I’m told that everyone has a “bad run” at some point during the training season. Up until yesterday, I really hadn’t had a bad long run. Even the runs where it was really hot or I felt a twinge of pain in my extensor tendons, I muddled through and I finished strong. Yesterday was the first day that I really felt defeated by my body.
I was supposed to do 16 miles, but I ended up only doing 14. I’m not sure of the exact cause of my problems, but a variety of factors may have contributed. To start, I had only had five oft interrupted hours of sleep for each of the two nights leading up to the run. Two nights prior to the run, I had gone and had one too many libations, and woke up with a mouthful of sawdust. While I spent the entire next day guzzling electrolytes and H2O, I still didn’t feel 100 percent awesome on run practice day. Also, I’d been training a lot more during the week, with the added swims, runs and the extra day of Pilates. While I had rested all day Saturday, I still didn’t feel amazing in the morning. On top of that, it was already scorching hot by 7 a.m.
To shift the odds even further away from success, two members of my pace group who paced the same as I did were not at run practice. The group that I was in suddenly was comprised of members of a higher pace group, and one gal who was from New York, who just joined our team. We started out at a pretty speedy clip (about 8:45 pace), and, by mile 3, I was feeling a little outmatched (my usual pace is about 9:30-10:00). By mile 6, I had fallen about 10 seconds behind the group, and that gap continued to widen. By mile 10, my legs were seriously quitting.
Mile 10 wanted to kill me. My legs felt as though the hamstrings had completely disintegrated. The spring in my step had sprung out and I felt as if my feet were dragging along like some sweat-drenched version of Quasimodo. If zombies had been chasing me, I would have been a feast, for sure. I struggled through another two and a quarter miles to the next team aid station stop, then I rested with a few teammates who were also suffering from the heat or lack of training. A few of us rested up at the aid station for a few minutes and then ran two miles back to the starting point. Surprisingly, those few minutes of recovery were all I needed to get back to running my normal pace, and finished, just fine and dandy!
Sometimes defeat is a great lesson. I learned quite a few things from this run:
1) Pre-hydrate at least two days in advance of long, hot runs (that means no boozing it up on a Friday night, if you have plans for your big run on Sunday).
2) Sleep well. Get at least 8 hours one one of the two nights before your long run.
3) If you’re running with a group that is heading out too fast, either tell them to slow down (which I did, and it didn’t work), or drop back and start out at your own pace. You know that saying, “It’s better to be alone than in bad company?” It’s better to run alone than in a group at a pace that is too fast.
4) Listen to your body. If you’re having trouble following a rigorous training regimen and find your muscles quitting or giving out, take an extra bread day or couple of days. Rest can make you stronger and faster.
5) During a long run where you’re feeling tired, take an extra walk break or stop and stretch. It can work wonders to help you to recover and finish strong.
I didn’t go to swimming this morning to let my body recover from yesterday. It’s hard to take a break when you want to keep going, but, sometimes, you have to just let yourself go, just for a day. Recover, eat, relish the rest.
Next week is attempt #2 for 16 miles. No biggie, I got it covered this time!