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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Stick to the Plan

...unless the plan is going to kill you.

A friend of mine ran the same Capitol 10K that I did. Around 35 minutes into the race, the sun really came out and started roasting the competitors. As my friend began his last mile, he would later remember that he started feeling heat climbing up his back, and a couple hundred yards from the finish line, he collapsed. He had succumbed to heat stroke, and for the following week he was not allowed to run as all the excess chemicals that were flowing through his body returned to normal. It's a terrifying prospect, and not one that I normally consider.

Heat will always be a factor for runners in Texas, but you can fool your body into thinking you are more ready for it than you are. Add to that other details like a full schedule, not enough food, and abbreviated sleep, and you could really have a recipe for disaster. When I began my run in the 70 degree pre-dawn world this morning, though, I didn't think too much about it.

My goal was to keep to an 8:00 pace for as long as it was comfortable, and at around 10 miles, as I started the long climb up South Lamar, the comfort began to wane. With 12 scheduled miles remaining, I wondered how I was going to finish this run with any sort of strength. Oddly, my legs were still moving well, but my body was getting tired quickly, and I was uncertain if this workout was really in the cards for me on this particular morning. I refocused myself and pushed on.

Then, at around 13, I got stopped by a red light, and realized that it was time for my second energy gel. I took it with some water, and as I waited for the light to change, I saw just how incredibly sweaty I was. My willpower was almost entirely gone, and I knew that I did not have 9 more miles in me.

So I was smart. I rested a few minutes and then, instead of the roundabout 9, I did the straight-shot 3 that would get me home. My speed was still there, but I didn't know if I would have the endurance to finish all the miles that I had planned. Turns out I was right.

With about one mile to go, I felt the last waves of energy leave me. I slogged (my mother's word for a "slow jog") through the final mile, soaking wet and struggling, but upright.

Certainly, I'm not going to complain about completing a 16+ mile run on a Saturday morning, but I was a little disappointed in my endurance for the day. The good news is that I've still got plenty of time, and I can point to any number of extenuating circumstances that contributed to my inability to run the absurd number of miles that I wanted to run. The most convincing reason is that I should not be doing runs over 20 miles on consecutive weeks. I had hoped through my build-up that I would be ready, but I also want to make sure that I'm strong in those later miles, and now that I'm in training, I can't afford to just care about the miles that I'm doing. I have to watch the minutes, too.

With that, I present my top ten "when in doubt" decisions for runners and running etiquette. When in doubt...

10) Don't spit. If you can't see where it'll land, don't let it fly.
9) Ask. Most runners love to share tips and secrets with others.
8) Don't run. Trying to run through excessive time crunches or illness will only lead to trouble.
7) Run for distance, not time. Build endurance first, and speed will follow.
6) Water. Sports drinks are great, but always get water, too.
5) Try both and see, by gut feeling, which is going to be best.
4) Assume that you are, in fact, injured, and rest the ailing body part.
3) Stick with what you know. Gear, routes, pace, anything. Routine makes for confidence.
2) Undertrain. This will always garner better results than overtraining.
1) Stop running and rest. You can't be better tomorrow if you break yourself today.

Be smart out there.

Saturday's workout:
68 Degrees, dark
16.34 Miles

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