Ah the long run – the weekly pain session by which we judge if our other weekly pain sessions are having the desired effect (of allowing us to have pain sessions that last for longer distances).
Every week of training since I started this journey, first with my marathon and now for the IRONMAN, I have done a long run (or walk, in the case of marathon training) They have ranged from 5 miles to 24 miles, but it seems that regardless of the distance they are always pretty much the same:
Before the Run
This is a time of promise, of optimism, of slathering myself with sunscreen and anti-chaffe cream (rule of thumb: if a body part isn’t covered in one, it should probably be covered in the other.) As I eat my pre-run food, fill my water bottle and don my special spandex clothes it seems as though anything is possible.
Everything is terrible, every time. I’ve since learned that it isn’t just me, that many people experience first mile suckage. The key, at least for me, seems to be to acknowledge that it’s happening (again,) breathe through it, slow down (no need to be a hero on mile one) and try desperately to quell the thought “Sweet fluffy lord there is no way I can get through [however many miles]”
After the first mile things get better. I start to feel pretty good, usually the cramping in my calves subsides and the miles start clicking by. Optimism returns.
During these miles I am a math genius, I calculate current pace, project mile finish times and overall finish time under various scenarios etc. because I have nothing else to do, and I’m trying to take my mind off the fact that I’m running even though absolutely nothing is chasing me.
Things are still going ok, but I’m feeling the burn and looking a little more forward to each drink of water and chew (they’re like gummy bears with all the joy removed.)
My math skills become less sharp as my brain slowly shuts down (assuming, I guess, that things must be pretty bad if we’re still running, so it should start saving brain power for the hunting and foraging we’re going to have to do for food.)
The Final Third
These are not my happiest times, fatigue is definitely setting in and my form is starting to break down.
My math skills are down to
Q: “If I have to run 10 miles and I’ve run 8, how many miles do I have left?”
A: “WHO COULD POSSIBLY COMPUTE THIS IN THEIR HEAD?”
The Final Mile
I see that I have one mile left. I immediately forget how long a mile is and celebrate that I’m practically finished. This creates a second wind.
This second wind ends when I look down at my watch expecting to be at the end of my final mile, only to see that I have .91 miles left.
At the end
How I want to feel:
How I actually feel:
When I realize that I miscalculated the various loops and out and backs that I had to do to make the beautiful trail that I drove here to run work for the number of miles I need, and that my car is almost a mile away:
And then it’s over. Until the bike or swim later today.
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