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This afternoon I completed my first of two planned 4-hour/20-ish mile long runs. Scheduling them is tricky, considering I need to work around the other ECTA trail races and I need to leave a month or so of tapering off before the actual marathon. This was an experimental run. I wanted to find out what was appropriate as far as energy/nutrition on a run longer than 3 hours; mostly, though, I just wanted to see how I would hold up.

The answer to that is: not so bad.

1) Mental/Emotional

Running alone in the woods for an hour is peaceful and relaxing. Two hours gives me a sense of accomplishment and a nice runner's high. Anything over two hours takes a pretty significant mental toll. Isolation, boredom, and pain are a few of the factors that I have to deal with because I run alone. A feeling akin to homesickness sometimes sets in. And occasionally it just gets DULL, though in my experience running on roads is way more boring than running on trails. There's always the forest life to keep things interesting.

Today, for example, was all about creepy crawlies. It was too hot for the big animals, apparently. I ran past at least 3 ant swarms, maybe five or six snakes, a bunch of toads and frogs hopping around, and daddy longlegs spiders in abundance. (And a leg bone, smack in the middle of my warmup hill. It looked like a femur of something. Maybe a deer?)

Another way I keep things from getting too boring is to plot things in my head: the novel I am trying to work on, for one, or RP stuff, or course syllabi. I don't wear earphones while running (that is a whole other post I have yet to make in this sadly neglected running journal) but I DO run to music.

The music in my head. :|

Sometimes I pretend I am being interviewed and I try to think up really hard interview questions and how I would answer them. I often talk to myself.

I didn't FEEL particularly isolated on today's run, though during the last 20 minutes or so there was plenty of pain -- MOSTLY from lactic acid build-up in my calves. It was really hard to keep going, especially since the only person pushing me at the moment is myself. I am glad I finished out the four hours and that I pushed through the worst of it. One fantastic indicator that I wasn't as mentally/emotionally tough as I made myself out to be was the fact that, during my after-stretching, two dear family friends (surrogate parents of mine, really) approached, walking their dogs. I almost started crying as the homesick-feelings washed over me. I think I kept them talking too long for their liking, not wanting to lose that contact after hours of alone-ness. Luckily, I have talked a good friend into running at least one loop of the marathon with me. I think I have another friend lined up for the second loop as well, and there will be people along the course and at the aid stations. The marathon itself, while it will be MUCH more isolating than a big road marathon like Chicago, will be less lonesome than these training runs.

2) Physical:

Pre-run lunchysnack: two tablespoons of frozen blueberries, a half cup of strawberry Greek-style yogurt, pumpkin/flax granola, apple, banana, oat bran. IT WAS A LOT OF FOOD ONCE I GOT IT ALL MUSHED TOGETHER IN THE BOWL. I have been adding flax to my diet because it is supposed to help inhibit inflammation of the joints. I have no idea if it is helping or not. My joints feel pretty good, at any rate.

As far as the run itself goes: repetitive motion for four hours takes a toll for certain. Lactic acid buildup hit me hard today. I was pretty comfortable up until around 2 hours and 20 minutes of running. INTERESTINGLY, that is also about when I ran out of food. I only brought along about 240 calories' worth of snacks in my pack. I really needed about double that. This is a very good thing to figure out for the marathon. Snacks I can tolerate include Welch's fruit snacks and chewy granola bars. They're pretty easy to chew and swallow and you can feel the effects of the sugar really quickly. They didn't make me feel like vomiting, which is key. (Certain "runner marketed" energy snacks absolutely make me want to hurl. Gu, anyone?) Valuable, valuable information.

I drank about a pint of water per hour running, and that felt about right. Still -- today the temperature hovered around 90 degrees with very high humidity. I lost a lot of fluids in sweat. My clothing was entirely soaked by the end. In November the weather is going to be very, very different, though I still want to keep my water intake fairly regular.

Anyhow, in spite of my attempts to stay nourished and hydrated, the muscle burn got slowly but steadily worse: tolerable up to 3 hours, slightly less tolerable up til around 3:40, and then increasingly hellish the closer I got to 4 hours. I stretched for a good 20 minutes afterward and my body cleared it. Also, after about 3 1/2 hours my hands and wrists started swelling up from my hand positioning and the blood pooling in my fingertips. I had to hold them up straight in the air and shake them to get the blood flowing properly again.

Altogether I feel no worse right now, about an hour after finishing the run, than I expected. My stomach is a little unsettled. I have eaten two stuffed grape leaves and two snack-sized bags of Smartfood for about 280 calories. I might take a nap. I anticipate soreness but also a week ahead of relaxing, recouping, and hanging out with Aly and Gavin instead of worrying about workouts, so I am cool with it. Next four hour excursion? PROBABLY in late September sometime; by early October I want to be tapering.

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Bricks and Bones

December 2013

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