Monday, March 19, 2012

In The Long Run: The Race Report

I didn't have a race on Saturday, like Midlife Rambler. Good thing too, because I blew my run. I still haven't forgiven myself for quitting with more than an hour to go, but I came home and wrote it out, race report style, because there are things to be learned from Saturday's catastrophe.  

I'm damn happy Midlife Rambler  had the race he worked so hard for though, so this week, you can read how running can elevate (Rambler) - or bury (Triple T) - a person!

I got schooled on Saturday.
Planned run:
3 hr/30 min

Actual run:
2 hr/16 min

Sunny, beautiful, 9 mph S/SE wind; unseasonably warm, mid-60s

Pre-Run Nutrition:
Oikos Greek Yogurt (vanilla), 1 banana; 1/2 FRS Energy Drink + Handful of vits/supps and one Zyrtec-D

Pre-Run Anxiety/General mood:
Normal level of anxiety; was happy to have such a pretty day for a run and equally happy to have started my run earlier than normal (9:30 am) to beat the heat and get back to my family for Saturday fun. Physically, I felt good.

What went well?

I did not get hit by a car. I did not shit myself.

What went wrong?

Heat. It was sunny and in the low 60s when I started my run.  If you were just standing outside, chatting with your neighbor, it was a perfect day -- possibly a little chilly if you weren't wearing long sleeves. 

If you were running, it was HOT.  I'm a good 10 - 12 lbs underweight. I always have a chill. And I was HOT. Before I was even running (I have to wait for the Garmin to locate me), I took my right arm sleeve off and tucked it into the front of my shorts. (I left the left one on, but rolled it up a bit, because without the arm sleeve, my iPod sleeve won't stay up!).

At some point, I'm guessing 7 or 8 miles into the run, I took my shirt off in the front yard of some house in Winnetka. It wasn't a proud moment, but I was wearing a running cami underneath, so it wasn't obscene. Sadly, the cami was white, so I'm sure to the throngs of pedestrians, cyclists and passersby on that stretch of Sheridan, I was the tall skinny boy running the streets of Winnetka in a bra.

At just under two hours, I paused my watch, bent down, put my hands on my knees and started to cry. The only relief I got from crying was that I was still making tears, so I knew I couldn't have been dehydrated. Maybe 20 seconds into my sobs, I looked up and saw Husband and the kids in the car. Husband told me I couldn't quit yet and based on where I was - and what he had to do - he told me he'd meet me at the lagoon in Evanston and then, if I wanted to quit, we could talk about it.  Little Guy asked if they could take the clothes I had taken off (the shirt and my right arm sleeve).  Getting rid of those felt good.

One year ago, I would have thought a run in the low 60s was ideal. Two miles into this run, I was praying for rain. Or a blizzard.  Am I a cold-weather runner now? I kept thinking back to my 3-hour run two weeks ago, and how much easier it was, even with the wind gusts and snow fall, than the 2 hours 16 minutes I eventually completed today.  .

Hydration. Because I was so damn hot, I drank more than I typically do. Normally, I carry  a 20oz water bottle.  When I ran two weeks ago, I came back from my 3 hour run with a little water (like, two swigs) left in the bottle. Today, I was 3 miles into a run and already out of a 10 oz bottle of water (I borrowed a hydration/fuel belt from my coach; it has two, 10 oz bottles on it. I filled one bottle with cold water and the other bottle with some FRS Energy Drink before leaving the house this morning.  I figured I could take small sips of each throughout the run.). 

Did I mention it was hot?

About 40 minutes into the run, I had to make a pit-stop at Northwestern to refill bottle number one. At Plaza Del Lago (about 6 miles), I had to stop in the Jewel to refill my water bottle (again) and pee.  I was surprised when I looked in the mirror and saw how red my face was: I looked like a lobster. I splashed water on my face, took a hit of water out of the fountain and then continued North  up to Cherry Street, where I turned around and continued back to the Jewel, but  this time to refill both bottles. Because I was out of water and FRS.

I consumed just a little less than 30 oz of water and a little less than 10 oz of FRS and I was only 1:50 into my run.  I felt bad.  I didn't have slosh stomach, but everything hurt from my knees down, on both sides. I don't know if I was drinking because it was so hot or if I was drinking because I'd heard nothing less than 1,000 times during endurance training that once you're dehydrated, you can't 'make it up'. But, I drank more than normal and I don't think that was helping me in any way.

3)  Stopping and Starting. I think the stopping and starting to get water was bad -- physically and mentally. Mentally because by my first stop at Northwestern, I kind of felt like the run was a failure (stopping at 40 minutes!). I spent the next 20 minutes after Stop 1 telling myself that I was going to need to readjust my expectations for this run: the conditions were way different than I've been running in over the past 2 months and I just needed to complete the run, even if it meant stopping to keep my water supply in check.

But beyond mental, I really hate starting up after I've stopped: It hurts physically, I think. It's why I don't stop at hydration stations during race. I grab the cup of water and drink it on the move.

So there was this constant battle of planning the next place to stop to keep my water bottles filled vs. the pain of starting the run again once I stopped.

4) Compression. My knees/legs/ankles all felt pretty bad for most of the entire run. This is the first run I did w/out my compression tights. I think I'm going to make friends with the $50 calf sleeves before next week.  I don't want to blame my lack of gear for a bad run, but it was a noticeable difference from when I've run with compression tights.

What I learned:

1)  Well, when I got back home, and realized I could have gotten just 6 or 7 more miles out of the run, I got super pissed off. I should have negotiated with myself more: "1 more mile and you can quit. Just try one more mile. One more mile. What? You only have three miles left -- keep going." 

I need to sharpen my negotiating skills.  Even if I dropped to a 14 min/mile, I should have kept going. I'm still pissed about this.

2)  I need a mantra again. I don't think it is a coincidence at all, but after the run, I had to edit some blog posts for a client. The blog I was editing was about mantra and vibration.  Here's the upshot:
  • Once your mind says "I can't" ... it won't.
  • When your mind says "I will" or "I can," it sometimes creates a restlessness that doesn't get the job done.
  • When the mind says "I am," you are brought to the present.
I should have just said, "I am running. I am running. I am running. IamrunningIamrunningIamrunningIamrunningIamrunningIamrunningIamrunning..." 

I will most definitely write "I am running." on my left hand for my long run next week.

3)  I've been home for 6 hours and I'm still beating my own ass for stopping. A running friend - who successfully completed her 3.5 hour run - popped up on chat and we ... chatted. Two things she said, and I really appreciated both:
  • It could be 60 in May. Or it could be 35. Yup. She's right. I'm getting experience right now on how to do this in both extremes. It didn't feel like one on Saturday, but that temperature spike could turn out to be a blessing for me on May 5th.
  • These are practice runs  - better to make the mistakes now than on race day. Yup. More points for her. I still have plenty of long(er) runs to push through. I guess I have to get my mind around the fact that just because I bombed the 3:30 hour run on Saturday, doesn't mean I'll bomb the 3:50 minute run next week. 
4)  Mental Toughness needs some work.  Husband won't let me give up.  He wanted to make sure I was okay, but he wouldn't let me give up when I wanted to. Not when he saw me crying on the sidewalk. And not 20 minutes before that when I sat down in someone's yard (Did I mention that?) and called him so I could start my psychotic break (where Good Triple T handed over the reigns to Bad Triple T).  When he got my final call and came to pick me up, he was supportive, but he didn't sugar coat anything.

"Hon. I have no doubt you can physically run 26.2 miles. But your mental toughness just isn't consistent."

I sort of wanted to kick him in his heart when he said that, but he was right. I mean, I've made some good improvements in my mental toughness since training for this race. I just seemed to forget to pack it in the fuel belt with the Power Gel and the ID and my Chapstick.

I haven't talked to my coach about all this yet. She's probably going to nod about the mental toughness thing and remind me that I get next week to do it over. And to do it better.

If mental toughness is what will carry me through 26.2 miles, I wish I would have trained for a marathon when I was in my 20s!

Okay. You need an uplifting story about running? Go here ... Midlife Rambler got exactly what he worked for!


  1. I completely agree with your chat friend. Better to make mistakes, quit, cry, etc... during training then in a race.

    Running is hard, some days are better than others for sure. And weather really can hinder or help...I think when the weather changes I have a few hard days of running almost every time. I think your body will adjust.

  2. Weather is huge - as of right now, it's snowing here. If this had been 24 hours ago, I'd be shitting myself, and I'm sure the outcome would have been completely different.

    Running is hard, but almost any one can do it. Distance running, on the other hand, requires a mental toughness that only some have.

    The fact that you've busted out 3+ hour runs IN THE SNOW shows which group you're in.

  3. Small setback TTT, and a valuable lesson learned here. Readintg this just reinforces I still want to be a runner like you and Jeff. C when I grow up as a runner. Because I know you are going to get out and kick some running butt next week. I drank my whole freaking camelback doing my 8 this weekend, it was HOT, and Iw asn't dehydrated, I just hate being hot... I know I am a cold weather runner, but imma keep on running. Thanks for the inspiration and honesty.

  4. Great post-- we all have these learning experiences- and the fact that you are reflecting on all of it now is great-and next time you will push yourself just that much harder! also, keep keeping notes (one note my marathon buddy told me that I would never have thought of- cut your toenails a week before the race!) - they will be handy later. Anyway, hang in there and can't wait to hear about your successful run this coming weekend :)

  5. Thank you, all! I know what I need to do this Saturday ... now I just need Saturday to get here so I can get it done! :)