|Mmm, salt lick! |
(a more enjoyable experience for them than for me, as you can see).
The unexpected consequence of running all these long miles is that if I run fewer than about 18 I don't feel I've had enough exercise. By mid-afternoon I'm restless and twitchy and the sensation only stops when I've been out and run twenty-odd miles. So yesterday I did and now I'm feeling much better.
It was, broadly, a lovely run out along country lanes into the forest, past commons where cattle, sheep, forest ponies and donkeys grazed, through woods where ancient oaks stood and streams meandered between wooded banks, and along old lanes with pretty thatched cottages and lovely gardens.
The first ten miles were hard work though. I was tired, unmotivated and sluggish. I walked bits; I had no enthusiasm for the hills. After five miles I decided to change the route, went home, had a salt stick (electrolyte), collected Pop and headed off towards the forest where things got better. As I turned for home at around 12 miles I felt my spirits lift and picked up the pace and it all became so much easier.
On the previous couple of long runs I've struggled with overwhelming if momentary tiredness at 16 miles and 18 miles. Pushing on through cleared the sensation but I was expecting something similar yesterday. However, 16 miles and then 18 passed without incident; I felt fine: no wobbles, no sickness, no tiredness, no wandering thoughts, no mini "wall" as it's known in running circles. I ate more on the run, which probably made a difference, to the extent that by 17 miles I was sick of the sight of jam sandwiches and jelly babies and refused to have any more (Poppy, who'd been sharing the sarnies en route, happily gobbled the remainder down when we got home, sharing one with Ted who'd been on Guard Duty).
At 19 miles I was hailed by two women in a sports car who wanted to know the way to the church. I fell victim to inherent good manners and stopped running, even though it was really the last thing I should have done because breaking a rhythm at that stage of such a long run really isn't helpful (it's hard to get started again as you lose momentum). For a few minutes I tried to direct them, but my tired brain just wouldn't work. I was getting more and more frustrated at the interruption to my training. Running long distances is as much about your mental approach as physical fitness, you need to stay calm and be settled, and the disruption was starting to make me feel very unsteady and unfocused on the run, which is the last thing you need. A mile left to run out of 20 doesn't sound very far I know, but it is on the back of 19 when you're tired.
Anyway, they stared impatiently at me as I spouted increasingly confused nonsense. One kept repeating the same questions from beside the car which was on the other side of the road, and the other one didn't even bother to get out, just cupped her hand round her ear in a kind of you're not speaking loudly enough gesture. Suddenly, I'd had enough. I wanted to shout at them: I've just run 19 miles! I can't be expected to answer stupid bloody questions about stupid bloody directions now! I'm tired, my legs ache and I need to finish this run and get home! It's not an effing walk in a bloody park you know, running 19 miles! So I started running again, telling them to ask at the post office.
As I ran up the hill they were looking astonished that I'd just run off and left them, but for once I didn't care: I was cross, but it felt instantly better to be running again. In seconds, everything settled down. I re-found my rhythm and my irritation subsided as I concentrated on finishing the run. We got home feeling strong and I was pleased with my time of 3:18 (to put it in perspective, my husband can run a whole hilly marathon (which is six miles more than I did yesterday) in three hours, but I'm not about speed, I just love being out for that length of time running through the land). Pop was gratifyingly tired (for all of about three minutes).
After I got home I showered and went out to collect L from the bus stop, stopping at Waitrose for some food. But here's another thing that has changed: I'm no longer starving after running long miles, nor am I overly tired. I walked the dogs for an hour in the afternoon and felt fine and I went to bed at normal time. The only difference was that I needed to eat supper at 6.30 instead of 7 and was a bit yawny in the evening. Today, I'm marginally more hungry than normal, but not ravenous. I'm hoping this means I've got the pace and nutrition right now, but I also think our bodies adapt quickly and at these kinds of distances, if you've done the build-up properly, fitness and endurance improve quickly.
By the time M got home and I relayed the story of the women in the sports car I was laughing about it. Still, another lesson learned- don't stop for people asking stupid questions when you're on a long run or are training for something specific. You won't be able to think clearly and answer coherently anyway, and the break in rhythm puts an additional challenge into a situation that is challenging enough.
M is teasing me that this need to run increasing distances is unsustainable. On Saturday, I ran 5 miles with Pop in the morning then walked both dogs for an hour. By mid afternoon I couldn't bear the lack of activity so went for another 1.5 hour walk. I think I just haven't reached my limits yet and it'll be interesting to see what they are. They might be 21 miles, they could be more. Until I try I won't know.
A lass at our running club did a hilly 50 mile race in under ten hours last week, and three other ladies from the club did 117 miles over four days across Exmoor in terrible weather and hideous conditions. I have a friend who used to run 80 mile ultras. She tells a wonderful story of a fast marathon runner trying his hand at an 80 mile race she was doing. It was the tortoise and the hare- he shot off, at marathon pace, despite her warnings, while she went much more steadily. He lasted to about 35 miles before collapsing and withdrawing from the race, while she'd stopped for a couple of meals and some cups of tea and finished the whole 80 miles, many hours later.
Women are tough- we're built for endurance running. I'm happy just to go with the flow and see what happens (but I'll stay away from people in red sports cars asking stupid questions when I'm running from now on :o)).
Hope all are well?