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Lessons from the First Evening Long Run

August 2, 2009

Our aquatic center has an archaic way of doing things. Because of this, the only way of signing the kids up for their swimming lessons is to show up at the crack of dawn–literally, six a.m.–and wait in line for your turn when they start taking kids at eight o’clock. You show up with your lawn chair and claim your spot in line. Since sessions run for two weeks, we go through this routine every other Saturday.

When we first did this two weeks ago, I shucked the long run. I wasn’t in training, and there was an outside chance I’d be running a race that evening*. But now, here we are. I am in training. And until the pool closes for the winter in October, I can’t afford to lose my long run every other week. Maybe if I was running 18 and 20 milers during marathon training, but not when I’m running 10 to 16 during half training.

So I decided I’d run in the late afternoon.

Now remember, I run in southeastern Florida. This meant I’d be dealing with some serious heat. So I hydrated all day, and then took some extra precautions. I packed an extra gel, ran with music for motivation, and even stashed an extra shirt so I could change halfway through the run–I hear a dry shirt does wonders for flagging motivation.

I also prepared myself ahead of time, just in case–and some runners may disagree that this was the way to go–because I was keenly aware that I might not have the energy to finish the 14 and I didn’t want to push myself beyond the point of reason. So I planned to put in some 9 or 10 in a northern loop, pass my car, then put in 4 in a smaller loop. If things were not going well, if I felt dehydrated or yuck, I could cut the run short and go home.

The first mile was fairly miserable. My pace was good; in fact I had to consciously push to get it closer to 10 minute miles. But it was hot–I could feel the sun beating down on me. As I got close to the end of that first mile I thought I’d stop for a potty break before I got any further–all that hydrating, you know. I stopped and on the way out decided to go ahead and wet my mouth; I wasn’t really thirsty yet but it felt refreshing, and I went ahead and got my Nike dri-fit hat wet too, just for cooling down. As Garmin trilled to let me know I was one mile in, a flock of pelicans went by overhead; I felt a second wind. As I kept running, I kept having to push my pace down, but the miles went by fairly easily. I kept stopping for a swallow of water or so every mile, but I knew the first 10 miles, at least, would be doable. I had my first gel at mile 5; I meant to have it at 4, like I did during marathon training, but there was no water available and I hate doing gels dry. I found myself stupidly surprised when I looked down to see my shirt completely soaked through at mile 7.

At mile 9 I went ahead and had the second gel since water was available; just half a mile later I was at my car, and stopped and left my sunglasses and changed my shirt. I felt well enough, so I set out for my last four miles. The first one of those felt good enough, and I stopped for water at mile 11. Leaving that water stop, though, things went south, and the last three were predictably difficult. I kept telling myself that three miles are such a short run I won’t run anything that short during the week. At the thirteen-mile mark I stopped for water and turned on my blinky light; it was decidedly dusk. I muscled throught that last mile on fumes.

In spite of the difficulty of those last three miles, they were, of course, my only negative splits–the rest of the run, my pace is all over the place as I struggled to maintain an appropriately slow pace for the conditions.

I’m thankful to have pushed to finish this afternoon run, because it will be necessary to do it again, several times during this season. It’s early August, and the worst of the summer is upon us. It’s likely this will be one of the worst of the afternoon runs–early August, and my first one, too; I’ll get accustomed to conditions and better trained to run through them.

And it also reminded me that running is about so much more than your legs. I was alone the entire 2 hours, 15 minutes of this run. I saw three other runners while I was out there, for a total of maybe two minutes. But I ran by myself. I did it because I determined I was going to do it. I picked the time I was going to do it, the best place to do it, and then drove myself out there and gutted it out. Sure, my legs had to run the distance, but my head had to be in there too. I think it’s why almost anyone can be a distance runner, even someone who isn’t physically gifted to run. If you can get your head in the game, you can run–and run far.

Now, recovery was tough. I got home close to 9 and feeling somewhat yuck to my stomach. Though I intended to have eggs and bacon for protein and fat, I couldn’t stomach the sight of food, so I had nothing but water and a Carnation Instant Breakfast. I woke thirsty a few hours later and had my standard watered-down cranberry juice. I thought about trying to run my regular embedded circuit-training Sunday morning run but I was just too tired. I probably would have been anyway, but not eating well after the run was certainly a factor.

So, recovery after these late afternoon runs will have to be improved. Any suggestions highly welcome.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 4, 2009 4:30 am

    long runs are often tough just for the fact that they are long! bring on the afternoon heat and it just hurts a little more. great job toughing it out – i think that says a lot more than your splits. i always have a hard time re-fueling after long runs. i’m rarely hungry! hello body, this is your day to PIG OUT, let’s eat! i would make sure to get in plenty of fluids – especially with all the heat. maybe make a smoothie and add in protein?

  2. August 17, 2009 8:55 pm

    I hate running in the summer heat and humidity. Glad you could tough that one out.

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