Last long Training Run, Mud & Weird Mantras!
I haven't been great at keeping up to date with my blog because - well to be honest juggling home life, a trip back to the UK and running the moms running group, organizing runs & sponsorship as well as keeping up with the marathon training has just left me completely maxed out. I've also found myself quite frustrated that my blog is a place for me to share and write about my running journey (and feedback and interaction would be lovely but I know that takes time (and a working RSS feed usually helps!) but I had been spending an inordinate amount of time trying to learn the ropes of keeping website ticking over, trying to get my head around HTML code and designing it/ trying to get it working blah blah blah. It is seriously – MUCH harder than it looks! So, that’s why it fell but the wayside for a few weeks (okay - over a whole month) even though I have had lots to share. Sorry folks! So without boring you all to tears... the roller coaster of training HAS continued and here's a summary...
So February - It snowed... on and off... but A LOT compared to what I’m used to! Even on days when I think I could have managed a run in the cold or leftover slush, school delays and closures made it really hard to predict my schedule! Ugh!
For those of you who don't know my story so far; briefly, a family holiday walk at Carderock at Christmastime turned into a bruised ball of my foot, which got worse with continued training - after a week off and possibly running lopsided in an unintended effort to protect it as I returned to running - I strained a muscle in the same ankle! - phew up to date. So, after another very disciplined couple of weeks off running and focussing on cross training, spinning & yoga, I was feeling pretty positive that I wouldn't have lost too much fitness and so started back again on my plan with a couple of short easy runs on the treadmill to see how things felt. All felt good so my first run out on the road again was 10 easy paced miles with the Rock and Roll Training run team. It was hit or miss whether it would take place at all because of all the snow and ice but we managed it - just! It felt weird to be outside again not only because it had been a while (okay lets be honest - it felt like freakin' forever even though it was little more than 14 days), but it also felt weird on my ankle on the hills and I was REALLY nervous about whether I was doing the right thing heading out.
Whilst not running I did a lot of thinking honestly about my marathon goal. I had really set my heart on achieving a time goal of 3hrs50. That figure wasn't plucked out the sky, but was based on research, speed training and the finish time I achieved in my last half marathon. Up until I hurt my foot walking, I had managed to get some fairly consistent speed training in through the winter months so despite being told that the first marathon should really be about finishing, up until now, I had quietly had my heart set on this goal. However, 2 or 3 weeks off plan mid training has most certainly given me a bit of a shift in focus. I’ve worried, cross-trained, worried a bit more, cut my weekly mileage, whinged, sulked, panicked and chatted to LOTS of people about their own experiences. One lovely lady I met on the running machine next to me at my local gym told me she had met Jeff Galloway at the Expo for her first marathon and that he had said if there was one piece of advice he could give for first time marathoners, it would be to focus on enjoying the race, soaking up the atmosphere and finishing it injury free rather than adding the pressure of expecting to finish in a certain time. I’d heard this advice before, but in my hour of emotional need, it actually struck a chord and I thought, you know what,perhaps I should actually listen to this advice! That’s right! There are plenty of marathons, this will be my first and I need to get there healthy!
So I the following week I ran a medium run and my last long run ….22 miles.
I was excited. I knew I was good to go and I felt strong. The rest my ankle needed, I gave it. I prepared my gear for the run as though it was race day:
I usually do my Loooong runs on a Sunday so my boys can stay at home with hubby & chill, but today I was dropping them at school and meeting my long run marathon training buddy Amy who is also running the full Rock 'n Roll. I knew it was going to take most of the day (by that I mean most of the school day), because I was starting so much later than usual. 9.30am was the plan but with DC traffic and by traffic I mean TRAFFIC, we ended up starting late. So we headed out and it was SO MUCH warmer than other winter training runs of late. I think it was mid 50’s – whatever it was, I was warm enough to run in a tank top which was pretty weird as in days leading up to this run (when we were obsessively checking the weather, there had been snow & ice everywhere - I still can't get used to the fluctuations in temperature here in DC!
So what did I learn from my Looooong training run
It’s a good idea to create a route that loops past your car at least once. This wasn't my idea and to be honest I was skeptical even though I didn't show it because I was worried I might feel the urge to quit as I passed my car but it worked really well for me in the end and I'll tell you why:
chaffing….. OOOH holy hell - the chaffing! It was B.A.D! I’ve had the odd lost toenail since I started running but otherwise, not even so much as a blister never mind any serious chaffing but today – ALL THAT CHANGED.
Bathrooms: - We had chosen to start where there were some porta-potties which was a bonus -say no more
Run with a friend…Whilst I have done some long runs alone (the longest was 17), it is true that the miles really do slip away when you are in good company. Not only that, you are there to support each other, both logistically (more of that to come), & also mentally through the highs and lows and I think we both needed each other to push each other on at different points (and sharing our slightly random but much needed mantras really helped too). This was one of my mantras - don't know why it works for me - but it does!
I'd heard that it's a good idea to use the looooong runs to trial a) fueling and b) hydration plans to see if they work or need tinkering with for the next long run and ultimately the race.
a) Fuelling - I had read a lot of advice in books and online about how to fuel for longer runs so I decided I would carry enough gels for me to fuel every 5 miles. I stuck to that and it worked for me and didn't upset my stomach (thankfully). I really really don't like the texture of many of the gels (too snot like for me)! and I am NOT a fan of sweet stuff either (chocolate aside) which makes tolerateing them in my mouth is hard, but I haven't found anything different that gives me the effect & essentially works better for me yet so for now, I have worked out a way to tolerate them by washing them down with a heap of water. I think I will continue to research other brands and types of fuel but for now I am happy with what I'm using.
b) Hydration - I started out with Cambelbak XCT Octane which is quite big (and heavy when its full). The weight doesn’t usually bother me even when I don’t train with it very often but because it was MUCH warmer than it had been, I was running in a tank for the first time in ages and became aware of some chaffing developing on my shoulder after only 5 or 6 miles. It was agony by the time we’d done only 10. I was surprised to be honest, having used the very same hydration pack throughout last summer with no chaffing to speak of at all! It was so bad that I had to ditch the pack altogether at the car (hence I was pleased we had looped back past the cars after all - good planning but I can't take the credit for it - another reason to have a good running buddy), and so from then I was reliant on my buddy who let me use one of her bottles on her belt that we refilled at bathrooms on route. Not ideal for either of us but VERY supportive of her and I am sure I’d have really really struggled to keep going for 22 miles with the pain from the already nasty chaffing if she hadn't been around.
So having ditched the hydration vest, onward we went and enjoyed the run. In places with the snow having melted quickly, it was muddy and I completely wiped out at about 14 miles! I mean completely! I think I tripped over a tree root but thankfully it was a really soft landing so I didn't hurt myself (and Amy didn't laugh either and it must have been funny - so she passed the buddy test)! I did have to run the next 8 miles with my hands and from my thigh to my ankles covered in mud though - NOT FUN -Yuck! I either looked ridiculous or hardcore -can't decide, but either way I kept going.
So I did it.. (well actually WE did it)! We got to the end ......I was thrilled and was in a much better place mentally knowing my last long run was done! I knew I would struggle mentally with the lack of running in the taper but at the same time I was ready for it. 22 miles was my longest run to date and boy I was STARVING! There was a banana & PB bagel with my name on it and I needed to get back in time to stuff my face with it before school pick up!
Have you got a race coming up and are you planning to taper?
Do you have a mantra that gets you through a tough run?
Have you found the right race fuel for you - and if so how long did it take you?