Ready or Not…

With all the bread action presently taking place in my kitchen, I haven’t blogged about running in a little while. So, here is a post about running.

Race day #1 is just around the corner, and I’ve been back at ‘er for about a month now. The most exciting thing about my running game right now is that I can feel myself improving a lot from one week to the next. It’s incredibly encouraging.

entrails

Am I the only person who loves the smell of skunk cabbage?

Have I improved enough to tackle the 21k race this weekend? I think so. Here’s a little case study called Last Week’s Run vs. This Week’s Run.

Last Week’s Run vs. This Week’s Run

A Case Study

Last Thursday, I decided to run the 15k route for the Loop the Lakes Race. (There’s a 8k, a 15k, and a 21k route.) The 15k is essentially the same route as the 21k, except the 21k has an extra loop of the Four Lakes loop in Alice Lake Provincial Park. I ran the race course out of sequence, and adding on the extra distance from my house to the trails (and back), it came out to about 18k.

It was a humbling run. On my RunKeeper app, I rated it a : ( because I felt so completely exhausted by the end. I felt like I stumbled my way through the last third of the run (which, in my re-jigged order, was the most technical part of the course). I felt a little nervous about the idea of running the 21k.

Yesterday, I ran the exact same course 21 minutes faster. Hallelujah! Not only did that feel like a big win, but I felt solid enough to picture myself continuing for another loop of the Four Lakes Trail. Woohoo – a confidence boost!

Here’s what changed that was out of my control: the weather. Last Thursday was HOT – like, 25 degrees. It was also quite humid, especially for the first half of the run. It felt like I was running through a jungle and my energy was quickly zapped. Yesterday’s run was dream running weather: 15 degrees and partly cloudy. It was pretty windy, but the trails are sheltered so I didn’t feel it at all.

Here’s what changed that was within my control: my hills strategy, fueling, my familiarity with the course, and my mental game.

On last week’s run, I tried running (slowly) up the hills on the course. The hills aren’t terribly daunting, but running them consumed a lot of my energy. I realized the seconds I saved by running the hills earlier on were more than negated by my snail pace later on in the run. So on yesterday’s run, I decided I was going to walk almost every incline. It worked. Getting stronger at uphills is definitely something I need to work on, but right now, my challenge is tackling the 21k distance.

As for fueling, I had a eureka moment: Gatorade. I kind of forgot that I used to drink Gatorade on my runs. Yesterday, I took water and Gatorade with me. It definitely added some pep to my step. If you’ve ever seen me run, you know that I sweat more than the average human. Bring on the electrolytes – I need ’em.

Knowing the course a bit better meant less time pulling out my phone and consulting the TrailForks app. It also helped me divide the course into “chapters”, which is one of my favourite mental running strategies. When I run longer distances, I find I become overwhelmed knowing how much is ahead of me (“Oh god, this is only kilometer four – sure, I feel fine now, but I’ll be DYING later on. There’s still so much to go!”) To combat this, I divide the run into chapters – bite-sized segments that I can focus on one at a time, which makes the whole thing seem so much more manageable. For example, on this trail, my chapters were: getting to Jack’s; Jack’s; the Four Lakes Loop; Mike’s Loop; Entrails; Roller Coaster (my favourite); Lumberjack; and getting home. If I focus on just whatever chapter I’m in, I find it so much easier.

Finally, I knew I had to change my inner voice. On my last run, I filled my head with all the worst kind of thoughts – “This run is terrible!” “It’s SO HOT!” “I’m going to slow anyone who runs with me down!” (extra silly because I was running alone) “I’m going to die if I have to run 21k” etc. I couldn’t stop picturing the race, how much more difficult it was going to be, how unprepared I was, yadda yadda yadda. THIS is exactly why I like running with other people – instead of obsessing over everything unproductive, time is filled chatting, learning about one another, and listening to funny stories. On yesterday’s run, I made a point to NOT think about the race. I thought about work projects, I enjoyed the sights, I thought about how I like living in Squamish, I contemplated the latest book club book – you get the idea. Running is so much more fun when you’re not thinking about running.

Oooh – look at the pace scale!

I guess I should start my taper now, so I’ll probably go on a few short runs between now and Saturday and throw in some hot yoga and a bike ride (not the cool kind of bike ride). Wish me luck.

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