Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hitting the wall--and a longer run

I've been dreading the run that I eventually hit the wall. And now it's happened twice this week. This ended up being really long.

The first one I'm kinda embarrassed about--the run should have been pretty easy overall. The plan was to run the first mile as hard as I could. In Jeff Galloway's language, this was a "magic mile" run--the time it took me to run this mile would then be plugged into a formula to calculate how long I could run a half-marathon on my best day. After running consistently for the past 4 months, I really expected this to be a no-brainer. Before the run, I was playing with the formula and plugging in all sorts of numbers--I was giddy with the idea that I could run a mile in under 9 minutes. Ideally, I was planning on 8:30 minutes. After all, if I could run 8 miles a few weeks ago at a 10:40/minute pace, I could definitely cut off two minutes and push it harder for just one little mile--right? Oh, how wrong I was.

It started off with a little self-sabotage. I had planned on eating some breakfast Sunday morning, wait an hour or so for it to digest and then head out. The day was looking warm and sunny from inside, but was telling me that with the windchill it was only 34 degrees when I ate breakfast. I decided that I'd wait out the weather until it was at least 40 degrees with the windchill. That wait meant I waited an extra 2 hours before running and during that time I started to get hungry. Sadly, I don't have many snacks at home to limit my snacking, but I had recently bought some chocolate covered pretzels. I remembered during track (my one season in it) that pretzels were supposed to be a good snack to eat before a run--in fact some girls used to swear you could eat as many pretzels as you want before a run and not throw up. A little chocolate on top of those pretzels wouldn't do anything. And it was dark chocolate, the healthy kind. So, so wrong. Again.

The weather finally warmed up to an acceptable temperature and I geared up. I've been struggling during my outdoor runs to figure out how warmly I need to dress. I've got the bottoms figured out, but I've been gradually removing layers on top to find out what I need. Sunday was pretty good--some running tights (not insulated) and shorts with a long sleeve and short sleeve t-shirt. Probably didn't need both shirts, but it was nice during the warm-up walk to have the extra layer.

So, I walk to my starting point for the first mile. I had mapped out a mile that was flat and, although I had to cross some roads, none of them were busy and I knew I'd be able to keep running through. I hit the start button on my watch and took off. At a sprint. I slowed it down a bit, but before I even reached a quarter mile I knew I was in trouble. I could feel my stomach tightening up around those ridiculous chocolate pretzels, but I tried to just keep pushing it. "Just keep moving" became my mantra. Then a little after a half mile, I could feel that I was going to vomit soon if I didn't stop. I walked for a few minutes and then ran the last 0.2 mile. Very slowly. I finished that mile in 10:45. It sucked. I wanted to just walk back home and forget the other two miles I was supposed to run. I had had such high expectations for this run, I was going to prove to myself how far I had come in training and I blew it over some pretzels and lack of pacing. I did jog/run the last two miles (once I stopped feeling nauseous) and those went just fine. Lesson learned--start off slower than you think, no matter the distance.


Then the big run happened yesterday. A 9 mile run--which actually ended up being closer to 9.5 miles, thanks to Polly's inability to accurately measure distance after about 7 or 8 miles.

I'll admit, I was nervous about this run. Sure, I had run 8 miles two weeks ago, but the Sunday vomit run didn't help my confidence. Plus, since that 8 mile run, my right knee and shins have been a bit more of a problem than usual. A few runs last week were cut short due to the shin pain (I'm not ready to call them shin splints). I wasn't sure how my legs and knees would handle such a long run.

As I drove home from work, I noticed that the bike path around Lake Monona had also been closed off due to the construction going on. Part of my planned run had involved this path, so I had to map a new run when I got home. My goal was to be out running before 5:30 so that I could be done by 7ish, before the sun set. I quickly got changed and packed up my runner fanny pack with some full bottles of water, Sharkies, and my written map. Leaving my building, I was feeling good. I had finally dressed appropriately for the weather (an amazing 65 degrees! in March!) with just shorts and a t-shirt.

The first mile was rough, but I've learned to expect that. I need a mile or two to settle in and find my stride. I was feeling good, but I knew were the third mile was and it seemed to be taking forever to get there. My music is partially to blame...I've gotten used to the order. However, when I checked in with Polly, I was at my normal pace.

Miles 3-4 were awesome. The slight tweak in my shin was gone, I was feeling good. I took a short walking break right before the end of mile 3. I figured one walking break every third of the run was a good plan.

I was still feeling good through about mile 6. I had been sailing along and even though my knee was starting to bother me a little, it wasn't enough to make me worried. I stopped again for another quick walk break right after mile 7. I needed it. I drank some water and ate a couple Sharkies, but once I started running I knew I was going to be done soon. I could almost feel each step vibrate up my knees along my IT band to my hips. My knees and hips didn't really hurt, they were sore and tender. I knew the area I was running in and that I helped a lot. I would tell myself to just keep running until I reached the next street to turn on and then push again until the next street. Soon the end seemed in sight.

I forgot about the hill.

When mapping my run, I thought the last road I had chosen was flat. It was near the Capital (a hilly area), but I really thought it was flat. Well, driving and running give two different impressions. There was a huge uphill and I wasn't sure how I'd make it up without stopping, but I was so close to the end, I wanted to just keep running.

Suddenly, this "angel boy" comes running by me. I expected to be passed since I was going so slowly, but as soon as he was about 6 feet or so in front of me he seemed to slow down and run at my pace. It was like he was running along to motivate me up that hill--the natural competiveness as a runner came out and I wanted to keep up with him. Near the top of the hill, though, I kept moving more and more slowly, I just couldn't keep up and I expected him to fade away. But he stopped--and started walking! Now I was able to keep running, telling myself to try to catch up or maybe even pass him before he started running. And soon I ran right by him. Perfect. Now I had just a few more blocks until the end of my run. I thought.

Polly (I've named my iPod nano, not a second personality) wasn't ready, though. When I got to the end of my nine miles, according to (and Google), it claimed I was only at 8.55 miles. I have read that the Nike+ system tends to fail at accurately measuring distances beyond 6 or 7 miles, but I wanted to hear that I had run 9 miles. So, I kept going. I pushed the button every 30-45 seconds to find out how much further. My hips felt so tight it was tough to keep moving my legs forward. But I kept going--might've cut off a few cars in the process and given them angry stares, but I was on a mission to finish this run and I wasn't about to let some old lady cut me off and ruin my pace.

Finally, I pushed the button and heard that I had run 9.01 miles. It had taken me 1:39, but since that was really 9.2 miles, my pace ended up being 10:45/mile. I'll take it.

I felt vomity at various points during the walk home, but held it together. I quickly made my juice/sparkling water/salt drink and kept walking around my apartment. I wasn't hungry at all and still felt sick, but I made myself eat some dry Rice Krispies. I was starting to feel sleepy and cold--probably not good signs--so once I had finished the juice, it was time for the ice bath. This actually helped a lot. I'm not sure if the freezing cold water shocked me back, or just getting up and moving around a little was all I needed, but I wasn't tired anymore and started to crave french fries and all sorts of food. I decided that I needed to eat some good "real" food first before I could have fries--fortunately, I had some leftovers to eat. Jason came over to check-in on me and drove me to McDonald's for some fries. I inhaled them (while watching "The Biggest Loser"...I felt a little guilty and then remembered how awesome my fries tasted) and pounded some more water.

Today I've felt pretty good. At times I've had the feeling of "am I hungry or sick?". My knees are a little stiff when I get up after sitting for awhile, but my legs don't hurt at all. Yay, ice baths! And now I have two and a half weeks before my next long run.

And less than 24 hours til I'm in Miami!!


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