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Learning from a Bonk

Running is easy!  It’s the easiest sport out there….right?  I mean, all you do is move your legs and off you go.  Move the legs faster and you run faster, move them slower and your run slower.  There’s no strategy, no thought process, no planning….. you just go run…. simple as that.

Ok, ok…. don’t click on the back button.  Let me finish.  If you continue reading, I’m guessing you’re one of the following people.  Either your are…

  1. A non-runner who is looking for confirmation in what you’ve been saying all along
  2. A beginner that’s thinking…. “If this is true, I’m doing something wrong.”
  3. An experienced runner who’s saying to yourself…. “This lady is nuts!  But I’ll read on just for the entertainment.”

Well, for the non-runner… sorry, but my first paragraph couldn’t be further from the truth.  But if you’re looking for a challenge, I encourage you to give running a try.  And read on because what I’m about to blog may just help you out one day.

For the other two, you’ll just be shaking your head and saying either “Good lesson learned…. thanks for sharing!” or “Been there… Done that!!”

distancetired

I’m training for my first 25K, so I’m racking up the miles on my long run.  But with the crazy weather we see here in West Virginia in February, sometimes I have to be flexible with my training schedule.  I do my LSD runs on the weekends, mostly on Sundays.  However, this weekend I run my 14-mile LSD on Saturday afternoon as the forecast was calling for sunny skies and temps in the 60’s…. awesome weather!! Sunday was calling for rain. I wanted a spring-like run outside, so I decided…. kinda last-minute…. to do the LSD on Saturday.

So, I rode with my son to his baseball batting practice and 14.5 miles from the house, he dropped me off and I headed home.  The first few miles went well… I enjoyed hearing the birds singing, saw several squirrels scurrying up trees and deer running through the fields, and felt the sun shinning in my face and the breeze gently blowing.  Several cars blew their horns when they passed by, and I even saw some folks on motorcycles.  They always wave… they seem to adopt runners into their secret hand waving club.  😀

As normal, between mile three and four, I sipped some water and chewed on some beans, then washed them down with one more sip of water.  I was feeling good.  But around mile seven, I started feeling tired.  It wasn’t my breathing, nor was it my legs feeling heavy, but a weariness in my upper body.  I got to thinking about it and remembered that I had done a fairly tough upper body strength training workout the evening before…. one of my P90X3 workouts.  Plus I had run three miles on the treadmill.  But I had really pushed myself on the strength workout, and now I was still feeling it.  I was amazed at how much it affected my running today.  But I kept pushing through.

Then, somewhere between mile 9 and 10, I “bonked” or hit the wall.  Again, my legs weren’t really heavy and my breathing was ok, but I just wasn’t feeling well.  It took everything I had to swing my arms and I started getting sick to my stomach.  My fingers were swollen to the point that I couldn’t clinch a fist.  I just wasn’t feeling well.  For the first time ever, I almost called someone to come pick me up.   The last couple of miles I walked a lot.  I turned off my Garmin at mile 14 and completely walked the last half mile as a cool down.  And I walked very slowly.

When I finally got home, I was exhausted.  I drank some ice water while I made a protein shake.  I added frozen strawberries, a banana and some almond milk with the protein mix, and threw everything in the blender.  In just minutes, I was drinking my coction in hopes of regaining some of my strength soon.  As soon as I finished that up, I changed out my sweaty clothes for something dry, stretched out across the bed and fell asleep hard…. for three hours (and yes, without the shower).  I reiterate…. I. Was. Exhausted.

When I got up, I felt a little better, but still not 100%.  I took a nice long hot shower, put on some clean clothes and decided to do some menial housework.  That didn’t last long.  I was still tired and still not feeling very well.  So I ate something again and spent the rest of the evening watching TV and napping on the couch.  I finally went to bed at 10:30 and fell fast asleep.

I thought about it today and run the last couple of days through my mind over and over to figure out just what went wrong.  I’ve run half marathons before and ran double-digit training runs lots of times, but never had I felt this bad.  Then I remembered what I had done on Friday, the day before.  My diet on that day was not at all supportive of an 14-mile run coming the following day.  I had not met my daily required 170+ carbs, let alone carb-loaded for a long run.  Additionally, I drank a lot of coffee on Friday instead of water-bombing like I usually do the day before a long run.  So, I was not adequately fueled and hydrated in addition to being physically stressed from the upper-body strength workout and 3-mile treadmill run on Friday evening.  It’s no wonder I was so tired and weary during the last portion of my run and afterwards as well.

BonkSo what was my lesson learned….. not be flexible with my training schedule?  No, I always need to be flexible with my training schedule, especially when I have a chance to run in appropriate weather as opposed to bad weather.  But I need to watch my nutritional and water intake more closely.  What I ate and drank on Friday wasn’t enough for the workout and short run I did that evening, never mind the LSD on Saturday.  Or perhaps I should have eaten a bigger, healthier breakfast on Saturday morning (I just had an egg, bacon, cheese sandwich) to help with fueling, and definitely drank more water and eaten something salty to help retain water better.  Perhaps, I should have just been patient and ran later in the day, or maybe even wait until Sunday and run in the rain.

Whether I could reverse this bad run into a good one…. I don’t really know.  But one thing I do know is that I learned some valuable information about my body, my eating and drinking habits and my running.  That’s why I write this stuff down…. and when I blog it, maybe someone else will learn from it, too.  Or even better, can share in the learning curve by sharing their experiences, insight and advice.  Another thing I learned is that running is definitely lots of fun, but it’s not easy, and to keep from “bonking,” it does take a lot of strategy, thinking and planning.  Never let the graceful, fluid movements of a successful run fool you into thinking it’s an easy sport.

Have you experienced a similar run?

What did you learn from the experience?

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Snow Running

In the United States a phenomenon occurs that we call “Winter.”  For those of us in the northern part of the US, Winter consists of cold temperatures, snow, ice and wind.  Here in West Virginia, Winter has been reoccurring for as long as I can remember.  And after reading the history books, it sounds like Winter has actually been around these parts for centuries.  Nevertheless, people still seem to be amazed when Winter hits, especially when it hits in its fullest fury.  Schools close, church services are cancelled, roads are impassable, wrecking crews make boocoos of money, and snowmen emerge from the drifts.  But just because it’s snowing and blowing outside, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the fun has to stop….  people find fun ways to enjoy Winter with ice skating, sled riding, snow skiing, snow boarding and snow tubing.  And for us runners, there is Snow Running.

if-you-wait-for-conditions

Don’t confuse that with “No Running”… it’s “Snow Running.”  Last Winter was my first time trying out Snow Running, and I fell in love with it one the first run.  There’s just something so peaceful and immaculate about being a part of a wintry landscape.  The air is brisk and clean; frigid to the nostrils and lungs…. the sound of snow crunching under each step creates a rhythmic echo that breaks the solitude of the landscape…. the sunshine reflecting off the snow is blinding to the eye but warming to the heart…. the feelings, sights and sounds of Winter is almost indescribable and nothing like any other season.

Winter is a sight to behold, physically, mentally and spiritually, but it requires some precaution and extra preparation for Snow Running.  After experiencing running in these elements myself, and researching it through other blogs, fellow runners, virtual running groups and etc., I thought I would share some of the strategies I use to have successful Snow Runs.

SAFETY FIRST!!

I run a lot on narrow country roads where there’s not much (if any) berm on which to run.  Sometimes, there’s absolutely nowhere to go if one car is coming, nevermind if there are two cars passing each other.  So I have to really consider if and when it’s safe to even run on these roads.  If you run on/next to roads, you have to consider the ability of drivers to maintain control of their vehicles when passing you.  If there’s a chance they can lose control and wreck, or you’re not able to get out of the way quickly and safely, then you may want to consider a different route that’s safer, or an alternative such as the treadmill or an indoor track.  If you run on sidewalks, remember to keep an eye out for ice, and be leery of the possibility of ice hidden under snow.  Slipping and falling onto hard concrete could put a quick end to your running.

 

DRESS THE PART

Consider the temperatures and dress accordingly.  Dressing in layers allows air to be trapped between layers that will actually help insulate you from the frigid temps.balaclava  Plus, if you get too warm, it makes it easier to take off a layer.  Personally, I think it’s just as bad (if not worse) to be overheated, than it is to be too cold.  Keep your hands, ears and toes well covered and insulated.  The greatest percentage of heat goes out the head, so wearing a hat will help keep you warm.  Although I haven’t tried it yet, I know a lot of runners who wear balclavas to keep their face warm and help with their breathing.

Speaking of hats, one thing I always do when it’s snowing is wear a baseball cap with a bill to keep the snow out of my eyes and block the wind from my face.  If it’s cold, I’ll wear a head band around my ears to keep them warm.  I hate when my ears get cold.

 

DITCH THE MUSIC

I love to run with music…. I run with it almost all the time, even races.  But there are two times that I ditch the music… at night and on bad snowy days.   I don’t listen to music at night because I want to listen for possible attackers (both men and animals) because I can’t see them as well.  When Snow Running, especially along roads, it’s important to keep an ear open to listen for traffic.  At the very least, wear only one earbud in the ear that’s away from the road keeping the ear next to the road open so you can hear better.

Although I recommend ditching the music, I recommend carrying your cell phone with you.  You never know when you may need help, and having the ability to call someone is convenient and smart.  When it’s cold, however, keep in mind that cell phones will freeze up and shut down.  I carry mine in a pocket or in a belt that’s under a layer or two of clothes and close to my body to keep it warm.  I’ve been able to carry a cell phone and keep it on over the course of a half marathon by using this tactic.

 

SECURE TRACTION

yaktraxIt’s nearing the end of January and I’m missing a very, VERY valuable part of the Snow Running gear…. traction cleats for my shoes such as YakTrax.  These cleats will help your run better by giving you more improved footing which will increase your overall pace, but it they will also keep you from slipping, sliding and falling.  I slid around a lot today during my 4-mile Snow Run and wished the whole time I had some cleats.  I had a pair last year and loved them, but they have disappeared over the summer.  I guess I’ll be hitting the local running store soon to get a set.

 

SAVOR THE MOMENT

Above all else, enjoy your Snow Run.  Unless you live in the southern hemisphere or the North Pole, you only get to experience Snow Runs in the Winter months.  Although it can feel like forever to those who are Summer-lovers, Winter really only lasts technically three months with just a few weeks of actual Snow Running weather.  Being outside when the temps are in the high-20s to low-30s, snow flakes the size of pancakes are wafting down, the tree limbs are dressed in the soft white snow, and the sky is a brilliant blue is amazing and awesome…. so savor the moment, drink it in and ENJOY your Snow Run.

I had a wonderful time today on my Snow Run in my Winter Wonderland today, and am looking forward to a nice long 10-mile run tomorrow in even more perfect, pristine wintry elements.  I hope you can get out there to experience Snow Running as often as possible.  It’s definitely unforgettable.

What is one of your most favorite Snow Running experience?

Do you have any other tips for comes to Snow Running?

3rd Annual Race Into the New Year 5k (St. Albans, WV)

NY Race 5kFor the first time ever, I ran a race on the first day of the year with the Third Annual Race Into the New Year 5k.  What an awesome way to start out 2014!  My husband, Tony and racing buddy, Wanda ran it with me.  We traveled to St. Albans, West Virginia (near our state capitol, Charleston) to run this afternoon 5K race.  Scheduling it at 2:00pm was a little different from what I’m used to, but they did that so people could stay up late on New Years Eve to celebrate, but not have to get up too early to race.  Being in mid-winter, I especially liked the afternoon time as it give the sun time to come out and warm things up a little.  Fortunately, the weather fully cooperated with a sunshiny day with temps in the 50’s to 60’s and little to no wind.  The cost for this race was $20 if you pre-registered and $25 on race day which included a nice T-shirt and post-race snacks.  This is the third and final race of the St. Albans Race Series which includes a quarter marathon in August, and 2- 5k’s (one in November and this one on New Years Day).  If you complete all three races, you earned a really cool looking medal (which is why I want to run the series in 2014).NY Race 5k3

There were a total of 189 runners participating in the race this year ranging in ages from 7 to 66.  It was a very nice turnout.  Over forty of the participants were involved with the 2013 racing series.  The race is a typical city race with a the course that started and ended at the St. Albans High School and winding around the streets of a small neighborhood.  There wasn’t much scenic beauty, but the neighborhood was well-kept and several people came out of their house to cheer the runners on.  The course was flat and fast with the exception of one small hill that even a beginner could easily handle.  The course record was broken this year by David McCollam, 34 with a time of 15:28.

The race was well run with a very unique starting event…. after making the general race announcements and before shooting the starting pistol, the race director got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend.  She said yes and all the racers and volunteers cheered for the young couple.  It was quite exciting.  The race was chip timed, so that sped up the awards program after the race.  For the post-race activities, there were the usual snacks and water available for the runners, and the race awards and series awards were handed out. Instead of medals, the age group winners for the race received cool trophies with penguins on the top and a Christmas tree ornament.

NY Race 5k 2

The series awards and medals were definitely an encouragement for everyone to run all three races for the 2014 series.  I finished the race in 30:46, but didn’t place nor did I set a PR, which was a disappointment since the course was so flat and fast.  But, just like the half marathon I would run a few days later, I had let the holidays get the best of my diet and training.  It was just a fun race anyway and I thoroughly enjoyed spending the day with Tony and Wanda.

I plan on doing this race again next year…. it was a great way to start out the new year and charge right into my running resolutions.  The only problem with the flat, fast course is that it’s easy to set a PR on it making the other 364 days extremely challenging to PR.  But since I didn’t do so well, I guess I don’t have that problem personally.

Silver-Medal-225x300Overall, the course wasn’t very challenging, making it was more of a fun race.  For that reason, I’m giving this race a silver medal since I consider it closer of an average 5k.

If you ran in this race, feel free to share your opinion.  What did you think of the proposal at the beginning of the race?