On Saturday I turned a corner in my running life. I ran a 50K training run. I’m not sure what I was expecting when I started. I thought about the long, long run off and on for most of the week. What would I eat? What would I wear? Should I carry water? A handheld or backpack? How many gels? Would I make it the whole way? Where would I run? Would I have to walk? Maybe it would be just five more miles than I’d ever run before — not a huge deal. It might just feel a little longer. I’ve been running between 85 and 95 miles weekly this spring and summer, including two marathon-distance training runs the first two weeks of June. My base is definitely strong enough to go longer.
I’m pleased with the effort, and I can say I finished with a giant, goofy smile on my face. Michael ran the first 20 or so miles with me, which kept my mind off the task at hand. My pace was consistent — between 8:49 for the first mile and 8:03 for the 28th mile for 8:23 per mile overall. This is slower than my normal long run pace, which is in the 7:45 range, but with a goal to just finish, I can’t complain. And I learned a few things about how I deal with longer distances.
First of all, I have to figure out why my toes aren’t happy and solve this blister situation. For the first 14 miles, we had a steady, light rain. My Adidas shoes that actually worked well for three hours in the pouring rain in Boston tended to create pockets of humidity around my feet for this run. They’re the most ventilated shoes I have, but I think I need to look in to alternatives. I’m wearing lightweight Balega socks that have never given me problems before, but I still end up with soggy toes.
Another lesson I learned the hard way around mile 28? I need to start eating solid food. Even though solid food sounds completely unappetizing in the middle of a hot, stinky run, I could have used more in my stomach. The four GUs and two Clif shot blocks I had weren’t cutting it. I felt a little lightheaded past the marathon point. Maybe it was just a mental block. I also probably should have eaten more than a banana and a half cup of coffee before the run. Guess I need to wake up earlier so my stomach has time to settle if I’m going to eat more.
The most surprising thing from this first longer effort is how completely wiped out I felt for the rest of the day. I was home by 11 a.m., and I felt like I’d been running all damn day. By 3 p.m., I wanted to go to sleep, but I had this endorphin-fueled, wired thing going on, so I couldn’t nap very well. Physically, I felt like I’d run a kind of easy marathon — sore but I could still walk down steps without much wincing. The main difference for me between 26 and 31 is the mental drain. That’s what I need to train to push through.
Finally, another interesting quirk came in the form of some pretty vivid hallucinations. I haven’t had to run through this level of euphoric, fuzzy just-put-one-foot-in-front-of-another since the St. George Marathon last year, when I think I was probably dehydrated and I saw the road start to kind of melt. The two things I saw during this run were rainbows and a bird. The rainbows were flashing by my head on both sides as I ran down Beach Drive. Going by my head like really fast cars. But just by my head, not by my whole body. At the same time I felt like I was running with rocket shoes. Looking back at my Garmin data, this was my fastest mile. Then at mile 29, I looked down at the ground and saw a dead blackbird. “Hmm. That’s not a good sign,” I thought. Then I blinked, turned away, turned back, and the dead bird was gone. So. It probably wasn’t there? Then I got in my head and decided that seeing a dead bird and then having it disappear was also not a good sign. I drank some more water a quarter mile later and felt good through the end of the run. But man, that bird.
I have a 50K race in 10 days in North Carolina. There, the goal is to finish at an OK pace (maybe between 7:45 and 8:30?) and to work on my fueling and blister/soggy feet issues some more. Oh and not to see phantom dead animals because that’s a little weird. I will have a trial and error period for a while before I get this long run thing right, but I’ll definitely figure out what works before Comrades.