Sunday before last, I went out for my long run. 8 miles on the schedule, no biggie, about two hours for me on hilly trails.
It sucked. I was just out of gas. The muscle strength was there I just couldn’t make my legs move. At one point I just stopped. Stopped walking, because I surely wasn’t running. My dog, Archie, looked at me. He wasn’t tired. I didn’t want to move anymore. I did move, it was two miles back to the car and sometimes it helps to have zero options.
As I was running it was hard to pinpoint what was going on. I was so miserable and tired. I spent a few days dissecting the run and that is where the smarts come in. No run is “bad.” Some are much harder than others but in all things, it is the most challenging experiences that can teach us the most. I unpacked the whole weekend to figure out why a run that I should have been able to complete if not easily, then at least feeling decent was a death march for the three miles.
What I Learned:
The Long Run starts the day before. And the day before this run I was at my aunt’s wake. The day before that, an old friend died unexpectedly. I wasn’t sleeping well that weekend.
Lesson 1 – Never underestimate the effect of emotions on your body. Emotional exhaustion = physical exhaustion.
At the wake I was happy to see my family and sad for the occasion. I dressed up. I wore heels and make up. I danced to the bagpipes with my toddler (yup, proper wake!) Jumping up and down in heels carrying 25 pounds of little girl doesn’t make for a good lung run the next day
Lesson 2 – Stay focused. I lost my future focus (see lesson 1) and was completely in the moment. It was fun but I paid for it.
There was a light lunch at the wake. I didn’t track how much I ate. We ended up eating a late lunch at 3 PM and got home at 4:30 PM. We were all tired so I turned on the TV to watch some Thomas the Tank Engine. The next thing I knew it was almost bed time for Pip so she had a dinner of Joe-Os and raisins and I didn’t really have dinner at all.
Lesson 3 – Fueling is a constant. When I don’t track what I am eating and ensure I get enough protein, my body does not have what it needs to carry me and no amount of wishful thinking can change that.
I tried a new fuel on my run. This I knew was a risk. I was trying out eating dates as fuel. One date every ten minutes equals about my gel consumption.
Lesson 4 – Dates don’t work for long runs as fuel.
The recommendation for dates as fuel came from a bicycling website (Loving the Bike). Digestion is different for cycling and running so that might account for why the dates didn’t work very well. The dates not only did not provide me the energy to run, they also gave me a bit of GI distress, which is something I have been lucky enough to avoid for my endurance life. They stuck in my teeth, so I found myself drinking more water than usual to try to rinse my mouth out. They tasted alright but overall they do not get a pass. Maybe for a future bike ride or hike I will try dates or dates mixed with other dried fruit and see how that goes down.
Lesson 5 – Scheduling is important
If I could have not run long on that day, I would have. September is booked up, socially. Every weekend has at least one social commitment. The weekend before the tough run was a fall back week, the weekend after had even more social commitments. I had to get the run in on this day and I should have tempered my expectations. Disappointment is really powerful. The expectation that I would be running at a specific pace set me up for a negative jolt when I saw how slowly I was going.
Lesson 6 – it’s all good.
That run took ~2:45 for 8.5 miles. The good part is that I toughed it out. I didn’t give up. I was tired and I kept going and I’ve developed mental toughness. The physical endurance is built no matter how slow you go. I’ve learned a lot from the run so the difficulty, the fatigue, and the hurt are not wasted.
I know what went sideways for this run. The trick now is integrating that and staying focused on what I want. I want to run and race well. So no more high heels until the holidays, keep fueling, keep sleeping, and recognize when maybe it’s time to take a break or maybe just when it’s going to be a tough day.