Monday, April 16, 2012

Reality Check: Lessons Learned from a Long Run

I had an awesome run on Saturday...that actually left me feeling not so awesome.  On Saturday I ran 15.3 miles, which is the longest distance I have ever run.  My goal was 15 miles, and I'm proud that I accomplished it, and then some.  Problem is, I could barely walk after my run, and am still not comfortable on my feet more than 48 hours later.

I started feeling pain in my achilles tendon around mile 8, but nothing so bad that I had to stop.  It got progressively worse during the run, but I was determined to finish my 15 miles.  As soon as my brain registered that I had reached my goal, it sent a message to my foot saying, "Mission accomplished.  She needs to stop now," and my tendon promptly tightened and I wasn't able to run anymore.  I had to walk the mile back to my car.

It was during my return that my arches also starting hurting, particularly in my left foot.  I realized that my feet are not yet strong enough to run long distances in my minimalist shoes.  I pushed them too hard too soon, and they weren't too happy about it.  I should have iced them as soon as I got to my car, but for some reason, that important detail slipped my mind.

So is this really a bad run?  I set a personal best by running 15.3 miles, but I'm still paying for it more than two days later.  Did I do well or did I do poorly?  Was my awesome run really awesome, or not?

View of Lake N. from one of the trails

After spending a good part of yesterday trying to answer this question, I realized the answer is YES.  My run was awesome because I pushed myself farther than I ever have before, AND because this run taught me a lot.  My goal of running to become a better runner means I should really be asking the question: What did I learn from this run?  Because thats what this is all about: pushing my limits, but in a smart way.  This run provided me with great reality (aha!) moments and helpful reality checks:

Reality:  I CAN run 15 miles!  I felt great the whole time.  I was mentally engaged and loving every minute.

Reality check:  I should have given myself more time to adjust to my minimalist shoes.  I can do 10 miles, no problem, but I should have gone up to 12 miles rather than jumping immediately to 15 miles.

Perhaps I'm being punished by the running gods for my poor fashion taste?
Or for the fact that I tie my shoelaces like a 3-year old?

Reality:  I LOVE running in the morning.  Provided I can get my butt out the door, once I'm breathing that crisp, cold air, I am in total heaven.

Reality check: I am slower than I thought I would be at 10+ miles.  No big deal.  Just means I have to adjust my goal for the GW Classic 10 miler this weekend, from sub-9:00 to sub-9:15.

Reality:  I LOVE talking when running.  About everything and nothing.  I am a strong introvert, and have mastered the skill of standing awkwardly in the midst of any conversation.  I am horrible at small talk.  But get me running, and I will gab your ear off.  If no one is around, I will talk to myself.

Reality check: Transitioning from road to trail was much more challenging than I thought.  I ran the first 10 miles on paved surface and the last 5 miles on trail.  As soon as I stepped on to the trail after having been running on hard surface for almost 2 hours, my feet practically freaked out.  Every root felt super sharp (!?!), every rock felt like it was out to get me.  I think this drastic change is part of the reason why my feet hurt so much the next day.

Reality: I LOVE running and I AM a runner.

The "river" I need to "forge" on my run.  A few yards down I could just jump across,
but running across this log is so much more fun. :)

Obviously, I took yesterday off, and I will take today off from running too, focusing on core and doing yoga (or at least trying to; I am horrible at yoga).  Hopefully I can run again on Tuesday, but I'm going to play it by ear.  I really want to do well this Sunday, so if that means resting for most of the week, I will.  But at least you'll know why I'm cranky. ;)

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