Sunday, July 19, 2009

15 miles. In Eastern Washington. (But early.)

I did it! My 15 mile long run that I foolishly mentioned I had on the agenda. Once I made a statement that I was planning 15 miles for this weekend, I felt like I would be a wuss if I didn't do it, but as the weekend approached there were so many reasons why 15 miles couldn't, shouldn't, or wouldn't happen.

Of course I know that it wouldn't be a disgrace if I decided not to do that long of a run today. I am absolutely able to do 15 miles, and it's not even something I need to do to prepare for the half marathon. In fact, my (self-designed) training plan actually says 14 miles this weekend, but I have consistently been a mile ahead of myself each week, so since I did 14 (+ .25) last weekend, 15 seemed like the next step. It was also, regardless of the length, going to be my last very long run before the half (I'm dropping back mileage next weekend, then mini-tapering in the week before the race). Fifteen did sound like a nice round number to top out at!

Of course at the time I proclaimed my 15 mile goal I didn't realize we would be going to Eastern Washington this weekend. I should have known, I was aware that we were going to this music thing, but I somehow thought it was a different weekend. Like next weekend. Oops.

Then we decided to leave on Saturday morning instead of Friday afternoon, which was so helpful in many ways, but not so much for my plan of doing the long run early Saturday morning. I didn't want to give up on running Saturday altogether, though. After riding in a car for more than three hours, and with no other decent exercise on the agenda, and with pizza in the offing, I really wanted to do at least a short run run on Saturday. And, of course, I did.

After doing a very difficult 6.75 miles on Saturday, another 15 on Sunday seemed even more improbable. Plus there was the time it would consume--close to three hours, maybe even more if things didn't go well! I felt bad about making Rod wait around for me all that time. (Not too bad, obviously he could sleep in or work on the cabin; but still, three hours is a long time.)

I woke up at 5:30 on Sunday morning as planned, with still more reasons not to run all of 15 miles (or possibly any). We didn't get back from the concert till almost midnight, so although I was quite awake, I hadn't had a whole lot of sleep. Plus I'd had a low grade headache all Saturday evening, and through the night (as I noticed whenever I woke up), and it hadn't gone away completely even by morning. This is very unusual for me; I rarely get headaches and when I do, they don't last long. I had also had a drippy nose throughout the evening, so I wondered whether I had some kind of a sinus thing going on. It wasn't a horribly bad headache, but it was irritating.

It had also been very, very windy all night, and I told myself that if it was still blowing like that, I definitely wasn't going out. Luckily (!), the stormy wind had stopped and all that was left was a normal kind of breeziness.

I lingered on my cot a little bit longer than I'd intended, but I finally did get up and dressed at 6 a.m. I was ready to go, sunscreen on, Garmin and ipod fired up, water bottle in hand, by about 6:20. Because I knew the miles would be long regardless, I fueled a little bit with a handful of chocolate espresso beans and a Quaker chewy granola bar with protein.

Of course, going still didn't mean 15 miles. Even as I started running, I was pretty sure I was not going to do 15.

I sort of thought ten miles might be a good number. It's definitely a long run, it could easily be fit into my likely route, and when added to the 6.75 from Saturday, it would put me well over 15 for the weekend, anyway.

Or maybe 12, that would work too. I knew, of course, that the closer to 15 I got, the more likely I would want to push it to 15.

I must say that going out at 6:30 was far, far preferable to 11 a.m.! It was really the difference between running, and running in hell.

My first lap was just like yesterday (minus the extreme torture factor, of course). I ran down to the clubhouse (two miles), where I stopped for the bathroom and topped off my water bottle. I also stopped at the sundries vending machine and bought some Tylenol (in case I still had a headache later) and a sunscreen wipe (in case I was worried about my sunscreen sweating off), both of which I stashed in my waist pack.

Then I started on the road around the mountain, same as yesterday. The first half of the loop is a gradual but long uphill stretch. I knew, however, that I would be going downhill on the other side, so that would make up for the uphills. Funny thing, I remember the elevation profile more from our bike riding a few weeks ago than from yesterday's run. Apparently my mind has blocked a lot of things!

Today, happily, I avoided the wrong turn which led me down a dead-end detour and caused such distress yesterday. It didn't seem all that long before I was meeting up with the main road and approaching the 5-mile mark. Once again, I chose to walk up the steep winding hill section that completed the first revolution. The difference from yesterday was that I felt completely capable of going forward at that point, as opposed to yesterday, when I was just counting the miles till I was done.

So, another loop. That took me to 10 miles and a big decision. Do I go on or turn back to the cabin (which would leave me with 10.5 miles or so, if I just stopped at the cabin)?

I knew I didn't want to do a complete third loop. So I compromised. I would go on to the clubhouse again, and back to the cabin along the same road. If that's all I did, I would finish with about 13 miles. Or I could tweak it--add extra segments--to bring myself closer to 15 miles. Of course I knew, deep inside, that the further I went the less likely I would be able to let myself not finish the 15 miles! I had a packet of Jelly Belly Sports Beans with me, and at the 11-mile point I ate half of it. Then I finished the other half at my final potty stop.

When I got to the clubhouse I kept going for a stretch so that by the time I actually stopped there (for the bathroom and a water refill, for the third time) I would be over 12.5 miles.

So the end of this tale is in the heading, of course. I kept myself going far enough to log the 15 miles. Well, actually 15.12, which was where the lap counter recorded the final lap (thanks to an overly long delay in my first bathroom stop).

And even after 15+ miles, I was in far better shape than at the end of yesterday's run! Mylegs were tired; that was probably the most noticeable effect. I was sweating, but not leaving pools of water on the floor. I was flushed, I am sure, but probably not the flaming red of the day before. And I guess I was hot, but I didn't really notice it. Unlike yesterday, when my body was a furnace. (Add in the sweating, and I was pretty much a walking steam bath!)

Coincidentally, I was reading the latest Runner's World by the pool yesterday (after my run, though), and I started reading the piece by Amby Burfoot about his experience running in a heat chamber. You can read the article, of course, but basically Amby spent an hour running on a treadmill in a room that was 53 degrees the first day, and 90 the second day, with all other conditions the same (including running pace), and then the testers measured various bodily functions after each run. Not surprisingly, everything was much more extreme on the hot day. Heart rate was higher, lactate was higher (not that I understand this measurement, but it's obviously higher), his sweat loss and dehydration were double on the hotter day, and his core temperature (measured in a way that is completely indescribable) was about a degree and a half higher on the hotter day, which doesn't sound like much, but apparently this brought him dangerously close to the point where heatstroke can occur.

I'm sure that none of this is shocking to anyone, but it is quite interesting to learn about all the dramatic and potentially dangerous effects extreme heat can have on your body. Some of them can be counteracted by techniques that Amby could not use in his controlled experiment, such as running slower, drinking water and perhaps taking salt or electrolyte supplements, and of course running early in the morning when it is not so hot.

While I was not so smart about the time of day I ran yesterday, and I didn't take any supplements (hopefully making up for that by eating inherently salty pizza later on), I did accommodate the heat by seriously slowing down my pace (as though I had any choice in it) and drinking water religiously. I had a sip of water about every half mile, and stopped for a few moments approximately every mile. (Today, although I drank plenty of water, I was a little more casual about it, and I didn't feel I needed to stop every mile.)

Strangely enough, even though the running conditions were much more pleasant today, I am pretty sure that I was running even slower today than yesterday. My average pace was around 11 minutes (which would drive me crazy at home), which is slower than yesterday's average, and encompassed mile paces anywhere from 10 minutes per mile to 12 minutes (or more).

So this was one of those unusual weekend where I ran three consecutive days; 8 miles on Friday, 6.75 on Saturday, and 15.12 today. Just under 30 miles in three days. The question is now, will I do my easy run tomorrow morning as scheduled? Well, I'm making no promises--look at the trouble my last proclamation got me into!


Sun Runner said...

The summer weather around here (Michigan) has been so kind to us runners. I have not yet had a truly miserable, sweat-soaked, heat-rashy run. I do all of my runs very early in the morning, but in the deep dark days of summer the humidity can be killer even at 6:00 am. So far, so good...but I am waiting for the bomb to drop, so to speak. This can't last. FFS, it was 50 degrees! FIFTY! on Saturday morning for my long run. Unheard of for July.

In the August issue of Runner's World, on page 100, there's a "Races and Places" write-up of the Run for the Rolls which is a little race held in my town. Check it out! (I haven't seen the mag myself but I have it on good authority the writeup is there.)

Kristin said...

I read that little piece on the Run for the Rolls and wondered why they didn't mention you? :)