To borrow from Midsummers Night’s Dream, over the course of a long run, it is amazing how quickly one can move from a position of power to one of panic; from an Oberon to a Bottom; from king to ass.
On Aug.18th, I participated in Midsummers Night Run, which takes inspiration from the play (even encourages fairy costumes) is charity drive for the Sick Kids Foundation. Before I discuss that race, I’ll give you some background on my running history.
This is my first year of organized running. I grew up running around the avon river in Stratford and, after moving to the concrete jungle of Toronto more than 8 years ago, I didn’t really discover a decent running route until recently. My current favourite is a 10K stretch along the boardwalk from the suspension bridge to our lone wolf windturbine.
First, I’ll discuss my post run breakdown – literally breakdown – and second I’ll finish off with run itself as I want to end on a high note.
After running 30K it’s not a good idea to wander off into the night alone. I had a friend with me, Richard Kim (pictured above), who also ran in Merrell road gloves, which is basically barefoot, for only his second time! We had left the running zone and we were had been attempting to track down a cab. As we waited, I started to feel hot and slightly nauseous.
It only got worse in the cab ride. Fortunately, I could crack the window and we were given plastic these bags with food samples post race. After I made the universal barf sign, Richard dumped most of its contents in a flash and handed me his bag. Let’s just say he won’t be wanting those candies back.
The cab dropped us off at a 7-11 close to my house and then I proceeded to paint queen st. west a few more times. It was a bit bizarre to be puking on the sidewalk before the bars. I’m sure the patrons thought I was having a bad night of boozing instead of having just ran 30K. With a quite concerned look of his face, Richard suggested that we might visit the hospital and see a doctor thinking that I could be severely dehydrated. I knew I wasn’t that bad off, and decided to call one instead.
My dad is a retired physician living in Stratford with my mom, a nurse who worked in his office and actually got her start at her Sick Kids hospital. She was happy to support my run (and you can too until Aug. 30th!!!).
On my front porch, I put them on speaker phone and as soon as they explained that I should get some ginger – either ginger ale or the actual root and some gravol, off dashed Richard back to 7-11. He scored some ginger-ale and ginger-flavoured gravol; perfect!
Now that I was out of the woods, let’s return to the run and see what could have contributed to this sorry state.
I had been training by running twice a week with one night of sprinting via Ultimate frisbee. On Tuesday, I did short run usually around 6 KM with my half-marathon clinic lead by the ever-encouraging Brooke Rosenfeld. I opted to join the marathon runners on Sunday for my long run ( 15-20 KM ) because the half group was doing half that distance at the time.
I also occasionally did longer runs on my own with my longest solo run being 30KM, a few week ago in July. My technique for solo runs over long distances is basically to hang myself on this first leg. I run as far as I can in one direction while assessing my energy level/pace after each K and decide if I can repeat the run back at a slower pace.
That first time I ran 30K on my own – I forgot to take gels with me – and relied solely on water using a bladder with a hose. I use Nike Plus to track my runs and prefer the watch over the app simply because it’s more accessible on my wrist. This is an overview of that run applying their patented 10:1 approach.
Ideally, I’d like to see a flat or even better a slightly upward sloping graph. In this case, I’ve obviously started out way too fast and can’t maintain a steady pace to achieve that desired result.
Although I like solo runs, I think it’s far easier to run as a group and I know I’ve benefited from the free group runs.
There were several times between 10 and 20K where I felt like breaking out and increasing my pace, but it was a good thing that I didn’t chomp down on that bit. It would have been much more devastating later in the race when I needed that fuel.
In this last attempt at 30K and under the motivation of a formal race, my graph is much more flat for most of the race. I had planned to run around 5 KM/hr with 25 minutes milestones to hit each 5K. I was especially happy with my half marathon time of 1:45 knocking about 15 minutes off my past solo attempt. I wanted to make these times:
1. 5K – 0.25
2. 10K – 0.50
3. 15K – 1:15
4. 20K – 1:40
5. 25K – 2:05
6. 30K – 2:30
All but 6 happened. My final time was 2:38. I was right on or below many of them because, at the start of the race, I sought out a pace rabbit – dubbed pace fairies for this event – stuck to his 2:30 wand and tutu as long as I could. I finally lost him somewhere around 24K.
On this course, there were aid stations every 3K with both water and gatorade. They would also fill your water bottle. I carried a 10 oz water bottle that fit snug into my “fuel-belt” brand hydration pack (not to be confused with their belts).
I was a bit paranoid about dehydration and brought along my empty bladder just in case. I also brought a cliff bar, 3 gels: strawberry-banana (no caffiene), vanilla (with caffiene), espresso (with more caffiene), and sport beans. I believe that the caffienne and beans basically pile-drived my stomach. With the beans, I also broke the cardinal rule – NEVER TAKE ANYTHING NEW ON RACE DAY – only take what you’ve practiced with. I practiced with gels and should have stuck with them. I had tried caffienate gels over my short runs and then didn’t have negative effects. I consumed the beans at the 28K mark; a desperate attempt to fuel and ignite empty tanks.
Going into the race, I had a goal to only drink water after learning that gatorade and gels are basically the same thing; that we should simply drink water and gels but not both. In the past, I often take gatorade to soccer and ultimate frisbee. I think its great for short shifts but I’m not sure yet about its benefits over long distances.
I know my stomach can be sensitive at times. This is big reason why they taught us to practice eating different quick foods during our weekly long runs.
As part of my half marathon clinic, Brooke would invite elite runners into to speak us about their training. Through these sessions, I got a chance to chat with Michelle, a local elite runner and she stressed the importance of going into each run with a defined goal. My first 30K run started out as being a 24 goal and she advised against doing that again; but focussing on a goal and sticking to it; and most importantly I’d need to slow down and practice sustainable runs.
The course snakes back on itself several times. Along the run, I met Richard once where we both waved at each other in silent concentration. I met Brooke twice; and both times she cheered me on which was incredible as she was behind me. Who does that?! Brooke does! It made my race as well as receiving a “Hey you” from Michelle who at the time was 40 minutes ahead of me and would go to place 5th overall; 1st female! But I didn’t know that at the time and it best that I didn’t know how much more running I had to do as the upcoming Ashbridges Bay loop, which under any other circumstances would be just gorgeous, was just brutal!
As I moved past the 26K mark, I’d gone from bounding lion to a broken down tin man desperate for oil. I could suddenly feel all my joints. It was both fascinating and perplexing to be passed by ancient, neanderthal men and women who shuffled past me, catching a breeze off their three inch ear hair. It was a real tortoise and hare scene – how on earth are they doing this?! Madness. Master, wait up!
In hindsight, I could possibly have reverted to intervals at 24K. I like to think that I decided to walk and collect myself at 28K instead of being forced to stop. I remember having 2:26 on my watch and knowing that there was no way I coud run the last 2K to meet my goal time of 2:30; better rest a bit, walk and recover.
I had reached 5 of 6 of pace time goals. If it this had been a half marathon, I would have run a near perfect race in my books. These personal goals is what we strive for in running and has convinced me to keep my ticket to the Scotia Bank half and not make the leap to the full. I guess my goal for this year has been to focus on pure running; running far on a bit of an edge without wrecking my body and relying too much chemical caffeinated crutches. Although I do like science behind all the gels, I’d rather run on a foundation fuelled by decent nutrition and water. Alright, gatorade you get some love too.
When I rounded the final bend; saw the bright flood lights; and the crowd cheering everyone as we entered the final chute, I suddenly found my kick and at that point well…things got a little emotional. I swelled up with pride and nearly cried!
I knew that just getting there was a big part unlocking this moment of pure bliss. If I had to do it again, I’d definitely approach getting there differently and be better prepared for the distance. Post race, Richard called it “humbling” and I’d have to agree with that sentiment. I know this is easy to say now, but I hope to return next year and attempt to cruise through 30K which would definitely mark my readiness for a marathon.
I’ve prepared a personal list of 5 things could improve my run and ultimately performance next year:
1. After the race, I need stretch more and I should walk more – at least 500M if not a K or two. I really need to work out all the lactic acid build up. I was very stiff for two days after the race but was able to run again on day three; slowly.
2. If I find I’m losing my pace and stiffening up, I should switch to intervals immediately.
3. I need to better plan out proper, carbohydrate-rich meals on the day before and on race day that balance out 2500 Calories I could lose during the race. I want to rely on one source of fuel and water for long runs over 20K and then just use gatorade on the 10K. Actually I really have no idea what I’m doing here and I should consider visiting with an nutritionist expert like Dr. Stephanie Beynon
4. I could build up my core more without hitting the gym – I’m fairly anti gym – but I think I might be into discovering yoga again at my old studio. If I did go back to a gym, perhaps I’d enjoy it more with races as a purpose. Ideally, it would be great to find one close to work so I could possibly run to and from some days.
5. I’m very competitive but I need to let go of time as a major goal and measure of success for long distances – concentrate more on running smart, safe, and sustained. Only with the short distances – 5-10K – will I unleash the jack rabbit.