February 28, 2009

When Running 37km Feels Easy (Almost)

As mentioned in my previous post, I am as excited as intimidated about my 3-hour training runs. I've done them often enough to know that they can be very painful and very long if you don't take them seriously.

So I always take some extra care with my preparations. Today I brought seven energy gels (3 Powerbar, 3 Clif Shots, 1 Gu). Each gel contained caffeine. Typically I try to use as little caffeine in my training as possible but for my first 3-hour run this year I made an exception. I've felt less than energetic during some of my training runs in the past two weeks, which is not abnormal after racing a half marathon.

In a ziplock plastic bag I carried my house keys, a two-dollar coin, a 20-dollar bill and a piece of ID. The coin I planned to use for buying a bottle of water during the run - I wasn't planning to use the $20 bill but you never know.

During my long runs and my races I always wear a top that has two pockets on the back. Since I've only found one top over the years where the pockets are tight enough to my body that prevent the gels and other objects I carry from bouncing around, you usually see me in the same top (see the picture). The top is made by De Soto.

I also carried a 500ml bottle of water. I selected an On The Go playlist of my favourite 74 songs on my iPod which I carried in the back pocket (with zip) of my Nike shorts. (And in perfect timing AC/DC's Heatseeker marked my halfway point - love the first few lines of the lyrics (though I'm pretty sure they don't have running in mind) and the energy of the song.)

For breakfast, I had my usual coffee, then two bananas and a Clif Bar (I prefer the plain Powerbars but had run out). It was cold but sunny. So I wore compression tights, with my shorts over top. Then I had a short-sleeve dry-fit shirt with my favourite long-sleeve running sweater with tight hood (by MEC).

Wearing the tight hood isn't exactly flattering, and looks very hardcore Cathy Freeman in her catsuit but it is perfect for the cold. I always wear sunglasses, with blue lenses, and I applied some sunscreen (nothing like a few years in Australia to notice what the sun does to your skin).

Time to go. During my recent long runs, longest 2hr40min, I had felt exhausted and sore in the final 10 to 20 minutes. But I hadn't brought as much nutrition and water. Today I also made sure to watch my cadence, ie keep it high which also avoids lifting your legs too much at the back.

I counted my strides after about 80 minutes of running and was taking about 100 strides a minute. My partner's triathlon coach has been telling him to focus on increasing his cadence, which made me realize why I usually felt better running when my strides are shorter and leg turner is faster. It's great to learn from different people!

I followed the same out-and-back course as I have been doing for my long runs. I felt like I was running easier than last week but found to my astonishment that I ran 3 minutes quicker (over about 16 kilometers) today. I had another 13 minutes to go from that point until I could turn around.

I felt great so far, and realizing that I actually ran faster as well put me truly on a high. At the halfway point, so after 90 minutes of running, I had my third energy gel and was close to finishing my 500ml of water. I knew I'd pass a corner store after about 2 hours of running and that's where I planned to spend my $2 coin.

While I was reluctant to stop running by the time I got to the store, I knew that I would pay the price if I kept going for another hour without water. So I took the 2 minutes needed to buy a 600ml bottle of water. In Sydney I would always plan my long runs along the public water fountains you find throughout the city. But unfortunately those are not available here, for logical reasons.

I got home a couple of minutes quicker, so I did a small detour to ensure I ran for thr full 3 hours (I know that sounds silly but I feel better that way - if you think I am bad, how about one of my friends: She is so precise with her running time that she stops her watch for every traffic light and other reasons to that interrupt her training - so much so that when she tripped over a tree trunk one day and fell, the first thing she did was to stop her watch on the way down to the ground.)

While I was tired and sore during the final 10 minutes, it was nowhere near as bad as it has been on recent long runs. My three hours had flown by, This was one of those rare days where running 37 kilometres almost felt easy! While clearly my body cooperated, my high cadence and ample nutrition and hydration made all the difference. Something to remember for race day!

I have to run another half hour easy this afternoon. My calves are a bit tight (I am overdue for an ART treatment and made an appointment for Wednesday). So I followed a recommendation from my fantastic ART therapist in Sydney - slather those calves in cooling Voltaren gel, wrap cellophane around them and leave as long as you can stand it. It really works!

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