Tag Archives: Long runs

The Long Run

I’ve written about long runs before. But tomorrow, I attempt The Long Run — the only 20-miler I’ll be doing before the Marine Corps Marathon, per my doctor’s instructions, making this kind of a mini climax within my training period.

The first time I ran 20 miles, I remember thinking there was something distinctly different about it. Even when compared to other long runs, 20 is long enough to feel more like a hike or other outdoor excursion than a run. It requires more planning than any other venture during marathon training, and requires you to prep your body as you would for the full marathon. Here are the nitty-gritty details for this one:

Pre-run fuel: Roasted vegetable lasagna, homemade pizzatopped with farm-stand veggies, pumpkin-dark chocolate muffins. (I know … you’ve seen these before. Stick with what works, right?)

Route: Variation of the marathon course.

Tunes: Four-hour playlist almost done (playlist rule: always, always overestimate your finish time!). If someone can tell me how to copy and paste a playlist from iTunes, I can post it, like, yesterday.

Gear: Champion shorts. Ancient Reebok technical T-shirt I soaked in fancy sports detergent to get three years of stank out of it. It’s white, and is the exact replica of the pink one that used to be my lucky, go-to distance-running shirt, but that’s no longer wearable thanks to unremovable stank (seriously — it distracts even me).

Fuel: Water stops at memorials. Double espresso Gu and latte-flavored PowerBar gel obtained. Pre-run Luna bar ready, post-run Odwalla Protein Monster chilling in fridge. I’d make my post-run protein shake, but I’m going to be all the way across town, and want to be able to refuel sooner rather than later.

Weather: Looks. Freaking. Amazing. Overnight lows in the 50s, 60s in the morning. Yes, yes, yes!

Ego-boosts: My three previous runs. On Saturday and Tuesday, my early-morning five-milers in Florida came in under 8-minute miles, making me realize just how far I’ve come since hills ate my quads alive when I first moved back to the land of the seasons and elevation. Then, last night, I ran sub-8-minute miles on a super-hilly 5.5-mile course back home. No matter what pace my 20 ends up coming in at, I feel a serious burst of confidence knowing I can go fast, for me, on a pretty consistent basis.

Wish me luck not going crazy on my off-day leading up to it, and on the run tomorrow! Again, if you’ve got any last-minute playlist suggestions, leave ’em here!

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

A great long run, a tweak to my training schedule?

I’ve only trained for a full marathon once before, and for my runs of 15 miles or longer, I found I could only be comfortable with

An awesome long run on Thursday has let me consider the rest of my training schedule, which has highlighted some conflicts ...

An awesome long run on Thursday has let me consider the rest of my training schedule, which has highlighted some scheduling conundrums ...

a pace that meant I was doing more shuffling than walking.

That was in Florida in March and April of 2007, before the Nashville Country Music Marathon. I finished that marathon in 4:34 — roughly 10:30-minute miles — feeling fabulous, but with the sinking feeling that perhaps I was feeling a little *too* fabulous, and should have pushed myself harder somewhere along the line. To be fair, I ran and trained for the race in true southern heat — sometimes the blistering, soul-sucking kind. But still …

I’m happy to report that things are coming along a bit differently this time. Thursday marked my third long run during which I’ve managed a 9:30-minute-mile pace, quite comfortably, with negative splits at the end. Negative splits! Me! Who woulda thunk?

I mention this because my success on my 17-miler on Thursday has allowed me, for the first time since an old hip injury flared up this spring, to start seriously planning to run this marathon. This, in turn, has highlighted some weird scheduling conundrums I need your advice about.

My training plan calls for the following long runs: 18 miles on Sept. 20, 10 miles on Sept. 27, 20 miles on Oct. 4, 13 miles on Oct. 11, eight to 10 miles on Oct. 18, marathon on Oct. 25.

My life calls for a road-trip to see a University of Colorado football game in West Virginia Oct. 1, followed by a backpacking trip immediately after, which is really, really not conducive to a successful 20-miler. The weekend before, there’s a 10K I’d really like to run on Sept. 26, the Clarendon Day 10K. I feel comfortable running up to 17 miles on a weekday morning before work, since I make my own schedule, but 20 is enough to basically ruin any chance of productivity for the rest of the day.

So: How do we feel about me swapping my 18-miler and 20-miler? It would be nice to do the 20-miler exactly three weeks out. But it would also be nice to, you know, have a life. Plus, my husband’s helping a friend move the morning of Sept. 19, making it the ideal Saturday morning for a life-consuming long run. And a glance at my running log from 2007 indicates that I did my sole 20-miler that year five weeks out rather than three (thanks to a wicked case of food poisoning, but whatever).

What do we think? Would all hell break loose if I timed my only 20-miler a bit earlier than my plan calls for, or is this swap OK? Please, please weigh in on this — I need some affirmation!

In other news: After fears of rain nearly led me to postpone the aforementioned 17-mile run, it turned out to be dry, gorgeous, ego-boosting and uplifting — in short, everything I hoped for and more. I ran 17.15 miles in 2:43 — 9:30 minute-mile pace, with an 8:30 or two thrown in at the end. I went on Sligo Creek Trail again, creature of habit I am, with a few hills thrown in to avoid getting *too* much of an ego boost. I also tried a few new things, with varying effects:

  • Champion shorts from Target are my new true love. They cost $15. They don’t chafe, even on the longest, sweatiest of runs. Truly, my shirt chafed before my shorts. Buy these NOW.
  • Mocha Clif gel and I will have to go on another date to see how things go. The gels contain 50mg of caffeine a pop, which I’m a total sucker for (I dream of a day when gels will all contain carbs, caffeine and a wee bit of acetaminophen), and taste like Hershey’s syrup with a little bit of espresso. I like that they’re all-natural, but I might just like the texture of my tried-and-true latte-flavored PowerBar gels better. Jury’s still out.
  • Big bowls of frozen berries and my stomach are, from this point forward, forbidden to have contact the night before a long run. Seriously. My stomach isn’t even accepting calls from berries anymore. I told myself fruit was light enough to balance the high fiber content. Yesterday morning, my stomach informed me I should shut up and stick to the pizza, please.

Two other changes I’ll make for future long runs. First, I really do need to start my pre-run diet two days beforehand, eating roasted vegetable lasagna and homemade pizza rather than, say, burritos and bean dip two days out (true story). Also, I need to find a new lucky long-run shirt that doesn’t chafe on long runs. The one I wore in 2007 has a permanent stench after many, many miles and many, many races.

Don’t forget to enter my very first contest for a pair of Saucony ProGrid Xodus Trail-Running Shoes! All you have to do is post a comment sharing your best trail-running story at the bottom of this post by the end of next week.

11 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Prepping for a long run in the rain

I’ve prided myself in being extremely flexible with my Marine Corps Marathon training so far.

I'm running tomorrow, even if it looks like this when I wake up (but let's hope it doesn't!).

I'm running tomorrow, even if it looks like this when I wake up (but let's hope it doesn't!).

Not only did I start my long-run schedule late to accommodate a flareup of an old hip injury in May, I’ve been tackling long runs on weekday mornings to avoid pulling my husband and friends into the juggernaut that is a marathon-training schedule. Not that my life has been completely unaltered by my training: I’ve lobbied for shorter hikes on backpacking trips, like our jaunt through the Shenandoah last weekend. I’m trying to pull off a superhuman feat of fitting a tune-up half-marathon into my life before the race. And I’m planning to tackle my 20-miler for a Saturday, because I just can’t imagine rebounding from that in a way that leads to a productive work day after.

Everything’s been holding up pretty well. Then, along came this week, with the promise of rain into the weekend.

I’ve been planning my 17-miler for tomorrow morning for a couple weeks, with an off-day built in today, a pizza dinner planned for tonight and a massage booked for Friday to work out the kinks that are inevitable after sandwiching a backpacking trip in between a 15-miler and a 17-miler.

So rain or no rain, I’m going tomorrow morning. My Clif gels are out. My route is planned. My massage is booked, and I plan to earn that appointment.

I know: It’s just RAIN. If it rains on race day, I’m not going to skip the race. And really, I’d rather do a long run through a fall drizzle in D.C. than 90-degree heat in Florida, as I did when I trained for the Nashville Country Music Marathon in 2007.

And you know what? If things get really ugly, I can always do my last five-mile loop on the (gulp) treadmill.

As usual, wish me luck!

In other training news: Steve and I got to run with our Pacers Silver Spring running group for the first time since our month of travel in August. It was one of our old standard courses, a 5.6-mile version of the Alaska out-and back route (make it longer by retracing your steps on your way back) but it’s been so long since we’ve gone with the group, it still felt like a novelty. I ran it in just under 45 minutes, which works out to be about eight-minute miles — not what I expected in the least on my sore calves and quads from backpacking! It made me think of a quote that cracked me up recently: “A run is like a relationship; you don’t know how it’s going to go until you get a little bit into it.”

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

A long run done right

Last time I trained for a marathon, I got used to a one-week-on, one-week-off schedule for long runs. Meaning,

A little planning — including a mid-run energy gel — made for a great long run.

A little planning — including a mid-run energy gel — made for a great long run.

one week, I’d feel on, capable of pushing my body to its limits, thrilled by my own (relative) speed. The next week, I could count on cramps, exhaustion, joint pain that made me wonder if something was broken, and a constant stream of internal reminders that walkers cross the finish line, too.

This training cycle, I hadn’t had an “on” week yet. Even though some of my runs have been speedy (again, relatively — we’re talking nine-minute miles here) in the end, I hadn’t had a single one that felt fabulous and ego-boosting. That one came this morning.

I ran 15 miles on Sligo Creek Trail in 2:22. That’s 9:23-minute miles, and includes some truly quad-eating hills I worked in at the end to get me ready for the big hill that apparently comes at the end of the Marine Corps Marathon course. I’m thrilled with this pace, especially considering I was cranking out 8:30-minute miles before those hills (does that still count as negative splits?), but I’m even more thrilled that I planned and executed this run well — the success was no accident.

Here’s how my plan went down:
I started my carbolicious eating two days out, making roasted vegetable lasagna on Monday to enjoy all week, then eating just two reasonably sized pieces of homemade pizza the night before.

I took the day before totally and completely off. I’d been swimming before my long ones, but once I got to 13 miles, my body informed me, in so many words, that it would like some rest before I do THAT crap again, please.

I parked my car at my starting point, despite being totally able to run there. This let me stock the car with two huge Nalgene bottles full of water, plus a Power Bar double latte energy gel, to refuel. I needed to do this for the 13-miler, too, considering I did it in the summer heat. The baby water bottle (maybe eight ounces?) I stashed on my route seems pathetic, knowing how much better I feel today.

I ran five miles out to a water fountain, five miles back to my car for more water and energy gel, then ran five miles split between the trail and some killer hills in the neighborhood. Breaking the run into five-mile sections is SO important to me mentally! Sure, I could do the same thing with a point-to-point course, but literally being able to turn around at every five-mile mark made the run SO much easier to take!

Oh — and the perfect fall-like weather didn’t hurt, either. The unusually cool temperatures helped me appreciate the beauty around me: The creek gushing over rocks, the sky being almost unnaturally blue, the tree canopies seeming to take on a glittery green glow in the sunlight. That, in turn, helped me appreciate the usual suspects on Sligo Creek Trail — or any paved creekside trail for that matter: The other runners, the dog walkers, the bike commuters, the tai-chi guy on the tennis court, the painter-lady with her easel.

I came home and executed one constant in my long-run plan: A protein shake and an ice bath. Excruciating cold has never felt so warm and fuzzy!

Stay tuned: Recipes for my homemade pizza and new, improved protein recovery shake are on the way!

7 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

It’s that time again … already

Pre-run homemade-pizza dinner? Check. Leftover roasted-veggie lasagna for lunch? Check. New Champion shorts, National Half-Marathon shirt, blister-prevention socks, energy gels, laid out? Check. And my long-run route, a 15-miler this week, is carefully mapped in preparation for tomorrow’s journey.

Wait. Weren’t we just here?

Yes, it’s long-run time again. I’d initially planned to run with Pacers Silver Spring tonight and tackle my long run Thursday morning again to accommodate the weekend’s camping trip. The business that is my life has moved my long run up yet another day, and I took today off to prep my legs for tomorrow.

Despite the change in schedule, I’m a little better prepared this week than I was last week. For one thing, there’s the day off today — something I think is becoming necessary to avoid using up a precious drop of glycogen. Then, there’s the route itself: start at my car. Run five miles out to a water fountain/bathroom. Run five miles back to the car to obtain water (big, glorious Nalgene bottles full of it!), energy gel. Run 2.5 out, 2.5 back to the car. Pick up ice on the way home. The last part is the best — I typically just stop by the Giant across the street, then carry two 16-pound bags of ice home, about a five-minute walk. Is it bad that the lack of a five-minute walk juggling 32 pounds of ice makes my long run seem easy?

No matter. I’m heading out early tomorrow on what I’m sure will be one of the nicest running days of the year. Wish me luck!

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The infrastraucture of success

My long runs are getting longer, and planning for them is getting tougher every week.

This week marks my first 15-miler, the longest I’ll have run since before I hurt my hip in 2007. Last time I trained for a marathon, I did so to cope with Steve’s first deployment. This was both an effective coping mechanism for me, healthier than drinking lots of wine and cheaper than shopping, and a nice way to avoid the inevitable clash between my training and real life — both for me and those around me.

Even last week’s 13-miler took some orchestration. My cousin had invited us over for margaritas on Friday night, and we had plans to be in Solomons Island until late on Saturday. I got around being a party pooper in either case by waking up extra-early on Thursday morning to complete my long run then.

I’m employing a similar tactic this week, as we’ve been planning a backpacking trip to the Shenandoah for Labor Day weekend, like, forever. I’ll wake up even earlier this Thursday morning to make sure I have all the juice my legs need for the run. Whatever’s left over, I can use hiking (or maybe trudging) through the mountains.

Fifteen miles is long enough that it’s time to start thinking about logistics days before the run itself — setting up what I’ve heard referred to as “the infrastructure of success,” or planning life around a priority event rather than the other way around. I picked up eggplant, tomatoes and peppers from the farmers market last week to make my favorite vehicle for carbo-loading, roasted vegetable lasagna tonight, giving me guaranteed leftovers in case things get busy later in the week. I’m figuring out a route that lets me stash water in an easily available place — most likely a 5-mile loop I’ll drive to and then do three times, unlike last week’s out-and-back route that didn’t include a single water fountain. And I’ve stocked up on energy gels after discovering last week mine were all long expired. Do energy gels go bad, you might ask? I doubt it. But they taste so bad to begin with, I wasn’t about to find out mid-run.

Finally, 15 miles is long enough to start making annoying requests of friends and family members. That backpacking trip? Steve would likely hike twice the distance we’re planning — about 13 miles over three days — if it weren’t for my 15-miler this week and the threat of 17 miles next week. I’m even nervous about the 13 miles, and have identified “escape” routes on our relief map of the park in case my hip starts acting up. Poor Steve must feel like he has a toddler rather than a wife — I can’t stay out too late or walk too far, and I always must travel with water and snacks.

I’ve gotta believe Steve takes these sacrifices like a champ not only because, well, he’s a champ, but because he knows that running — specifically, training for a big goal-race like a marathon — gives me focus and purpose, no matter how the rest of my life is going, and forces me into the healthier habits I wish I had, anyway. It makes me a better, happier, friendlier and more peaceful person, which has got to be worth a truncated hiking route and a few early nights — right?

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Last long run!

My friend Sarah, a veteran of several (fast) marathons, gave me this advice about long runs while we were training for the Nashville Country Music Marathon: “The point is just to get through them. You don’t have to feel good. You just have to convince your body that you can go a little farther each week.”

I repeated this advice to myself several times yesterday, during my last long run before the half marathon. It was an 11-miler, not one of the 20-milers required for a full marathon, but it encompassed all the same ups and downs, sense of motion and serendipitous encounters that make long runs special.

I ran somewhere between 10 and 11 miles of the race course, which starts at RFK Stadium in downtown DC. The route goes by the Capitol, the Washington Monument and the White House, and between the pretty sights and the warm, fuzzy feeling I got from appreciating my new home town, I barely even noticed the miles slipping by. I passed other runners who were also clearly following the course. I spotted forsythia and cherry blossoms blooming for the first time this spring. Life was good.

Then, I hit mile five. Within about two minutes, the following happened: Steve’s iPod died; I realized I’d missed a turn on the race course, and took myself farther out of the way to make it up; and I realized that this course includes some hills that will eat your quads alive.

I slogged through the next mile, which was one, big, long, nasty uphill. It was so hard, I found myself adjusting my race goals in my head, and telling myself that there’s no shame in walking. And I would have walked right then, except I had reached some neighborhoods that weren’t the worst in DC, but that also weren’t the best. Is there any better motivation to keep going than to get away from the guy who’s yelling, “Hello, mommy,” which you can hear loud and clear since your iPod died?

I had also realized I had to find a restroom, and quick. I was OK until the horribly suggestive “P Street,” at which point the situation became really urgent. I dashed into a sketchy-looking 7-11 and asked, breathlessly, if they had a restroom.

Here’s where the run took a turn for the better. The clerk looked at my sweaty, dejected face and smiled.

“Sure, baby. It’s not open to the public, but you look like you need it,” she said, and pointed me down a dim stairwell, to a bathroom that doubled as a utility closet.

I headed out again renewed, and determined to make the last three miles of the run my fastest. The uphill was over, and the gentle downhill that came next reminded me that I’ve trained on hills, and that they’re supposed to be hard. I had a slight scare when I thought I’d missed another turn. But then, the most amazing thing happened.

A van pulled up beside me, and three dudes got out, holding stacks of posters. They started affixing them to fences and lightposts. They read: “National Marathon Race Course. Special Event Notice.” For the next three miles, I roughly kept pace with the van. It was like they were tough-guy flower girls at a running-themed wedding, decorating the aisle with these magical posters confirming I was headed in the right direction.

After the first few stops, one guy stopped and said: “Damn, girl! You’re keeping pace with us!” I smiled. Hey, it’s better than, “Hello mommy!”

I figure I ran almost 11 miles, and certainly not less than 10.5 miles. It took me an hour and 32 minutes — way faster than my usual long-run pace, however you slice it. And you know how sometimes, you finish a long run and realize you could have gone longer or harder? When I got done yesterday, I felt like my legs were going to fall off. It was awesome.

Next up: taper week, baby! Let the slackerdom and sloth commence!

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized