I feel like I've just entered the main course, meat and potatoes portion of my marathon training. Granted this morning's 8.3 miles was more of an appetizer than the mother load, entree style, long runs I have coming up, but at least I feel like I'm progressing, since in my normal, non-crazy marathon training life, I usually don't run more than 5 miles at a time.
Running in the crazy heat this summer has been really, really hard. I'm in fairly good shape, but when I run in 80 degree-plus weather with 95% humidity, I feel like I'm my great aunt Mildred (disclaimer, I do not have a great aunt Mildred). I get exhausted fast, like really fast, like a block away from my house fast. And I get insanely thirsty to the point where I have seriously considered knocking on a random door to beg for water, that or sticking my entire head in Fountain Lake at Byrd Park.
I know, I know. There are hundreds of water belts and water hand grippy thingies out there, so why would I run without them in the middle of July? My answer is that I've tried what feels like hundreds of those contraptions, and they ALWAYS suck. I've bought fancy-schmancy water belts with glowing reviews and cult-like followings only to end up hating them from the first second of my run. Usually they splash so much that half my water ends up on me. They rub against my skin, and they feel awkward as hell. I don't know how people run with them. It is like I'm running with a small, very splashy child on my hip. I may have to try again when my runs get longer, but for now my strategy is to only run routes where I know there are water fountains. This pretty much means I run the same route every time, but it's so perty I don't care (takes me through the Fan, past the lakes near Maymont, through Maymont, over the Nickel Bridge, down Riverside Drive, and back).
But the last few times I've run it's been hard to even make it the 1-2 miles to my first water fountain stop. I get there and I know I should sip daintily, but I end up chugging water like I've just made it through the Sahara, waiting any minute for that smart ass kid to come up behind me and say "hey, save some for the whales" (there was always that kid in school right?).
So knowing I had a longer run today, I tried to be really thoughtful yesterday. Any runner will tell you that hydration isn't just about what you drink during the run, but what and how you drink before the run, especially the day before. I tried to be really mindful about drinking water throughout the day yesterday, and I also upped my carbohydrate intake (tough right?). I had a nice pasta dinner the night before, and a snack of cereal before bed (which goes against every diet advice ever, but for early morning runs, a late night carb and protein rich snack can be a good fuel source).
And voila. Today's run was a lot better. Granted, I ran at 8 and the temps were in the high 70s, which made a massive difference. And maybe it's the placebo effect. But I felt like I had a lot more energy today and I didn't get thirsty a couple of blocks in like normal.
A lot of people have asked me how I can train alone, and honestly, I'm not some weirdo loner or misanthrope, but it's never been a problem for me to run alone. Half of that is the fact that I have a very difficult time chatting while running, because I have a difficult enough time breathing while running. But the other half is that I really like running by myself. I like listening to my This American Life episodes. I like the quiet. I like being able to set my own pace. Plus running in the city you're not really by yourself. I've always felt that when you're running, it's like every runner you pass is someone you know. We greet each other and smile and wave, because we are all in that cult of wackadoos who regularly perform a physically painful activity and love it.
So the run was a success. I started to feel it in my knees in the end but it was that expected, tired kind of pain and not the unexpected, uh oh, injury kind of pain. Hips felt good. Shins felt good. I came home, chugged some water, and drank a box of chocolate milk, which I was delighted to read is encouraged as a post-run beverage, by health professionals! It's naturally full of all the things that are added to sports drinks like potassium, sodium, and calcium, and it gives you enough carbs, protein, and calories to aid in muscle recovery. Thank you science for giving me an iron clad excuse to drink what I believe is the best beverage on earth other than wine.
Next week I'm off because I'll be in Belize (!! :) !!)
But the week after I have a 10 miler scheduled, which is the farthest I got in my half marathon training runs, so I feel like after that I'll really be going into uncharted territory with my training.