fast partner – For many of my shorter runs, Casey and I would run together, and by having him (super speed demon) run with me it encouraged me to try to pick up my pace. I have never personally joined a running group, but I imagine they are helpful in a very similar way.
Make it hurt – This is probably my most important piece of running advice (not that you asked for it). So often I hear stories of people telling me that when they try to get faster they are out of breath, or their legs hurt too much, etc. – I know this sounds harsh, but here’s how I see it. Running is not supposed to feel good. A casual jog? Sure, that can be relaxing and nice. But training towards a specific pace or goal? That shouldn’t feel so good. You should be out of breath, and you should be hurting by the end – that means you are pushing your body to a new level. If running is comfortable, your body isn’t being asked to do something new. As you get faster and faster, your body will become comfortable with the new pace or distance – and then it’s time to push it faster or further once again. That is how you get better. You have to push your body to the limit.
Of course I am not talking about injuring yourself – that is an entirely different discussion. But you can tell the difference between an injury and just general discomfort, and discomfort is necessary to achieve your best results. I assure you, it is worth it for the way you feel both inside and outside at the end.
So speaking of discomfort, back to today’s run. We ran out to the 3 mile marker and left our water bottle on a bench – something I have done many many times. At that point I also decided I was sweating too much and didn’t want my sunglasses sliding off my face any longer, so I decided to leave them tucked right under my water bottle. I figured that leaving our things on the bench on a trail filled with many of our fellow runners and bikers on a sunny Sunday afternoon would be just fine. We carried on…
We reached the end of the trail at 6 miles stopped in a CVS for 2 bottles of ice cold water – one to drink and one to dump all over my head and body. We also grabbed some scary gummy bears for a little sugar boost. We headed back feeling energized from the sugar and cooled down from the water, and trucked along from miles 6 to 9. When we got to mile marker 3, I immediately noticed that the bench previously occupied by my beloved sunglasses and sports drink was now empty. Casey always tells me that I am far too trusting, but I guess I just like to hope for the best in people.
For some reason I got REALLY pissed. I was hot and I had already run 3 miles without water. On top of that,
my beautiful Anthropologie sunglasses had been stolen by someone with no soul. We stopped to walk and I did a bit of crying, dropping the f-bomb no less than 100 times over the course of the next ten minutes. The last 3 miles were slow and painful – I was really mad, thirsty, and my spirit was totally deflated. We did a lot of walking. Who just TAKES a water bottle and sunglasses? And WHY? Oh well…
Lesson #4: Don’t leave valuable things on public benches.
I guess this lesson was obvious. I just hate that on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and on a busy trail with no access to street traffic, I couldn’t trust a bunch of fellow runners and bikers to not steal my things.
We got back to the car at 12 miles, and with the heat reaching the peak for the day – 1oo sweltering degrees. I wanted documentation that I did, in fact, run – but couldn’t find it in me to smile.
Listening to my body, I knew I didn’t have three more miles in me at that temperature, so we called it a day and I quit my run after 12 miles. Overall result? FAIL.
But considering the conditions, and the fact that I was actually doing pretty well until I was violated by a thief, I was pleased to have successfully covered even 12 miles. Next weekend I will leave my house earlier, store my belongings locked in my car, and cover all of my mileage.