Friday, May 3, 2013

My Longest Run, Yet, and What It Taught Me

Long run yesterday.  Longest run to date.  Longest time to date.  Eight miles in 1:41:33 for a pace of 12:46.  I have to say, to those of you who regularly run 8+ miles per day, kudos.  Kudos, to you.  For a first timer, I ran the gamut of thoughts and emotions.  I went from high to low and back again, as though I was on a roller coaster.  For the most part, I stayed on the high side, but I had to work a few times to pull out of the low side.

Mile 1 was good, mile 2 a little less so because the trail we were on at that point was gravel, which, while softer than pavement and asphalt, is an energy sucker that left me feeling a bit sapped.  I got the spring back in my step once on the paved portion of the run, felt better and climbed the only real incline of the course with ease.  My heart rate stayed steady, which is what I was more focused on today, since I was going a distance over two miles longer than I ever have, though pace was also a factor in that I wanted to keep it right around 13 minutes per mile.

Heading into the third mile we were a couple minutes behind pace due to a little hiccup in the course in which we had to turn around and head back to take a different route.  I decided to file those two minutes away and focus on completing the next 4 miles at roughly a 13 minute pace.  Part way into mile 3, we took a turn on the path that led straight into a head wind.  Now that was interesting.  And hard.  My 14 year old told me at one point he was going to jump in behind me and draft for awhile, but that I could draft him later.  I laughed and asked him how that was supposed to work since I outweigh him by about 70 pounds and am, oh, say about a foot taller.  He just shrugged and smiled.  Kids.  You’ve just got to laugh.

We finally got out of the head wind as we began the loop back toward where mile three started and I noticed the skin of my thighs rubbing together.  I now have a really good understanding of the importance of using body glide when going on a long run.  Skin chafes.  It chafes fast.  I decided if I didn’t change my focus I was going to have a long walk back to our starting point, so I looked at clouds, I examined the contrast between the greens of the trees and bushes against the grayness of the clouds in the sky.  We had no sun today, which was a blessing in disguise, because between the wind and the clouds, it was wonderfully cool.  The change in focus didn't change the chafing, but it made the run more fun and rewarding.

As we made our way around the curve heading in the opposite direction from when we were running into the head wind, my son noted that we should have had the wind at our backs, but not so…it was blowing from the side and causing almost as much difficulty running as the head wind had.  We sure got our workout in on that open four miles of trail.

I was very pleased I did not have any thoughts about not being able to finish or wondering if I was going to be able to run that far.  Those thoughts have been present on many of my runs to date, but not yesterday, which seems to be a developing pattern on my long runs.  I don’t know if it is because of the easier pace and, therefore, a lower heart rate and easier breathing, or if it is due to more mental preparation beforehand than what I typically spend before my shorter runs.  I have a sneaking suspicion that it is a combination of the two, which tells me I need to spend some more time preparing myself for my other runs along with continuing to increase my VO2 max.

Overall, it was a really good run yesterday.  We made our goal time for the four-mile loop and then upped the pace a little bit over the final two miles until breaking into a sprint for the last several yards.  Not only did we make up the two minutes lost early on, we also made up about two and a half minutes over the last two miles while still maintaining a good steady pace, heart rate, and breathing.  The endurance of yesterday felt good.  It felt so good, in fact, I announced to friends and family on Facebook that I couldn’t wait to go for next week’s long distance run.  I have had time to rethink that proclamation and I decided I will relish in yesterday's accomplishment while allowing next week’s run to stay in next week, until next week.  No need to rush it.  My shorter runs and my sprint work are important.  My rest days are important, too.  I sometimes just have to remind myself of that little tidbit of truth.

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