Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tricks for Surviving Long Training Runs

I may sound like a broken record here, but training for a marathon in Florida during the summer is slightly less than ideal.  It’s hot and it’s humid, and it usually takes less than a quarter of a mile before I am literally dripping with sweat.  And that’s at 5:30 AM.  It’s only downhill from there once the sun comes out. But since nothing can take the place of braving the elements and pounding the pavement when it comes to preparing for 26.2, we suck it up and get out there week after week. I’m certainly not an authority on the subject, but after training during a couple of Florida summers, I’ve come up with a few tips and tricks that help me push through and finish.
  1. Run with a friend. I can’t tell you how many mornings I would have skipped out on a run or done 15 miles when I had planned to do 20 if I didn’t have Maria there to motivate me.  And on days when it’s so miserable I can’t even begin to find motivation even with a friend, it helps to know someone is there suffering right along with me.
  2. Fuel and hydrate appropriately, both prior to and during the run.  Figure out what works for YOU and stick to it.  I always drink extra water the day before a long run, and I have a Powerade Zero after dinner.  If you’re running in the heat, make sure to carry water.  Speaking from experience, there’s nothing that will make you hate a run like becoming dehydrated will. I usually have a decent sized bowl of Kashi Go Lean & puffed kamut with berries and flax milk about an hour before I start running, and I always carry one more Gu gel in my belt than I think I am going to need.  
  3. Treat yourself to some new music. While there are certain songs that show up on nearly every one of my running playlists, I like to mix it up with some new songs each weekend. I usually spend a few minutes Saturday night poking around on this site; it allows you to search by genre, tempo, or decade.  New music always makes me happy.
  4. Adjust your pace according to the heat. There are varying estimates on how temperature affects pace; according to Jeff Galloway, an 8 min/mil pace in 50 degree weather will slow to a 9:35 min/mile pace in 80 degrees (source).  Jack Daniels’ slightly less extreme estimates indicate that race pace will suffer by 15 seconds per mile.  Make sure to listen to your body; the goal of the long run is not to break any speed records but rather to build endurance and get your legs used to moving for hours at a time.  That goal can still be accomplished at slower paces. 
  5. Don’t obsess over your Garmin. I try to only look at mine when the mile notification goes off. I have found that looking at my watch every tenth of a mile only makes the run seem longer.
  6. Break the run up into small segments rather than looking at the whole run.  Tampa is home one of the most scenic, runner friendly routes that you will find anywhere.  There are nearly five miles of uninterrupted sidewalk right next to the bay, the sidewalk is painted with quarter mile markers, and there are a number of water stops along the road. Since we run Bayshore nearly every weekend, I have developed a set of mini goals that I use to keep my feet moving.  When I am struggling, it’s much easier to tell myself to get to the water stop that is 2 miles away rather than trying to think about running 16 more miles to the finish.
  7. Reward yourself when it’s over. You deserve a little treat after running double digits.  Maybe the reward is a massage or a pedicure.  Or, if you’re like me, the best possible reward is a delicious breakfast.  Most Sunday mornings, you will find Maria and me at one of two places – Daily Eats or First Watch.  Both restaurants have large menus with both healthy and decadent options, and digging into a hearty meal after getting up early and running for hours is one of my favorite moments of every weekend.
  8. When all else fails, remember how you felt when you finished your last race. The feeling of pride and accomplishment of crossing the finish line after 26.2 hard fought miles is like nothing else I have ever experienced. When I focus on the memories of those moments, I remember why I’m out there in the first place, and I know that the discomfort I am feeling is worth it if it means I get to experience that feeling again.

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