Monday, March 26, 2012

In The Long Run: A Matter of Time

Now that I'm many, many weeks into my training program, my long runs are getting, eh ... longer. Much, much longer. A lot of non-running folks (and even Husband, who runs, but isn't a distance runner*) are blown away at the idea of spending more than 3 hours running.

Saturday's scheduled run was set for 3 hours and 50 minutes. And I did it. I completed the entire run and happily logged 21.1 miles into my various digital record keepers. This run exceeded my longest run to date by 50 minutes and 5.35 miles.

Any coach or marathon training guide will tell you that the runs will get long and you have to budget the time and commit to them.  What they don't tell you is how much of a giant time suck surrounds both pre- and post-run.

When I used to run my whole mile (Yes. Four years ago, I'd run a mile and call it a workout), I'd roll out of bed, put my hair in a ponytail and go for a run.  It took me 4 minutes to get ready for what would be a 24-minute workout (I'd run one mile out and then walk back home).  After joining the triathlon group at my local Y a year later, we started talking about nutrition, and it occurred to me that I might do better (like running two whole miles) if I actually put some fuel in the tank before I hit the pavement.

Two years later, I'm pretty cautious about what I eat before I do any kind of exercise. And sometimes, what works well for a run workout, doesn't fare well for a swim workout. I've learned a lot, but I still make really dumb mistakes.  Saturday's pre-run breakfast of poached egg on wheat toast, Oikos Greek yogurt and a banana seemed to be just about perfect.

But it's not just eating that slows me from getting out the door. 

I have a shit ton** of vitamins and pills to take. It's a three-swallow process to get them all down, and I need to have most of the food in my stomach before I can start with the pills. But before I eat the food, I have to chew at least 1 billion CFU's of acidophilus, so that my reflux stays in check. Over the past 4 weeks, the vits and pills include a carefully-timed Zyrtec-D (allergies) and a few squirts of nasal steriods in my nostrils so I have a largely sniff-free run.

While I'm in the delicate process of taking in nutrition and meds, I start gearing up. It used to be that I grabbed my headphones and my iPhone and sunglasses. Not anymore.

I have to get the Garmin. I need to find the iPod sleeve. Grab the headphones and phone. Grab the aviator sunglasses because they don't bounce off my nose when I run. Find the Jack Daniels b-ball cap. Find the Asics arm sleeves.  Get the driver's license, YMCA membership card (it's my emergency gotta poo back-up if I'm in the area), my health insurance card and a few bucks, just in case).  Write mantra on my hand with a Sharpie. Keys. Snag some travel tissues to stick in the arm sleeve for the inevitable drips that will creep up by the end of the run.  Gels. Don't forget Gels. Possibly Shot Bloks and mini Snickers, too.

So, while I'm getting all this stuff in a pile on the living room coffee table, I'm still in PJs.  Yeah -- I'm not even dressed in my running clothes yet.  Getting dressed isn't that big of a deal - I pretty much have two favorite outfits for the long runs, depending on the weather. But as of this week, I added compression calf sleeves into the ensemble and those take a bit of time to get on.  And they have to go on before the socks, or I'll never get 'em over my feet.

A mini Snickers fits in that front pocket perfectly.
Before the calf sleeves and the socks though, I have to spend time rolling both feet on a frozen bottle of water which helps to keep the PF issues in check. Then I have to rub down both calves - fairly vigorously - with The Stick. There's another 10 minutes spent in prep.

Although I'm going out to get sweaty and red and salty, I do still brush my hair and gather it into a ponytail. I had to put allergy drops in my eyes, and then put my contacts in. Then some Oil of Olay moisturizer with sunscreen and a dab of mascara, just in case.

By this time, I'm feeling like I might actually get out the door within the year. But I still need to get my brand spankin' new Nathan Speed 4R Energy Belt ready.  It's got four, 8-oz, flasks attached to it and they all need to be filled (1 w/ Gatorade, three w/ water). Gel packets, ID's, cash, keys .... all those things get jammed into the one little pocket in the back. 

On Saturday, my first time using the new belt, I made the mistake of putting the bottles in the holsters before I put the belt on me. I was covered in splashes of Gatorade and water before I even left the condo.

I pooped. And quite honestly, I don't ever start my long run until I've done my dirty, dirty business. There are public restrooms on my route, but there is a pretty big stretch where no public restrooms exist. I'm comfortable with peeing myself (and given how much water I always spill, who would know the difference) on a long run, but I still don't run fast enough to justify shitting myself.  And yes, I have scoped out different gorgeously landscaped yards on Sheridan Road to determine which ones would provide the most privacy if indeed I ever had to pop a squat north of Plaza del Lago. 

Those bitches in Winnetka really like their tall, pointy, wrought iron fences. I may need to add a grappling hook to my gear in the future.

Once all of that is done, I give myself a pat-down to make sure I'm not forgetting anything. Husband tells me to not think about anything and just run. Kids wish me good luck. I reluctantly head out the door and run for three hours and fifty minutes.

On Saturday, this prep process, from start to finish, took an entire 60-minutes.  On many occasions, I've done some preparation the night before the long run. This Friday night, however, was not one of them. My allergies/sinuses have been destroying me all week and I spent all of Friday holding down the couch.

So, then I run for a little less than 4 hours and I return home.

But that doesn't mean I have my day ahead of me.  What it  means is a long, slow limp up 2.5 flights of stairs, crawling into the living room and collapsing on a chair. If I'm lucky, the family is home and they'll get me the things I need: the frozen bottle of ice to roll my feet, The Stick to rub my calves, the ibuprofin and an FRS energy drink, the computer so I can update my FB status and e-mail Midlife Rambler to let him know how the run went.

Then there is the stretching. And the shower.  And then, after a 21.1 mile run, I become the world's laziest piece of shit, ever. 

My Saturday run started earlier than normal, so I was back home at a decent time. I figured with a nap, I'd be good to go again by 4 pm. Except, the endorphins from that run wouldn't let me sleep. And my knees and ankles felt like someone had smashed them with a rubber mallet. Any kind of movement hurt. I spent the better part of the day in bed, trying to nap, and screaming out in pain every time I moved.

My big accomplishment was my slow migration from bedroom to living room to eat dinner and watch episodes of "Lost" with the family.  I folded three loads of laundry, too.

So, my Saturday was spent prepping to run, running, and then the painful recovery from running.

I have no idea how Midlife Rambler manages his long runs before he goes to work (you should check here to see how he does it).  I would call in sick every time I had a long run. Eventually, someone would catch on...

It's Sunday am as I'm drafting this post. I didn't sleep well last night -- the knees were squawking. They're still squawking, but I can't have a totally unproductive day today, so I will ignore them and do what I gotta do.  I see my chiro on Monday am, and I trust he'll fix me.

This post is not intended to discourage anyone from distance training. The past 10 weeks that I've spent preparing for this run have been amazing: it's hard to believe my brain allowed my legs and lungs to carry me for 21.1 miles.  But the truth is, I can hardly wait for May 12th, which will be the first Saturday after the marathon that I wake up ... and don't have to do a damn thing.

* Yet.  He says he has no interest in a 26.2, but I think he might change his mind.

** I am not certain how a shit ton compares to Rambler's metric fuck ton.   I'm guessing it's slightly less, but I really suck at conversions...


  1. Pre long run for me was simple - put shorts & tee on, fill water bottle, pull on trainers, start GPS and go.

    Post long run was stop GPS, stretch, take of trainers, take of other clothes and have shower, tell everyone I felt surprisingly OK, throw up and go to bed.

    Congrats on a good long run, you knew you have the legs for the full marathon, now you know you have the head for it too.

  2. Well I am happy you made it 21+ miles! Good for you!
    I too have some rolling out and prep to do...I get frustrated at times and wish I could just put some shoes on and hit the road!

    Oh and I am betting that first Saturday you don't have to get up and long run that you miss it!

  3. It's 2.2 shit tonnes to 1 metric fuck tonne, I believe..

    It's an area where the Department of Weights and Measures has been sorely lacking. (Nobody wants to really find out, I guess.)

    Still impressed with the 21+. Like Andy said, now you know you have the mental and physical part covered - you'll have no issues with the race.

  4. So proud of you iplant can wait to see your marathon inswimmi action! I willto be thereto with shots of jackthe at each aid sation ;) Lol love your blog when i am down like today, this makes me laugh. You write so well that i can picture u looking at the bushes for your bathroom stop and covered in whi knows what :) but you should take up marathon swimmi g :)just never have to worry about peeing or pooping. Just goes in the lake ;) lol

  5. I'm so glad I haven't thrown up yet. Puking is such a deal breaker for me!

    Thanks, as always for the tremendous support.

    Aurora -- I still don't think I've peed in the lake! I can pee my pants, but it's so hard to swim and pee at the same time. Throw gum into the equation and I'd drown...