This week’s vlogs are about my last two long runs. Long runs are always my most difficult workout, no matter how far I’m supposed to bike or swim it’s not as difficult as the weekly long run. The last two have both been memorable – and educational – in very different ways. Below you’ll find the video and the transcript. You can subscribe to my video blogs here!
Welcome back to the vlog. Today I want to talk about my last two long runs. Which have both been really memorable, but for very different reasons.
Last week on my long run there were two big changes. The first was that I was going to, no matter what, run through the calf cramping. We were going to see if that maybe helped the calves to release faster than stopping and stretching every few minutes which was taking about an hour to have any effect.
Second, I was changing my run plan. So normally what I do is take it easy for about the first two miles to try to cut down on the cramping, and then I do shorter run intervals with longer walking, then about half way through the run I start doing my long run intervals.
For this run I decided that I was going to do the first mile easy and then I was just going to do the long run intervals the whole time.
This meant running more than I had run ever in any long run. And I was not even close to sure that I could do it, but I figured I wanted to see what I could absolutely do and the only way to really do that was to push hard from the beginning. I figured could always walk, or you know, crawl to the finish if I had to.
On the first mile my calf felt pretty good. But that easy mile was gone in an instant and it was time to start running. So I took a deep breath and I just took off.
The right calf started cramping up a bit, but per the game plan I just ran through it. But since I wasn’t stopping and stretching I was constantly cramped, and being constantly cramped meant that for the next few miles both my runs and walks were slower than normal which was really frustrating, but I kept pushing.
Finally it felt like the muscle was going to pull or rip so I stopped and I just took a few seconds to stretch it out. It worked! The cramp faded and I was able to pick up the pace.
Then the miles actually started to go by pretty fast. I looked down and realized that I had been doing the long run intervals for one mile more than I had ever done them in the past and I still felt pretty good.
That went on for a while and then, with about three miles left it started to get rough – I was hurting and tired, and I had started muttering to myself. Now, don’t misunderstand – it wasn’t that I was consciously talking to myself, it was more that I became aware that I was talking out loud. Simple phrases like “You got this.” And “don’t stop.” And “come on push.” And then at one point I heard myself say “Really fucking hard!” I was momentarily confused and thought maybe I lost it, and then I realized that I was talking to the motivational speech that was playing on my ipod.
My run list is a mix of songs and workout motivational speeches – it turns out I run a little better when people scream problematic platitudes about wolves and sheep at me. The motivational speech guy had asked ‘How hard do you work when the lights are off and noone is watching.” Considering that’s when most of my work happens, my answer of “really fucking hard” actually made sense. So I figured I was still ok and I kept running.
With a couple miles left though, things were not looking good for the home team. I was holding my long run intervals but I was deep in the pain cave. I looked at my watch during a walk interval and I was walking a full minute per mile slower than I wanted to be. I heard someone yell “Goddamn it Ragen hold the STANDARD!” And I was like wait – I yelled that. It surprised me almost as much as it surprised the couple having a make-out session on the bench near me. I have no idea where it came from, thats’ not even something I normally say, but I seemed pretty serious about it so I picked up the pace.
One mile left and I’m making bad decisions. I finish a run interval and I felt dizzy and looked at my heart rate and it was way too high. I also realized that I was not going to make my goal time (which was not in any way realistic,) but I wanted to come as close as possible so I didn’t want to slow down, but I was also aware somewhere in the back of my mind that was still making sense that passing out would not improve my speed. So I slowed down a little and my heart rate came down. Mercifully, I finished the run.
I achieved my goal of holding the long run intervals the whole time. That’s a significant victory not just for training, but psychologically because it reminds me that I can do more than I think I’m capable of.
I was 17 seconds faster per mile than last week. That’s not as fast as I wanted to be so initially I was a little bummed, but I consoled myself that that I wasn’t resting all through the run, and I was slow during the miles that I was cramped, and that the run was a mile longer than last week, and decided that 17 seconds would do.
When I got home though, I looked at my past weeks of workouts. looking at the last 5 long runs I’ve gotten faster every week and I was actually one minute and 17 seconds per mile faster this week than I was five weeks ago when I only ran half this distance. Suddenly, my time on this run seemed better.
Fast forward to last week’s long run. After a rough week of training because I was sick, I once again found myself at the starting line for a long run. My PT had done a thing where you scrape at muscles with a dull metal blade in order to break up any adhesions in the fascia and as I started off my calves felt really good. I had decided to cut down the time I took it easy from 1 mile last week to a half mile this week. This time though, that half mile dragged on as my head was pounding and my stomach ached. But still, too soon it was time to run. I momentarily forgot about being sick because my calf felt fricking great – it was like a festivus miracle out there. The calf was healed, at least for this run. But the rest of me…not so much.
This run was going comically slowly and I kept thinking that it would be completely reasonable to just quit given how shitty I felt. But I had missed a short run earlier in the week and I really wanted to get this done. Also, I checked my overall pace expecting the worst and somehow I was only, like, 10 seconds per mile off my pace. I kept going. In addition to hurting, my stomach’s rebellious streak meant I couldn’t take in any nutrition, or really more than a sip of water every couple miles. That wasn’t causing a problem yet but I was pretty worried how it would feel, you know, miles from now. But there was nothing to do but keep running.
Finally almost exactly halfway through the run my stomach started to feel better. I checked my pace. I could still make my goal of being faster than last week, I would just have to be faster the second half of this run than I was the first half. That seemed do-able.
The time was still going by incredibly slowly but at least I was past half way which gives me a big mental boost. I think of the first half as every step gets me closer to the half, and then the second half every step gets me closer to the end.
I was making good time but I realized that when I had thought it would be no problem to do the second half faster than the first half, I somehow forgot that legs get tired the more you run. Right, that is definitely a thing.
My heart rate was too high, my head was pounding, and my stubbornness kicked in, I did not want to do all this work only to be slower than last week. I could do this.
I thought I had timed it so that when I’d get back to my car the run would be over. Except on long runs I lose the ability to math – not just to math hard, to math at all. So when I switched the screen of my watch to show the distance it said I had .2 miles left. You might as well have told me that I had to run 20 more miles. I was like 20 feet from my car, which was down an incline, so .2 more miles meant turning around and running up the incline. Now generally this incline wouldn’t even be noticeable but the way that I felt it seemed like I needed two sherpa and supplemental oxygen to get back up. But I was not going to short this run, not even .2 miles. Fuck it. I turned around and headed up the incline deciding to forget the intervals and just run the rest of the way.
Gasping at my car with my hands on my knees I checked my watch. 14 seconds per mile faster than last week with an extra mile of running. When I tried to smile in triumph for my selfie I started crying, the picture actually shows the transition between the two which I thought was perfect for this run.