This was the best long run I've had in a long time. I've been thinking a lot about ultrarunning and what I heard at the Scott Jurek event (the book is on order, I can't wait!). Especially since The Dude is more than a little nervous about all of this. I can't help that this is what I want to do, I think I've just spent too many formative years out on trails on in view of mountains, despite my recent sojourn in the land of pavement and flatness.
So I've been taking each long run as if it were preparing me for even more. Not in the sense of "If I gut this out I'll be ready for my next race" (which begs the question of why prepare for an event I don't expect to enjoy), but rather with an idea of "What can I learn from this run that will allow me to do more (because I love it so much)?"
Some of what I focussed on this week:
Planning in walk breaks. In the past I've planned walk breaks in theory, but haven't necessarily followed through with them - only to be bitten in the butt by that at the end of my run. This week I set my watch alarm to go off every 20 minutes, basing my breaks on the time covered rather than the distance, and then spent 60-90 seconds at each break walking briskly before starting up again. I then also based my water and gel consumption around these, making sure to start hydrating/eating before I felt the need for it.
This reminded me of what I first started running and I had the thought, electrifying to me: if I just slow down, I can run forever. And then: I want to do that! Maybe, if I take walk breaks and eat/drink properly - if I replenish myself consistently - I really can run forever.
Running tall, staying light on my feet. And visualizing these things when I got tired and my form started to slump. Worked like magic!
When it got uncomfortably hot/humid/sunny, thinking to myself: The sun is nourishing me. It makes everything grow. I am pulling energy from everything around me. (This could only work because I've had a few weeks to acclimatize myself to the heat and I knew the rest of my planning was protecting me from overheating.)
In the last two miles, when I had the opportunity to run on the grass for brief periods, I used that as a way to energize myself. Instead of slowing down, seeking out the most even path with the thought of "I will protect my feet by running on a softer surface," I thought, "Here is an opportunity to play, to bound, to spring, to be as a child." Happy feet!
I have to say, it all worked. I planned out two loops of five miles each that I knew I would enjoy traversing, and stashed a bottle of water/electrolytes at home in our mail lobby so I could easily access it halfway through and refill my handheld bottle (and get a moment's coolth as well). I made sure to take water in every time I stopped, and timed my gels for every 40 minutes. Put a jazz album on my ipod, and set out slow.
The first 5 miles were so comfortable that I felt totally prepared to take on another 5, maybe even with some zest. When the jazz ended I let it roll on into Miranda Lambert's latest and adjusted my pace to the music, letting myself pick up speed. In hindsight this is the only thing I would have done differently, the tempo changed significantly with each song and I felt I was constantly needing to reset my pace. Perhaps next time for those last miles I'll just turn the music off.
With one mile to go I looked at my watch and saw I had just over ten and a half minutes before my alarm went off again. Can we do it? Yes we can!
I came home feeling grand. The baby, who had been perfectly content while I was gone, started howling as soon as he saw me and realized I wasn't planning on immediately picking him up, so my stretching got scrapped (I paid for that later). But otherwise, a perfect run.