After the week before, I wasn't so sure about this long run idea I had previously designed into my training plan. I personally use a very unusual training method, one not commonly used by those aspiring to a specific goal... AKA if you want to be FAST, improve cardiovascularly, lose weight, idk what else, but loads of benefits come from training plans... however, I adhere too tightly to them, as if they are a life line, so instead of following a predetermined specific POA (plan of action) I go off of feel... I run long and slow, or fast and short or any combination I feel because usually how you ran before makes you feel like you need a harder or easier day to follow anyway creating a natural pattern of pushing yourself and recovering.
My biggest weakness is proper recovery. I believe whole heartedly that what you use/ overuse as an endurance athlete needs rest to repair and strengthen, however any patterned exercise- biking, swimming, running, rowing, etc.... miss enough muscles that there's usually always some sort of cross training to be utilized- even if its just a long slow walk with friends.....(yoga is kind of amazing too- though honestly most ppl, and definitely myself, often go too hard, even at yoga, for it to provide proper recovery.
That being said, yoga is fantastic to get your muscles retrained. If you ran so hard/ lifted- whatever it is you did... your muscles may actually feel as though they are uncoordinated- an effect that is created by fatigued muscles... yoga has a way or rebalancing your body and preparing you to jump back into training feeling stronger and more recovered (not to mention refreshing your mind, provided somewhat of a "clean-slate" effect).
On another interesting note about recovery- if you do anything that requires endurance you probably burn through your body's Magnesium resources quicker than you think... magnesium has become a great source of interest in both sport science as well as psychology for its integral effects on muscles and calcium balance (for those who didn't study bio/ forgot... without calcium- your muscles dont relax=> cramps/ over training etc....). The most basic and simple example of the importance of recovery.... if you muscles dont relax, they dont recover, they dont last long- to say the least. Consider supplementing with a Cal/ Mag supplement. I only once so far utilized the supplements before during and after my run, but felt better during and after my run than usual.... so many factors though, was it the supplements? who knows... but it wont hurt you- unless you go crazy with it (BALANCE.... no need to overdose).
So, there I was, I took the week after Xmas easy, listening to my body and feeling it one day at time, sleeping in till 6am when I needed it, and utilizing biking/ swimming and yoga. Running a total of 14 miles for the week up to Saturday... And what would I do... 16 was definite... but I secretly still hoped to make my 31 mi goal that I had set before to the upcoming weeks since I have other obligations beyond spending 5 hours of my day running...(aka if i didn't do it now, I couldnt schedule 5 hrs for running again until Jan twenty-something).
4:55 alarm comes and goes, the same with the 5:10 and 5:20 alarms. 5:30 I finally convince myself to start to move... prepping myself to have food for the full 31, but only mentally setting my mind on 20 mi...
Meeting my friends at 8 I needed to get the easy starting miles done before they came so I wouldnt be mentally dragging myself for the remaining miles in case I felt like I had on Christmas Eve. I began at 6:25, with my new head lamp (thanks JB <3) and hit the Grist Trail... about 2 mi in I headed up an actually trail, playing russian roulette with my ankles and my fear as it was still completely dark besides the glowing beam from my head lamp (which feels like you're perpetually running in direct moonlight- very romantic. Hills!! I found hills and twists and turns... and a WHAT!... Yea... I screamed out loud in the empty forest as a squirrel that I frightened scattered and scared the %*@* out of me. I laughed and kept on.... Looping back to the main paved trail around mile 6 I headed back to the trail head as it neared 8 am. Completing 9.25 miles and having my second breakfast and some water, a mag/cal supplement and then we headed back in for the next 8.7 mi, All 7 of us... Everyone was strong today the weather was perfect and the later-than-weekday start made for a relaxing morning. Miles ticked away as we chatted about running, jobs, relationships, new years plans and personal reflections. 18 miles into the run... breakfast #3.... a half frozen power bar... my jaw was cramping trying to chew!!
3 of us remaining. We head back in for more miles, leaving just two of us around around my 20 mile mark. Pain has just started to become apparent, a few strange aches and pains, but nothing of concern, we chug along... conversation has dropped to a minimum as we both mentally talk ourselves into taking the next step. Personally, I know I was hoping to think of a great conversation starter to distract both me and my running buddy from our growing mentally weaknesses. Little came to mind....
Mile 22- don't recall too much except that I took my coat off... December 31st, 2011... and it was sunny and warm enough for me (the perpetual popsicle child) to run in just a long-sleeve shirt... what a treat! Yes, I'm serious- it felt so freeing, to have less on...
With a fist bump, a hug and a happy new years, I am alone, with 4 miles left to make my 31... i get back to my pace, 8:50 and chug along... as I watch 28.5 role past on my watch, I know I've made it to a new longest run... and now with 2 miles between me and my car... I didn't have much of a choice- I'd atleast make 30.5.... I could suck it up for an extra 1/2 mile right? Well, yes, I guess so... the fifty people on the public trail, riding, walking and rolling their kids around in strollers must have thought I was crazy- looping back and forth for that last 1/2 mile.... probably the best moment of that last mile occurred as I rounded the top of the last hill and two sisters, I'd guess 5 and 7 come racing one another down the path... and behind them is mom, dad and a 3 yr old younger sister on dad's shoulder... you hear mom call out to her 5 yr old- "Go Meg Go! You can do it, Way to go Meg!".... I mean really- what are the chances? .... I figure... somehow, the universe brought this moment into being... why not let it be for me too? So I borrowed a bit of the support and crossed the bridge to the trail head and jogged till the my watch read 31.1.... DONE. Who'd have thought? Maybe the 50 is do-able... But for now... it was time to rest and prepare for a night of Celebration as we roll into an even year... (never been a fan of odd numbers)... Happy 2012!
And now for a very relaxing week of gentle recovery as I drop to the bottom of my next climb, I will not pass the 31 mile point for almost 6 weeks now... as the next big Thing... happens to be a 50K trail race in SF on Feb 11th!... One step at time, one day at time,... continuing to learn, to grow and to succeed by never quitting.
"If he follows his passion with heartfelt intensity, if he dedicates himself unreservedly to his calling, he will persevere and ultimately find fulfillment, no matter where his life may lead him." - Dean Karno (Ultramarathon man).