Saturday, December 20, 2008

Battling it out in the greenbelt

The day I was supposed to do my longest training run of 28 miles added a few twists of its own. The day started warm and extremely humid, and as the day progressed, it grew warmer while still remaining humid. I have typically not done well in such conditions. Actually, that is quite an understatement. Humidity and heat have always oppressed me on my runs, so this long run was going to be a challenge.

We started out at 7am in the Barton Creek Greenbelt at the 'Hill of Life'. It was a new route for me today, and I promptly got lost on the trails in the first loop and did a couple of extra miles. I ended up doing 3 more loops, shorter because I knew the trails now. The hilly loop including a couple of overlook vistas with breathtaking scenery and I lapped it up greedily. The beauty of the greenbelt with some fall colors thrown in for extra credits really helped keep my mind off the pains and struggles in my mind and body today.

There were a few positives to take home today. I have now learnt to pace myself much better in different conditions. Previously in summer, I would run a few miles and then give out completely in exhaustion and frustration. But today, I slowed myself down after the first frenetic loop. I mixed in liberal doses of forced walk breaks to make sure I was not pushing too hard against the elements. Consequently, each loop thereafter was taking around 2-2:10 hours to complete, even as I grew more tired with every passing mile. It was rather slow, but consistency won the day today. And by conserving energy initially, I was also pleasantly surprised to be running strongly even in the last mile!

For such a hot and humid day, my improvised nutrition plan also worked well. Normally, I found it hard to eat anything after a few miles on such days; it becomes hard to chew and digest, and the taste buds complain a lot. Today, I relied on an array of options: 1 banana, 2 clif shot bloks, 2 hammer gels, a few spoons of tamarind brown rice mixed with some lentils, 1 bottle of ensure, 2 packets of Succeed Amino, and countless tablets of salt, all taken with a total of about 200+ oz (~2 gallons) of water. That sounds like quite a feast now, but while I was running, I managed to ensure a steady supply of energy.

Thanks to the humidity, I also used up quite a bit of gear today: 2 shirts, 2 shorts, 2 bandanas, 1 cap, and 2 pairs of socks. I sure wished I had more though!

Another positive today was my handling of my IT-band pain. My tight IT-band has been a bane recently, it has forced me to back off training and try different things to alleviate the pain, like tying my bandana above my knee. I recently came across some nice stretching exercises for the IT-band, and by doing a few stretches every few miles or so for 30 seconds at a time today especially when I felt it may start to bother me a little, I managed to keep that issue at bay.

On the whole, I am happy I ran long today and did not bail early. It feels like quite an achievement for me, especially after the nightmares of summer training. I have clearly learnt a lot through experience, and I am still learning with each run on what works for me under different conditions. And battling it out today on the hills of the greenbelt under hot and humid weather and making the 28 miles slotted for today is a nice confidence boost! All in all, a great training run.

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