I had a very disappointing run on Sunday. Part of it was because I set my expectations too high. Partly because I'm too hard on myself. But mostly because of the mistakes I made...things I know better about.
Sunday is my long run day, and I psyched myself up all week for my upcoming 10-miler. The Lincoln Half Marathon (which I'm hoping to PR at) was just 3 weeks away, so I thought it would be the perfect time to do a little test run - far enough along in my training to be in good racing shape but still with plenty of time to recover before the real deal.
I've had some pretty awesome short runs on the treadmill lately, so I got ambitious and set out to hold an 8:30 pace. I was only 2 miles in when I started to waver, so I quickly changed my goal to keep each mile under 9:00. (I think it's really important to be able to reassess goals mid-run, otherwise it's too easy to just give up and gain nothing.)
It definitely felt harder than I was expecting, and I started getting down on myself. Although this was a running group run, I wasn't running with the pack, so I was on my own. Also, it was really windy which made it too loud to listen to headphones. I usually turn on my ipod when I feel myself getting into a bad head space.
All of this I could have handled. It's tough but, more often than not, I find that long runs become an exercise in mental stamina more than anything else. Which is good. I think it's great to practice getting yourself up and over mental blocks. It helps you remember all of your tricks come race day.
But then I started feeling bad physically, too. At first I was a little queasy and worried that my dinner was coming back to haunt me (probably shouldn't have eaten Indian food the night before a long run.) And then I started feeling hungry. I only ate a Larabar for breakfast on my way out the door, which was apparently not enough. I ate my gel early (mile 4 instead of mile 5) but didn't have any water to wash it down, so it was kind of miserable. And then all I could think about was how thirsty I was.
My thirst starting taking over. The city had not turned the water fountains on yet, so needed to get back to my car for water. It was nearly 5 miles away at that point. I could tell I was breaking down. I started taking walking breaks...and then standing breaks. When I made it to mile 7, I realized I was eying every runner that passed carrying a water bottle, hoping I knew them so I could ask for a drink. I was getting desperate.
I approached a Kohl's around mile 8 and finally made a good decision. I went inside to get a drink from their water fountain. I felt relief immediately - physically and mentally. As I headed back out, running felt immensely easier. I realized that I was probably extremely dehydrated, and that it was really dumb of me to have gone so long without water. I should have either carried a water bottle or headed back to my car much sooner.
I made it back in one piece and with many lessons learned. Mainly: If you plan to do a training run at race pace, treat it like a race. Rest, fuel, and hydrate properly.
- 10 miles is no joke, so don't treat it as such.
- Fueling properly is important - both the night before and the morning of.
- Hydrate! Make sure to have access to water every 3 miles, or closer in warmer weather.
Finally, I need to remind myself that bad runs happen. I'm hoping to take what I can from this experience and move on. I will not let it scare me out of trying again this weekend. In fact, I'm hoping that these lessons will make me feel even more prepared.