I may have found a system that works.
Part of training for a marathon is creating a pre-run routine that optimizes energy and preparedness without spending too much time or involving too many steps. This morning was one of my more successful morning routines.
When my alarm went off, I was surprised by two things. First, I was surprised that it was already going off, as I was fairly certain that I had only just fallen asleep. Second, I was amazed at how wide awake I was so quickly. I ended up having some caffeine yesterday, and I felt much better in general as far as energy level goes. I'm still going to cut back from the huge amount that I normally had, but I won't be avoiding it entirely, as it appears to be a fairly essential part of my diet.
The first thing I did was have a Snickers Marathon Bar, which I picked up at the grocery yesterday. My quest for energy during the run hasn't quite been solved by baby food, which is slightly disappointing. It's been great for the shorter runs, but I need a little something extra on the long ones. I've had and enjoyed them before, and since they're designed for energy, it seemed like exactly what I needed. I ate it first, so that I'd have a little time to digest it before I started moving. At that point, I got dressed, filled up the Camel Pak, and got all of my little running essentials together.
A quick check of the weather showed that it was already 81 degrees, warmer than usual when I start running. Problem one. As I headed down the hill, I felt some odd tightness in my left hamstring. Problem two. And yet, for some reason, I was very confident today, which didn't make sense even as I was appreciating the fact. I've been so concerned with my lack of endurance lately that I've been dreading these long runs rather than looking forward to them. Even this morning, I wasn't really psyched about heading out the door, but as I started, something in me told me I could do it.
Miles one and two were fairly uneventful. I did my best not to look at my watch until the two mile mark, where I was at a medium pace, exactly where I wanted to be. Mile three started me up a big hill, which I had anticipated, and I focused on the fact that it would be a downhill on the way back. At mile four, I stopped for a moment to pick up a magazine stand that had fallen over into the sidewalk, which got a cheer from the group of runners that passed me as I did it. I ran parallel to them for a little bit, hearing them talking amongst themselves about the 2:45 one of them was shooting for in New York this fall, and I felt a lot better about my pace as I turned up another hill.
This was going to be the hardest part of the run, I felt, but again I knew it would be a lovely downhill on the way back. I fought through it, and had visions of walking once I got to the top of the hill, when a thought occurred to me. Why would I need to walk then? That's the easy part. So I kept on running, and was still trucking along when I hit my halfway mark. I ran back about 3/4 of a mile before I took a half-block walk break to have an energy gel, a break I had planned before I even started the run, and then it was right back to running, with almost no problems at all.
The downhills on the way back were everything I hoped they would be. With every step, I felt myself getting closer and closer to the finish. A couple stoplights held me up for a moment or two, but for the most part, I was able to just keep running, as I was out there early enough to beat most of the traffic. With about three miles left, the energy gel really kicked in, and I felt like I could pick up the pace, but I didn't. This, I think, is what made this workout really successful. If I had picked it up with two or three miles to go, I may have had a lot of problems keeping it up in that last uphill mile. When I started to lose speed, I might have lost confidence and risked a walk break, so instead, I maintained my even pace for the rest of the run, and did not have a single (unplanned) walk break in the entire run.
There is so much that I am thankful for this morning, and I am completely amped this morning. I've got a lot planned for the rest of the day, and having a really successful morning run fuels that a lot. Running has been a challenge for me for the last few weeks, but this felt like progress. Like strength. Even though it was a little slower than I'd like to be doing these workouts, this felt like a solid long run, and I credit very much of it to finding the right combination of food, water, and equipment in the morning.
Let's hope it keeps working.
81 Degrees / Mostly Cloudy
1 Hour, 48 Minutes, 53 Seconds