Each and every one of my longs have proven to be opportunities for me to not only grow and connect with myself on a personal level but also to gain more understanding of how I will will want things to be on race day. These long runs are my "dress rehearsals". Whether they are run with some miles at marathon pace or just slow and easy, they give me an opportunity to test out fuel, music, gear, strategy, mental cues, mantras, etc. And they surely give me plenty of time on my feet to fit in the miles AND have the time to connect with myself, God, and reflect on life.
My long runs these past two or three weeks have really given me lots to reflect on. I've been getting up really early on Sunday mornings so that I can fit my long runs in and still have time to make it to church with my family. I like the way things are working now. And I like that I've started seeing my long runs as more of a key workout instead of just logging miles. I've had a chance to test out marathon pace, new fuel options, and really think about what I want from this Boston Marathon.
Today's run didn't call for anything special. Just 18 easy miles. I did end up running it more progressively and finishing stronger and faster than just "easy". It ended up being 18.30 miles in an 8:05 average. Nothing jaw dropping for me personally but I learned a lot on this run and I came home with some new goals in mind as well as a bit more confidence in myself than I've been feeling lately when it comes to running. My splits were as follows:
Here are a few things I've had a chance to think about on my long runs the past few weeks:
Long runs are a GREAT opportunity to actually try out different strategies for fueling during these longer distances. The past two weeks I've tried just taking my water belt with 20 oz of water and using sports beans to fuel gradually over the course of the run. Today I tried these:
I'm not entirely sure what I think about the "Extreme" part of these with the caffeine but they served me well. My stomach seems a little upset compared to the sports beans without caffeine but that could just be because of other things. Some things I do know about experimenting with my fuel:
- I'm convince that I it will work best for me to fuel gradually instead of taking gels all at once at different times. I'm not sure what this will look like yet but maybe it is just that I start with these beans at mile 5-7 and take a few every mile or two with sips of water. This would be harder to do if I don't have my own fuel belt. The beans can also slow me down since I'm fiddling with a bag. I could also do this with little bits of GU.
- I'm not sure HOW MUCH fuel I will need to "race" a marathon and not just "run" it. I think it might be interesting to try a bag of beans up until mile 20 and then take a gel to finish strong.
- I'd also like to try fueling off of just Powerade, Gatorade or some drink like this. Maybe alternating it with water if it is warmer outside. This is one strategy that my friend Nicole talked with her coach about.
I'm getting closer and closer to finding my hopeful marathon pace. I am fully aware that Boston isn't the easiest marathon course out there so I'm being realistic about my goals but after today I'm ready to be a bit more aggressive with them too. I plan on racing this baby harder than I did when I did it last time...that's a fact. Today's run was just a normal long run but just the fact that 8:00 pace felt so natural is a sign that I'm getting stronger. Mile 17 was 7:17 pace and while I was running it, I was saying to myself "I can't believe I'm NOT tired!! I'm not tired!" No joke, I said this out loud. I felt so strong and this made me very happy. Especially at the end of a long run.
No music for me. I don't remember the last time I ran outside with music. And I LOVE it. Perhaps my head is just too full lately but I've really been loving these long runs with nothing to listen to other than my own thoughts. It has been a very peaceful and focused time for me. I'm probably NOT going to race Boston with music. In fact, as of today, I won't be. I'm learning that music might be a distraction for me that I can afford. It can be nice sometimes too but just not now.
Connecting with God and having time to pray is always something that brings my life strength and clarity. My early morning long runs have proven to be a great time for this. I've felt such a connection with God lately when I'm running. And it is these long runs that leave me with the most time to be alone and reflect things. Oh, how this has helped me in so many other areas of my life.
As I was running today and keeping things easy and comfortable, I just felt so strong. Things are solid right now. And I could feel my confidence coming back. Not that it was entirely gone but I've been having doubts in what I am really capable of. I've been setting my sights a bit lower than perhaps I'm capable of when it comes to ability. I'm realizing more and more that such a big part of this whole training gig and reaching big goals is BELIEVING WE CAN! Obviously this is within reason, but oh so much power comes when we just BELIEVE that we have what it takes! This is coming to me slowly but surely.
I continue to learn so much about myself and life through my training. Training for a marathon takes a lot of time and energy. It requires us to give certain things up and manage our time wisely but it also allows us to gain so much energy, wisdom, self discipline and satisfaction that can be applied to the rest of our lives. Yes, it all takes time, but in the "long run" it proves to be well worth it.