To start this post off right, I have a confession I need to make. I take complete responsibility for the choice, but I full on skipped my 19km long run last weekend. There was no way I could do it after being on my feet for 5 days straight at KSGF 2012. I had the best of intentions to buckle down and lace up, but when push came to shove, I had to make the right decision for my long term health and safety. I felt a bit guilty when I made the choice, but I also knew that it was in my best interest because I was completely and utterly exhausted. As a consolation to myself, I probably ran more than 19km's during the weekend anyway so it all evens out in the end :)
Now that that is off my chest, let's get on with it, shall we?...
After a hellish (yet, upon further reflection, also an extremely elevating) 26km experience, I knew that I needed to come up with a strategy of how to NOT encounter a scenario like that again. Although challenging, it made the thought of future long runs rather daunting. If I suffered that much doing 26km's, how much more would the even further distances hurt? Would I actually be able to push myself further?
There were a few key errors that I made in my torturous 26km run. In no particular order, they were:
1. Physical Preparation - I didn't rest well and I was sitting for way too many hours beforehand.
2. Mental approach - I didn't psych myself up. I just went and hoped it would get easier.
3. I ran solo. Never a good idea when you are going to face agony. Suffering alone just isn't fun!
4. Nutrition - I brought a handful of craisins and a small water bottle. This was NOT enough to sustain me for the amount of energy I was exerting.
So, like any sensible athlete/person, I decided to take action and target all of the above items so I could set myself up for a more enjoyable and motivating experience the next time out. Like the old saying goes: You can never make the same mistake twice, because the second time you make it, its not a mistake, it's a choice..
To be in the best physical condition possible, I cleared my schedule for the evening before so I could lay low and roll out with my travel roller. I ate well (carbo load!) and tried to stretch and get my legs up as much as possible. I was in bed by 10:30pm. Good boy, Kyle, good boy.
To strengthen my mental approach, I wrote in my journal and did tons of positive self-talk in the week leading up. 29km's? No problem! You're a champ, dude. It's going to hurt, but you can handle pain better than 99% of the people out there. Feel the groove. Be proud of how committed you're being to this. You're doing so awesome. You may as well enjoy the struggle - just think of the new capacity you are creating in your life. Etc. Etc. Etc. I also got an interesting, yet kind of freaky, sign from Kristin's sister, Amber, about the importance of being positive. She went to see a clairvoyant (aka: pyschic) and while there, she got a very important message to pass along to "that guy in her life who she considers her brother". That would be moi. The message was this: He needs to slow down and focus on the important stuff. He's trying to do too much and it's spreading him thin. Oh, and he appears to be really positive on the outside, but he really needs to stop with all of that negative self talk that goes on constantly inside his head. It's really toxic and it's not helping him one bit.
Now, I don't generally believe in psychic messages, but this one felt really different to me than others I've received in the past. Amber only saw the lady for about 30 minutes and for some reason she was getting a lot of information to share with me. It was kind of cosmic because I was exhausted from the KSGF and, to be explored further in another blog post, I have been considering taking a few new risks in my professional life. A believer or not, these messages really resonated with me and were a sign that the universe was noticing.
Running long runs solo is pretty lonely and awful, which I learned all too well a couple of weeks ago. To set myself up for success in this department, I decided that I was going to latch on to a group, any group, that could be my companion(s) while we enjoyed the suffering together. One small problem: I had to do my long run on Saturday because I was off to Ottawa on Sunday for CCES board meetings. And everyone I know is doing their long runs on Sunday's. This was going to be a bit of an obstacle…
I asked more than 10 people if they'd be open to running on Saturday, but I had no takers. I've got to admit that "Hey, do you want to meet me at 8am on Saturday morning and run 29km's for 3 hours" is a pretty tough sell :) I thought that atleast ONE person in my facebook network would give me an enthusiastic, "Hell ya!", but it didn't happen. So, I went to my local running store (Strides) to see if there would be a group run on Saturday morning. Much to my delight, there was! Jackpot. The group would be meeting at 8am and I was going to tag along.
Finally, I went for a 10km with my friend Dean (he's an Ironmaner - no big deal) and he gave me some really sound advice about nutrition. Based on my weight, I should eat anywhere from 200-300 calories an hour. I should also drink sips of water every 15 minutes and try to find an electrolyte supplement to add to my drink. He reiterated Martin's comments about how you need to start eating at the beginning of the race, even if you're not hungry, because come 32km's your body starts to crash and you need all the reserves you can muster. I went to a store in Calgary called Tri-It and bought a bunch of delicious snacks including Gu's, Stingers, Hammer Gels and Nuun electrolyte tabs (of note: the running nutrition biz must make BIG bucks because I spent an arm and a leg). I wanted to arm myself with a few different options so I could test out what works best for me. I also got some sage advice that pretzels can be the magic food while on long runs - they have salt, they have carbs and they are crunchy for entertainment so I stopped at the grocery store and bought some of those too!
I also decided to arm myself with a waist belt. I so desperately wanted to be hardcore and wear a camel back, but after trying on 10 different brands, I just felt restricted and annoyed. I opted for a Nathan brand waist belt because it had great wicking capacity (I get major swack and swass when running), it was really comfy and it had lots of options for interchangeable doohickeys (that's the technical term for food pouches, water bottles, camera holder, etc).
With a great week of hills and stimulating short runs combined with all of the above, I was fully prepped to have a kick ass 29km run. Bring it on!
I woke up early on Saturday morning and quietly tip toed to the kitchen to get some breakfast. I didn't want to wake up Cooper because he would think he was coming with me and that is about 3 times too far for my sweet sweet little pooch to run. I hate looking into his sad eyes when I leave wearing my running gear and he has to stay home. Tear.
After breakfast, I got ready and stealthily left the house at 7:45am. I got to the "meeting place" at 8:00am sharp, only to find that no one was around. "Uh oh", I thought, "does this mean I'm going to have to do another long run painfully alone??". Maybe my watch was a little slow or perhaps I got the venue mixed up, but one thing was for sure, I was the only soul around. I decided that I would start running and perhaps catch up to a group and just gleefully cling on to their energy.
Although crisp and cool outside, the first 10km's started things off on a really smooth and silky note. My body felt loose and strong, my arches felt in tact and my mind was clear, positive and determined. Already a much more positive experience than previously encountered :D
Km's 13-18 were literally blissful. I've heard about the infamous runners high and I think I just might have broken me off a piece of that. At 14.5km's, I felt euphoric and floaty and as if each step was effortless. There was no today, no tomorrow and nothing to solve - I was fully immersed in the world just as it was at that very moment and it was pretty fan-freakin'-tastic. I looked down at my watch and thought, "Shit ya. I'm half way done. This is going to be smooth sailing, baby! Bring on the marathon, b*tches!!". I was flipping through radio stations, but I mainly listened to the American Country Countdown, which for some odd reason was keeping me highly entertained. After the half way point, my speed actually started to increase which was a huge motivator as well.
Km 22 is when it started to hurt a little bit. My hip flexors, shoulder blades and feet began to give tiny pings of discomfort, but I felt invincible and the power of positive thinking kept pushing me along. I was running a very familiar route so I knew exactly the scenery that I would be encountering. I started creating little focal points for myself such as, "When you get to the _____ bridge, you've only got 5K left. That's no problem when you've already ran 24K! Stay focused on getting to that point and then let's re-evaluate". It was as if my inner coach was giving me tips along the way.
My knees and IT bands started to suffer in the last 3km's, but it wasn't excruciating. In fact, it felt more like progress than anything. When my watch eventually hit 29km's, marking the glorious end, I ran a few extra strides just to prove to myself that this wasn't my full capacity. I still had gas left in the tank :) I was also grinning from ear to ear like a total nerdbot knowing that I just completed the furthest distance of my lifetime and it wasn't even 11am! Boo-ya! Now, how's that for a productive start to the weekend?!
Positive thinking, a relaxing pre-run day and proper hydration/nutrition seemed to play a huge role in making this run 1000 times better than my 26km hellish experience. The only ingredient that was missing was a companion, but to tell you the truth, I'm kind of glad that I didn't have a running buddy. I really enjoyed my own company. And that might have been the biggest victory of all…