Friday, March 1, 2013

Boston training - those stinkin' long runs

We're six weeks away from the Boston Marathon, which makes me feel excited, nervous, unprepared, tired, and wired.  And that's all in the span of a single run!  Luckily we have a great group of girls all training and supporting each other, making the long runs just a little more tolerable.  All week I look forward to the weekend to meet up with my friends for a run, and then halfway through, I can't remember why I was so excited to see them. Honestly I'm surprised we're all still talking to each other after spending so many painful, exhausting hours together!

After the Disney Marathon I had taken almost a week off of running because of a really bad head cold.  When I did start running again, I found that I was very lethargic.  I felt fit, but just so tired.  Every run was exhausting.  Even 3 miles.  I couldn't  believe I had just run a marathon, was training for another, and I wanted to bail on a 3 mile run.  Two weeks after Disney I did a 10 mile run in some bitter cold and although my feet were hurting still from Disney, I did okay.  Jess, who I ran with, said, "wow 10 miles must feel like nothing to you now".  Actually, yeah 10 miles still seems like a long run!  Man, this just doesn't seem to be getting any easier!

The following week, on February 3, the Boston-bound girls decided to run part of the course.  We wanted to get in 16 miles, and encompass Heartbreak Hill.  So, we started in Framingham at La Cantina restaurant and ran to Boston College.
Excited, just about to head out!
Something was off right from the beginning with me.  I wasn't super-energized like I had hoped to be.  Starting off, I certainly didn't feel as though I had the energy needed to run 16 miles.  By mile 6 I was already tired, and by mile 8 I had to find a restroom, stat!  I hopped into a gas station quickly, and then caught back up with the group.

Running through Natick, trying to keep up!
I started getting further and further behind, and fortunately someone always fell back to run with me.  Finally at Heartbreak Hill I started taking walk breaks.  My plan to start slow and finish strong backfired, and I was completely spent by the end.  After finally reaching BC, we stopped into Dunkin' Donuts where I got a turkey-bacon-cheddar sandwich, which has since become my post-run go-to meal.  On the drive back from Newton I reflected on the run.  I wouldn't consider it a "bad run", I just couldn't keep up with everyone and felt tired right from the beginning.  Every run is a learning experience, so I needed to figure out what was happening.  Jackie said she felt a lot of it had to do with the stress I was under at work.  At the time I thought she was wackadoodle, but I've since changed my mind about that.  I was a little discouraged though, not because of my pace, but just because of the way I felt.  Everyone else seemed to have a great time and couldn't say enough good things about the run, and I honestly didn't like it at all.  I felt like something must be wrong with me.  Why is everyone so happy and I feel like junk?  When everyone started talking about "the next time we run this course" I decided I wanted no part of that.  I think sticking to local roads for my long runs is a better idea for me, where it's okay if I get left behind or need a short cut or a pit stop.  The stress of being worried about getting too far behind, lost, or injured out on course was too unpleasant to go through again.
The following week we had the blizzard, so I only ran a couple short runs and missed the long run altogether, although a few die-hards got out there in the snow.  Not me.  I was too wiped out from plowing and shoveling.  I managed to get in some snowshoeing, which was quite a challenge in 2-3 feet of snow!
The week after the blizzard we scheduled an 18 miler close to home.  I ran a few short runs that week, and then met Jackie, Coleen, and Kerri on Saturday.  I felt rested and fresh at the beginning of the run, took a few Clif shot blocks in the first few miles, and then switched to Perpetuem for the rest of the run.  

The fresh snow was kind of refreshing!

Aside from running out of water at mile 13 (but Jackie's mom's house was right nearby for a refill!) I felt really good.  It was a complete 180 from the previous long run.  My legs were tired at the end of course, especially with the hills in the last few miles, but I honestly felt pretty good at the end.  What a huge confidence booster!  Hey this running thing ain't so bad!

All smiles after 18 miles!
Since this run was so much better than the last one, I felt like I should think about the reasons why.  Here's what I came up with:

  • The 16 miler may have been too close to Disney
  • The stress in the days leading up to the 16 miler probably did impact my energy level
  • I didn't eat enough before the 16 miler

Click here for a view of the 16 mile run on the Boston course

Here's what I did better in the 18 miler:

  • I ate better before the run (2 mini bagels and half of a banana)
  • I was not stressed in the days leading up to the run
  • I was much better fueled with the Clif blocks and caffeinated Perpetuem

Last weekend was the Hyannis half marathon, so it was kind of nice to do a "short" run on the weekend!  Still, I ran that harder than I would normally run a long run, so it was a good workout.

Tomorrow is an exciting day - I have a hair appointment in the morning, and Jackie's fundraiser party at night, so I knew there was no way I was going to get in a long run.  Coleen, Julia and I all decided to take the day off and do our 18 mile run.  Although I was really looking forward to running with them this morning, I was a little worried because I just didn't seem to have the "get up and go" I was hoping for.  We met at Jackie's house with the intention of doing the same exact route we had done two weeks ago.  We started off really strong, probably faster than we should have, but it was a nice day and we were enjoying it.  Then around mile 6 I started having some serious tummy trouble.  I toughed it out for a while, but at mile 7 I asked them if we could stop for a minute.  I was hoping that if I just stopped for a couple minutes that would be enough to settle my  bowels, but it didn't help.  We contemplated options.  There were plenty of woods, but no toilet paper.  What a rookie mistake!  Julia reminded me that 11 miles was a really long way to go, so we better find another solution.  Since my house was 2 miles away, Julia made the executive decision to run to my house.  Only 2 miles, sure, I can make it. As we ran, I thought about what caused this sudden stomach problem, and started realizing it probably had something to do with the unusually large volume of carrots I ate yesterday afternoon.  It also occurred to me that I didn't have a house key with me, so I was really hoping someone would be home.  Which meant, obviously no one would be home.  I scrambled to find an unlocked door or a spare key with no luck, and started casing the house for unlocked windows.  As it turns out, I'm really good at securing the house.  Eventually I made it in the house, using a little tactic I like to call "What Would Gloria Do".  (Gloria is my clever mother).  Relief!  And yes, I do believe the culprit was carrots.  (You're welcome for the visual).  We headed back out and had to call Jackie, who was planning to meet us out on the course at the 13 mile mark.  Since it was 9 miles to my house, we decided to just backtrack the same exact way back to Jackie's.  This is where I got really, really tired.  I was so thankful to see Jackie at mile 12, and then she continued to leap-frog us all the way to mile 17.  There were several points along this stretch where I wanted to give up, but seeing her on the side of the road kept me going. This was not one of my best runs, but I was thankful when I got to her driveway and proud of myself for not giving up.  I still managed to average a 10:20 pace, even with being so drained.  I am starting to think the training is paying off, and if nothing else, I am getting really good and running when I'm really tired and just want to give up!

When we got back to Jackie's house, my brain died.  I could no longer speak.  When everyone asked how I was feeling, I said, "mm. uh. eeeh".  We then staggered into the house so we didn't get too cold.  Jackie asked if we wanted anything to drink and I said, "purple" and sat on the kitchen floor.  So she gave me a grape Gatorade.  I drank it all, and started to slowly come back to life.  Then I got up and changed into a dry shirt and played with her dogs, and felt more normal.  I voiced my concern about how I'm going to deal with Boston.  I've demonstrated several times now how mushy my brain gets after a long run, and luckily each time I've been at someone's house or I've had friends nearby to steer me in the right direction.  I'm worried that I'll end up kidnapped or something worse after I finish Boston.

After we all came back to life, we headed to a little coffee shop in the center of Upton where we all had awesome sandwiches and coffee, laughing about the silliness of our run today and already planning the next one.  It's a good thing us runners have a short term memory for pain!

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