Thursday, October 13, 2011

Life lessons from the long run

Last night I ran my longest run yet. Seven miles. This morning, I'm feeling every step of them.

Allow me to acknowledge, once again, that I run really slowly. Like really slowly. As in, if I had any sense, I'd be embarrassed by how slowly I run. As in, it took me about an hour and 50 minutes to run seven miles. As in, yes, it probably will take me well over two hours to complete the 15K I have coming up in November ... and yes, this terrifies me. You are required to hold a 15-minute-mile pace in the Hot Chocolate, and if I can't, I might not be allowed to finish. They won't withhold the chocolate, but I won't get the glory, either. Bummer.

So I'm working on that, trying to bolster my training with a little speed work on my shorter runs. As of today, I'm just going to be happy that I finished a seven-mile run. And while I was out there, I learned a few things.

  • It is so much more fun to run with a friend. I ran six with Diane over the weekend. I've run five with Linda, and another five with Jenn and Alex. And each of those runs were enjoyable. This one, on the other hand, was a chore. Few distractions make for a cranky runner.

  • Running at night means poop. Seriously. I can get up in the morning and crank out a training run with no issues, but when I run after work, generally about halfway through - regardless of my planned distance - I have to take a crap. Which is problematic when the sun is beginning to set and you have to be done before it gets dark or it's not safe. So last night I just kept going ... hoping for the best. It worked out okay - no code brown - but damn, I spent about two miles paranoid.

  • I like my water belt. I don't like that I have to wear it pretty tight up around my waist, though. I think it makes me look like the Michelin Man, but it doesn't chafe or bounce much when I wear it properly. So it allowed for seven hands-free, hydrated miles. Which is cool.

  • How I feel changes a lot on the run. I had good points of the run. I also had bad points. I had several - I think four - walk breaks. Let me describe the run, if you don't mind: We're losing daylight early these days, so in order to get the run in before dark, I had to head out immediately after work, if I wanted to do it outdoors. (And I did. Seven miles alone on a treadmill might kill me.) So I elected to run on the trail loop that goes around the hotel across the street from my office. It's about 1.62 miles around, so I did four laps, and then ran an additional quarter mile out and back; seven. The first lap was pretty okay, but by the time I finished it, I was sure there was no way I was going to complete it four times. Lap two felt good, although I was creeped out by the guys fishing who seemed to notice me every time I ran past. Maybe they were just pissy that I was rustling leaves and disturbing the fish; hell, I dunno. Starting out lap three, I took a walk break and noticed that I needed the bathroom. Hey, great! I also realized that my RunKeeper had stalled, so it was a really good thing that I knew how far I needed to go. Finishing lap three was challenging; I think that lap included two walk breaks. (And they were actually breaks; I think I almost stopped.) It was difficult, but by the time I got near the end of the third lap, I started to feel confident about finishing the run. Yes, it took that long to realize I could do it. Then, on lap four, that feeling completely disappeared. I started bargaining with myself - you can do the six and a half and just go to the car; you don't need to do the extension to get to seven. Come on; it's getting dark. You have to poop. Just go home. It was like an actual conversation in my head. "Yes you can!" "No you can't". "I can't pay the rent!" "You must pay the rent." Yeah ... angel v. devil. Angel won; I did it.

  • Fatigue is real. My legs really started hurting on the last mile or so. No surprise - I don't have very strong legs. So, mental note to self: work on that. Because fatigue sucks.

  • I can do it. Perhaps the most important less from the run is that, even though it takes me forever, even though I doubt myself the whole way ... I can do it. It might not be pretty, or easy, but I can totally do it.

So there ya go, the stuff I learned along the way to seven miles. And now I've reached a "step-back" period in the training plan. Blissfully, I don't have another long run until October 24, when I'll run eight miles. Then after that, the next long run is 9.3 miles on race day, November 5. I can do this.

Can't I?

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