Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Fifteen Miles

Yesterday, I completed a fifteen-mile run! Just being able to type those words makes me insanely happy. This was the longest run I have finished in over a year, and it was much better than I had hoped.


The Course

Our neighborhood backs up on the desert, where there is a network of seldom-used dirt roads. And by "dirt roads", I mean sand roads--there are more than a few places where the sand is deep and the footing is not at all stable. But I can't complain: I have a 3.75-mile loop with no traffic right outside my door! So yesterday morning, I planted a water bottle and a GU by a bush at the corner and set off to finish four laps.
The start of my loop. The shadows:me and my sidekicks, Bruno and Howdy, on our morning walk.



The Time

I finished the run in two hours and twenty-two minutes; about 9:30 mile pace. I'm okay with that. I wish I was a faster runner, and I know that if I work at it, I will get there, but right now I'm all about putting miles on my legs to get ready for this race, no matter how fast or slow they are.

I stopped for a few seconds per lap to drink water, and ate the GU after the second lap. I usually don't have GU on hand--I prefer GU Chomps or CLIF Shot Bloks or even gummy bears--but I must have gotten this strawberry-banana flavored one in a goody bag from a race, so I thought I would give it a try. A pleasant surprise: I enjoyed it! When it was gone, I wanted more. I'm not sure I would switch to energy gels from chewables, but it gave me hope that some gels do taste good, after a recent bad experience with a not-so-delicious flavor.



When I told my dad about these fifteen miles, he asked if I got bored running four loops. Happily, I was able to say no. This is something I have had to work at, the mental side of my running. If my mind is not focused on something other than how long I have been running, I find myself tempted to quit for no good reason. What are you supposed to think about during two hours of running? Especially when the scenery doesn't change much, and you don't want to look at your watch twelve times a minute?
Here is what has worked for me lately:

1. Gratitude: I am blessed to be part of a group of awesome ladies from my church who meet for Bible study once a week. We have been reading One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. I highly recommend it. It tells the story of the author's journey to joy through the simple act of giving thanks. Thanks for the little things, the big things, the messy things, everything. I am trying to replicate this in my own life, on my runs especially. On this particular run, I challenged myself to think of fifty things to give thanks for. I lost count (because I don't have enough fingers...), but I found that I enjoy the run even more when I am thanking God for the blue of the sky, for my wonderful husband, for the lizard I saw...

2. Prayer: When I run, I have the time and attention to pray for people and situations that I often get distracted from in my daily life. In the day-to-day, it is so easy to slip into a rut of only praying for me and for situations that directly affect my life. When I am running and there is nothing else to distract me, I try to remember to pray for others.

3. Lists: I am a list-maker. When I run, I make my to-do list or my grocery list in my head. I list my all-time favorite foods, meals, desserts (do you see a theme here?). On particularly long runs, I alphabetize things, trying to think of a favorite food, song, or book for every letter of the alphabet. Nerdy? Probably. But it's surprisingly fun.

4. Body Evaluation: If I am feeling tired, or just want to give up for some reason, something I have started doing is evaluating how I feel physically, body-part by body-part.  
How are my toes? They feel great!
How are my feet? Fine! 
How are my ankles?
And so on.  I usually discover no pains indicating possible injury, and that helps me keep going. I think it will be a useful tool for pinpointing an injury before it becomes a major problem.


The Aftermath

I'm going to be honest: I sat on the couch with ice on my legs, eating peanut butter out of the jar, for much of the remainder of the day. But other than sore calf muscles, I felt okay. I ran a couple of miles this afternoon and am planning a trail run for tomorrow--I'll be going at sunrise, so expect pictures!

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