Monday, April 8, 2013

Learn to Love the Burn - Let Your Long Runs Teach You Lessons

Yesterday was long run day. If you're like me then you might look upon these days with both excitement and dread. Excitement because you know that you are going to get in your best workout of the week and torch many a calorie. Dread because you know that after a certain period of time you may be in what endurance athletes refer to as the "pain cave". That place where you would like nothing more than your GPS watch to read the goal time or mileage you want it to read versus what it actually reads.

Yesterday was one of those pain cave kind of runs for me. Thank god my husband/training partner was along for the ride! We didn't officially map our run route but we knew we were going for 3 hours and would need to be able to access restrooms, water and fuel for the run. We decided to park at Veteran's Park in Mentor and start there on their little wooded trail heading over to the Mentor Lagoons trails by Lake Erie. The trails were wonderful except for the island of dead fish, which was on our route too. Yuck!

We parked around 11:45 and got going around noon. We had eaten breakfast around 9 and then Steve had a Powerbar and I had a small apple and some coffee and water just before we started. My iPod shuffle nearly died as I used the restroom and forgot I had clipped it to my fuelbelt and it fell in the toilet! OMG! I thought you have got to be kidding me...I do not want to run for 3 hours sans music in a training run. I hurried and grabbed it out of the toilet (and yes in case you wondered it fell in before I peed!) and wrapped it in toilet paper. I am not sure how - but I was able to save it. Whew! So following that little fiasco we were off and running literally.

The first loop we did included some wooded trail by the park, a short amount of road over to the Mentor Marsh, a couple of miles by Lake Erie and some more wooded trail around the lake and then the same route back. We made it to the car to fuel up around 7 miles - just over an hour. At the time we both felt pretty good as the temperature was in the 60s (albeit very windy) and we were nice and warmed up. We fueled up and headed back out, this time on the bike trail on the Mentor roads from the park up to Lakeshore heading towards 306. Running on Lakeshore was not fun. Traffic was heavy and we just were not feeling it and were both hungry since we really didn't have a lunch before the run.

Around mile 11 we headed back and stopped at Dunkin Donuts to get a snack. We split a Diet Coke, Water and half of a multigrain bagel with peanut butter. While this all tasted wonderful it was maybe not the best idea to have that much in the belly. I spent the next 2-3 miles running with a sick feeling. Yuck! Good thing this was just a training run. I walked it off a little and we ran up the roads back to the park where we took in our last fuel and headed out around mile 14. We were aiming to get in 18. Despite our desire to just be done with the run, we headed back down to the lake and back to the park, wrapping up right around 3 hours. I tried to remind myself to love the burn. Not everyone is lucky enough or motivated enough to be an endurance athlete. We walked it off for a couple minutes and immediately split a Powerbar and some pretzels and water. After getting home we made a Raw smoothie with banana and some Udi's oil. Yum! It took me about an hour to feel totally revived.

You can learn a lot during these long training runs. Some things that I learned or was reminded of on this long run were as follows:

  • Running 18 miles with someone you love is much better than running it alone! Having Steve there is definitely a bonus for me.
  • Make sure you eat enough before your run or else you will suffer later. If you try to jam in the food during the run you will likely feel sick.
  • Be careful with your Ipod while you are using the restroom. I was lucky mine did not die but it easily could have! 
  • Just because your long run goes smooth the week before does not mean it will go smooth this time.
  • Even if you want to stop you can keep going. It is more mental than anything else. How else can people run these crazy long ultras?
  • I am lucky to be physically and mentally able to do endurance sports. Even if I will never be fast at the marathon I can get stronger, faster and go further! 
  • There is freedom and beauty and peace in running long even if you are in the pain cave. Seeing Lake Erie and smelling the fresh spring air and seeing the people out enjoying life was good.
  • The smell of citrus is wonderful when you are near two long-running, stinky runners or an island of dead fish.

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