Monday, April 29, 2013

The Real Story Behind the 22 Mile Long Run

I can describe my 22 mile long run in two words: IT SUCKED! I did everything that I was supposed to do to prepare for the long run. I drank a lot of water and gatorade in the days leading up to the long run, carb loaded all week, took 2 days off from running before the long run and even got a good night's sleep. I had everything set out and ready on Friday night including my running clothes, sneakers, Gu, water bottles and hydration belt. I wokeup on Saturday morning and I was feeling a little bit nervous about running 22 miles all by myself, but I was as ready as I was ever going to be. A trip home for the weekend meant that I would not have any running buddies with me for the first part of my run and I was going to have to tackle 22 miles all by myself. I had such a great 19 mile run that I thought that 22 miles would not be too bad, but mother nature had other plans for me on Saturday.

I set out for my run around 9:45am and right away I knew that I should have started at least 2 hours earlier than I had. I was only 1 mile into my run when I realized how difficult this run was going to be. The temperature was already over 60 degrees, or at least it felt like it. I was dripping sweat already so I decided to head back to my parent's house to change into a running tank instead of the t-shirt that I was in. I had my favorite Pandora station on and I continued on my way. The beginning of the run was not too bad and I was doing a pretty good job pacing myself. I was going slower than normal because I wanted to make sure that I had enough energy left at the end of the run. I was feeling really good for the first 8-10 miles, but the temperature was beginning to rise pretty quickly.

Most of my run ended up being in the direct sunlight and it was over 70 degrees by the time that I finished. This meant that I needed to drink more fluids than normal during my run. My hydration belt holds 40 ounces of liquid so I had 30 ounces of water and 10 ounces of gatorade with me. I also carried a large water bottle that holds about 32 ounces. I thought that this would be plenty of water since I usually drink 2-4 ounces of water at every mile. I was only a few miles into the run when I began drinking water every 1/2 mile, which is something that my body is not used to. I was not going to let myself get dehydrated on such a long run on such a hot day. It was so hot out that the Gu at miles 5 and 10 did not make much difference. It was around the half marathon mark that I realized that the rest of my run was going to be a pretty big struggle.

I was hot and tired and losing motivation around mile 14. I also was beginning to run low on water. Luckily, I decided to stay on one side of town so that I would be close to family. My route kept me running the roads between my parent's house and my brother's house. I made a quick phone call to my dad and he drove out to meet me and bring me some water. I filled up my water bottles and got ready to continue on my run. At this point, my body had too much water and not enough water at the same time. I was so full from all of the water that I skipped my Gu packet at mile 15. I was still 7 miles away from my goal and was really doubting my ability to be able to finish this run.

The next 7 miles were far from pretty. My legs were just automatically moving without me even needing to think anymore. I will admit that I had to briefly walk a couple of times during my last few miles. There was no way that my body was going to be able to run all the way to 22 miles on such a hot day without slowing down. I did manage to have some more Gu around mile 17 or mile 18 and I started to get some energy back. When I reached 19 miles, I was really excited because I was about to run further than I have ever run before. The next 3 miles were the longest 3 miles ever. I did enjoy seeing my best friend and her boyfriend during the last stretch of my run. I was so in the zone and focused on finishing that I am pretty sure that I jumped 2 feet in the air from being scared by the car horn. They drove alongside of me for a couple of minutes and that gave me enough motivation to keep moving my legs.

I was back at my parent's house around 21 miles and was disappointed that I was not done yet. I wanted to be near my parent's around the last couple of miles because I had never run that far before and wanted to be on the safe side. After alternating some walking and running during the last few miles, there was no way that I was going to let myself walk any of the last mile. When MapMyRun announced: "Distance: 22 miles, Time: 4:06:42, Average Pace: 11:12 min/mi," I could not believe what I had just done. The run that had been so much of a struggle for me was finally over and I had actually completed my long run. I was so proud of myself for completing 22 miles, but I was also a little disappointed that I had not run the whole thing without walking. As I completed my mile cool down walk, I reminded myself that it did not matter because 22 miles was a huge accomplishment for me.

The hours following the long run were a little bit more difficult than the last few miles of the run. However, I learned some valuable lessons on Saturday about long runs. I will never complain ever again about getting up early to do a long run. If I had gotten up earlier, then I would have avoided the hottest part of the day and would not have struggled as much. I do not think that the actual marathon will be too bad because it starts pretty early in the morning. The other mistake that I made was not wearing sunscreen on such a hot day. When you are preparing to run 22 miles, you do not even think about needing to wear sunscreen. Needless to say, four hours of running will result in sunburn.

I really think that the heat and the sunburn were what caused me to have such a difficult time. I was not too sore after the run and am not even really sore today. I did have some difficulty walking up and down the stairs Saturday and yesterday, but my legs feel great today. When I was done running, I had to have my brother take off my sneakers for me. I knew that once I sat down that I would be done for the day. After a shower, I ate half a banana, kept drinking water and took a nap. I finally had a meal about 3 hours after the run and began to replenish all of those calories that I burned off. It was a little difficult getting out of bed on Sunday, but my body is in much better shape today.

I cannot believe that I ran 22 miles this weekend. I never would have imagined that I would be training for a marathon one day and here I am at the peak of my training now. It was much more difficult than I thought that it was going to be. Based on how my training has been going, I really expected to be able to complete 22 miles in about 3:45. I do not think that 4:06:42 is too bad for a 22 mile run because this was my first time ever running that far. My only goal for the Buffalo Marathon is to be able to finish the race. I do not care how long it takes me. I have spent many weeks preparing for this and I did not exactly have the most ideal conditions for 22 miles. Even though I struggled a lot this weekend, I am more than ready to conquer 26.2 miles. I know that race day is not going to be easy, but I've worked so hard to get this far. It will also help that my mileage is beginning to cut back now so that my body has some time to recover and rest before the big day. IT IS OFFICIALLY TAPER TIME!!!!

441 miles complete in 70:52:57 and only 26 days until conquering 26.2 miles!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How Running Can Make the World a Better Place

I haven't updated my running blog in over 2 weeks and there's a few reasons for that. As I suspected, things were pretty busy once we returned from spring break. There's not much time for blogging when you have a state exam to prepare for and you enter some of the most grueling weeks of marathon training. My marathon training has been going pretty well still, but I just haven't been able to find the words to write lately. In light of recent events, there were no words that really seemed appropriate to write. I was not sure what to say or how to say it even, but nothing felt quite right. I've thought a lot about what I have wanted to say and I want the focus of today's post to be what motivates me to run and how running can make the world a better place.

Although it may seem hard to believe at times, I truly believe that there is more good in the world than evil. However, I do not think that we always see enough of the good in the world. I know a lot of wonderful people, but no one is perfect and we do not all always show the good in ourselves even. I know that I am far from perfect, but I think that we should all try harder to become more compassionate and caring people. I think that we could and should strive to share more of this good with the world. I think that people who are not runners really need to understand how running is just one way that you can share the good with the world.
Although some people may disagree with me, I truly believe that running is the purest sport of all. I think that road races are a perfect example of that. Over the past few years, I have run in over 50 road races. I have run 5K races, 10K races, half marathons and many other distance races. I cannot think of a single race that I have entered that has not put at least part of the entry money towards a good cause. One of my favorite races that I participate in every year is a 5K/10K family walk/run for Roswell Park Cancer Institute. One of the main reasons why I run this race is because my family has a personal connection to this amazing place. It's incredible to see people of all ages and abilities, including cancer patients, walking or running to support such an amazing place.

When you see people who have suffered so much in their own lives, it makes you grateful for everything that you have in your own life. It also makes you extremely grateful to be able to have the ability to be able to run and be in such great health. I run for all of those who cannot run, especially those people who would love to run. When people ask me what motivates me to run, I can think of people in my life who inspire me to run. Some of these people are unable to run and that makes me extremely thankful to be a runner. I'm sure that all of my runner friends could think of a person or people or a cause that motivates them to run. I honestly cannot think of just one person or cause that motivates me to run because there are so many inspiring people in my own life. 

I am thankful for all of the people in my life who motivate me to run and I am thankful for having the physical ability to run. The physical aspect of running is extremely important, but I think that the mental part of running is so much more important. Your attitude can easily make or break a run. It's amazing what a good run can do for your own attitude no matter what is going on in your own life or how stressed out you are. If you have never run a road race before, then you probably don't quite understand the runner's high. When you cross the finish line of a race, there is just as much excitement and energy for the winner as there is for the last place finisher. This is one of the best feelings in the world and it makes all of the blood, sweat and tears all worth it in the end.

When your feet hit the pavement for the first step of a run, you are often focused on the finish line. I think that so many of us spend too much time focusing on the finish line and not enough time focusing on the journey there. I think that the same can be said about our own lives. We do not take enough time to appreciate the little things in life or to reach out to one another. A small act of kindness can go a long way and runners display acts of kindness all of the time. You always hear of very heroic acts from runners, but even the little things are what make runners so unique. I cannot think of any other sport where all of the other competitors will wave to you, smile at you or cheer you on. These may seem like very little things to you, but to someone they may mean the world. It only takes one person to change the world, but we could all work together to make this world a better place.

There's so much more that I could say about running and what motivates me to run, but I think that this sums up my thoughts about running pretty well. I challenge each of you now to help me share more of the good in the world. There is an incredible bond between runners, but I think that all people could also use an incredible bond to make this world a better place. There's no reason why you cannot do one small random act of kindness everyday to help us get to where we should be. As I continue my last month of marathon training, I am going to make it my mission to show more of the good in myself. Marathon training has been tough at times, but this experience has given me the opportunity to really remember what motivated me to begin running in the first place. As I finish up this post, here is a recap of what the past 2 1/2 weeks of marathon training have looked like:

Week 24
4/9/13 - 4 miles in 38:39 (9:40 min/mi pace)
4/10/13 - 9 miles in 1:27:17 (9:42 min/mi pace)
4/11/13 - 5 miles in 49:20 (9:52 min/mi pace)
4/14/13 - 19 miles in 3:11:11 (10:03 min/mi pace)

Week 25
4/16/13 - 4 miles in 38:58 (9:44 min/mi pace)
4/17/13 - 9 miles in 1:29:27 (9:56 min/pace)
4/20/13 - 16 miles in 2:42:48 (10:10 min/mi pace)

Week 26
4/23/13 - 10 miles in 1:32:29 (9:15 min/mi pace)
4/24/13 - 5 miles in 48:20 (9:40 min/mi pace)

419 miles complete in 66:46:15 and only 31 days until conquering 26.2 miles!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Spring Break

If we are talking about just running, then week 23 was pretty uneventful. However, it was spring break and I was home in Buffalo so the entire week was pretty eventful. I love being home and being able to spend time with my wonderful family and closest friends. I was worried about how my training would go in Buffalo this week, but I only ended up skipping one short run. After a hectic and fun few days at home, I decided that my body needed to take Tuesday off from running instead of getting my 4 miler in. I do not make it home for an extended period of time very often so I had plenty of things that I wanted to do this week. The best part of the entire break was celebrating Dyngus Day with all of the other crazy Polish people in Buffalo. I think that all of the polka dancing that I did certainly counts for cross training for this week.

Although I kept pretty busy all week, I was able to fit in the rest of my training without any problems. I knew that I could have easily skipped any of my other runs, but I'm trying to take this training pretty seriously. I was worried that being home would cause me to stray from my schedule. However, I think that spring break actually worked in my favor. It is amazing how much easier running is when you are well-rested and get enough sleep the night before any of your runs. The hardest run of the week was probably my 8 miler, but I think that the snow and the cold weather was what slowed me down. I was happy that the temperatures started warming up by the time that I needed to do a 5 miler on Thursday.

I think that being able to run in shorts and a t-shirt today was probably the reason why my long run was the best run of the week. I am grateful that Hal Higdon gave me a taper week after that 16 miler last weekend and before attempting a new long run next weekend. I knew that today's long run would be easier than last week and I set out for my run with a very positive attitude. I love being able to run through the streets that I grew up on and see so many familiar places or faces during a run. I also love being able to run through new streets that I am not used to typically running on. I was amazed at how easy 13 miles felt today and I felt great throughout the entire run. My body is also beginning to recover much more quickly from long runs and it does not even feel like my 13 mile run was actually today.

I would say that week 23 was another successful week of training and I am hoping that week 24 is just as successful. I am looking at an 18 or 19 mile long run next weekend so that will be a new first for me. My furthest distance up to this point has only been 16 miles so I am excited to attempt a new distance. I do not think that next week will be too difficult if I can continue to stick to my training schedule and prepare my body properly. There is less than 2 months left to prepare for the Buffalo Marathon and I am still feeling pretty optimistic and confident in my ability to be able to do this. It is amazing how far I have come as a runner and how easy so many of my runs are these days. I am excited to see what the next few weeks of training have in store as I push it a little further each week. Buffalo better watch out because it won't be long until I conquer 26.2!

Week 23
4/3/13 - 8 miles in 1:25:57 (10:44 min/mi pace)
4/4/13 - 5 miles in 50:23 (10:05 min/mi pace)
4/6/13 - 13 miles in 2:09:26 (9:57 min/mi pace)

338 miles complete in 53:27:46 and only 49 days until conquering 26.2 miles!