Sunday, August 28, 2005

Sucessful Long Run - Long Version

As I mentioned briefly yesterday I had a very challenging, grueeling, but highly successful 36K/22M long run yesterday morning.

I guess the story begins on Thursday night, I had a restless sleep and slept about an hour less than normal. Friday night was a little better, I went to bed a half hour later than normal, but at least slept soundly. I woke up at 5:45 a.m., had a large bowl of granola cereal, then took care of morning business, suited up, warmed up and was out the door about 6:20. My goal was simple: run 36K at my planned marathon pace of 6:00/K (9:39/M).

It was really cool when I set out, around 11C/52F, I wore my longer CoolMax running shorts and short sleeve shirt and a thin running vest. My arms were freezing for at least the first hour that I ran, hard to believe this is August! Anyway I set out at a comfortable pace, finishing the two kilometers in 5:45 (a little too fast). I slowed down just a little and by kilometer 3 and 4 I was right at goal pace 6:00/K (9:39/M). By this time I was in the groove and held this pace almost without thinking about it.

For the first 20-30 minutes my stomach was sloshing around a lot and generally making me feel kind of queasy, a result of too much breakfast and water right before leaving. But as I started sweating this problem gradually worked itself out.

Generally when I run long I block out most thoughts and try to concentrate on my breathing, pace, and monitor any warning signs that may effect my performance. But for some reason I was thinking about everything but that yesterday as I ran the first half of my long run. I passed the 11K/7M point at around 1:04:30, almost at goal pace.

The next 6-7 kilometers I really don’t remember so well, I was deep into my thoughts I guess. Around the 18K point an older gentleman on a bicycle crossed my path from an adjoining one. I have met him almost every Saturday for the past month as I ran through. Last week he followed me for awhile and was asking about my running. He said with a more than a bit of sadness that used to run when he was younger but messed up his knees and can’t run anymore. He rode along with me for a couple minutes asking about my running plans for the morning. We approached the path he needed to head home so we said our goodbyes, and he wished me luck with my marathon. Friendly dude, it was nice having a little company.

I continued on, passing the 20K(12.4M) point with a time of 1:58:30, again almost exactly at goal pace! Somewhere along the 21-22K mark I started getting tired, almost the same point as last week. This kind of snapped me out of my daydreaming mood that I seemed to be in and I started concentrating on business at hand. I continued for another few minutes and kept getting more sluggish. I thought about all the mileage I still had ahead of me and I basically got mad at myself and started doing a self-analysis. I knew that I had it in me to finish the run without any trouble, my sleep had been adequate, I ate well the day before, I had a good breakfast. Than it hit – I had taken a maximum of 2-3 sips from my CamelBak over the last two hours plus – I was probably starting to feel the first signs of dehydration and glucose depletion. So I took a couple good deep swigs of energy drink from the CamelBak and picked up the pace. Every couple minutes for the next 10-15 minutes I continued to take a long drink. Eventually I could feel the power returning and was able to continue on at pace. Somehow through my daydreaming I “forgot” to drink regularly. Usually I start taking sips of sport drink every 5K(3.2M) after the 10K point. In Germany refreshment stands are generally set up every 5K during the longer runs (HM and M) so I train this way.

Somewhere around the 2½ hour point the mental workout started with a furry. I won’t say that I hit the wall, but it just got measurably tougher to keep putting one foot in front of the other. All the little doubts started popping into the mind (“Your pace is too fast!”), the lazy thoughts (“Cut it short today, you’ve run enough already!”), and every little cramp, twitch and itch seemed to be magnified a hundred-fold.

This is the point where nothing helps other than to just dig in. As each kilometer started to feel like a mile, than 10 miles I had to reach really deep. The kilometers pasted slowly by, at least I was still running at my pace. Finally I passed over the bridge spanning the railroad tracks that separate the running club trails from the normal trails that I run during the week. From here I knew it was about 8.5K/5.3M back to the house. I was still on pace, but I was fighting hard to keep it up. My legs were tired, but didn’t ache and throb like some long runs, I knew deep down I would make it home okay, but I was concerned if I would make at my desired pace.

Around the 31K/19+M point I passed the spot where the dog was nipping at my heels the other day. For some reason this sent a shot of adrenaline through my body and I felt new energy circulating through the blood. I rode this feeling for awhile saying to myself “Yeah I dare a dog to get in my way today, I’ll kick it’s butt!” I guess you get desperate for anything that motivates you at this point.

In any case my legs were sore, but I was running with a good adrenaline rush, the kilometers started to tick away, finally 4K left to go. It was getting tough, but with eyes straight I kept on rock steady. I picked up the pace slightly to 5:30/K (8:51/M), 3K to go, still maintaining 5:30/K. I passed by the tennis and soccer clubs on the edge of Spoeck our neighboring town, by the public swimming pool, the elementary school, right turn … 2K to go, pace still 5:30/K. I still can feel how hard this last stretch was, my legs feeling like lead, but my guts taking control and pushing. Along the fields, over the bridge spanning the local highway, 1K to go, pace 5:25/K!

I remember almost stumbling come down off the bridge, my legs were stiff, it was hard to pick my feet up. I was determined to finish this with my head up, I pushed forward, finally passing the mill and entering the edge of town. From there just a few hundred feet, around the church and I’m done. I broke into what felt like a sprint and “flew” the last hundred meters to my finish line in front of the house. Last kilometer 5:20/K pace. Whew, talk about being pooped!

I walked around the little square surrounding the church across the street from our house. My legs were tight, throbbing, the blood still pumping madly through the veins. I walked for maybe 7-8 minutes until the legs loosened up a little, than did some stretching. After elevating my legs for 10 minutes and taking a cool bath I felt pretty good! Tired to be sure, but no cramps or unusual pain, just normal soreness expected after running 36K/22M!

I finished the run in 3:30:13, which works out to a pace of 5:50/K, 9:24/M. My goal was 6:00/K, so I did a pretty good job holding the pace.

Post Long Run Synopsis

I wore my running shoes that I reserve for races, they are slightly lighter than my other pairs, I wanted to try them on a longer run before the marathon. I was curious if they had anything to do with my cramping problems with my first marathon. The answer based on my run yesterday is no. I did get a couple blisters on the inside of my right foot that I don’t get with any of my other running shoes so I need add some Vaseline at this point before the marathon.

I have been wondering about my 6:00/K (9:39/M) goal pace for the marathon. Almost every race calculator I have used (e.g. McMillan, Parrott Predictor) indicate that I should be able to run a marathon in about 4 hours, based on my half-marathon times. This is a 5:41/K (9:09/M) pace, very likely within the range of my current fitness. If I have a good day this is theoretically a possibility. On the other side I know how much effect just this small increase in pace can have if I’m NOT having a good day!

Although I have been doing extremely well on my long runs I still have the utmost respect for the marathon distance. Over the last 8 months that I have been training for marathons I have learned how my factors can effect performance and that I need to precede cautiously. My goal for the Baden Marathon on September 18, 2005 is simple. I want to finish strong, with head high and not a candidate for the First Aid tent. Although I will start out running my 6:00/K (9:39/M) pace, I refuse to put any time restraint on this goal.

Great writeup. I was with you all the way on that one. You did awesome and learned a lot.
Great post...and you were DID kick butt. Way to keep the pace consistent. That's a big key to success in the M.

I empathize with your pacing question - deciding if you should try to follow the calculators versus sticking with the pace you've been working at...I guess we both need to assess how we feel on race day and take it one mile at a time!

22 miles. Ho-lee.

That marathon has got nothing on you!
That's a hell of a long long run, Jack! At 22 miles,you've got to believe that you are going to do really well. I wonder if not having the camel back on you is going give you an added lift too. I know in races, it feels so nice not to have the fuel belt around my waist.

Its gonna be a great race, Jack!
Sounds like a great run!
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