Sunday, May 19, 2013

Before You Go Long...

I'm coming up on my 6th year Runniversary, so I'm not an expert by any means, but I've done countless long runs. However, that didn't stop me from making a few rookie mistakes on my long run this morning. That led me to writing this post in my head to help that long run pass.

If you are fairly new to running and are intimidated by the thought of "the long run," then this post is for you. The distance of "the long run" is relative. I didn't consider my run "long" until my first 6 miler. I'm not sure why, but for me that was the magic number. 

The weeks leading up to "the Long Run"
Don't just wake up on a Sunday morning and suddenly decide you will run 10 miles, especially if your longest run is 3. Gradually build up your miles over weeks. The experts say increase your mileage by no more than 10% each week. If you're training for a specific goal race, then find a good training plan to follow. Runnersworld.com has a free "smart coach" feature that will create a plan based on your current fitness level and goal race. Hal Higdon also has free training resources online.

The day before "the Long Run"
Don't go crazy carb loading. You are not going into hibernation, and you are not a camel.  Eat pretty normally. Make sure you get some good quality complex carbs. This is not the time to try strange and wondrous new foods. 

Consider the temperature you will be running in and lay out clothing to match the climate. Also be sure that you have some fuel (a variety of options: gels, GU, bloks, chews, drinks, bars, etc.) to take on your run, especially if it's hot and you will be running for an hour or more. Also plan your hydration; again, there are options: carry a throw-away plastic water bottle, a fancy made-for-runners water bottle (mine has a pouch for gels), a fuel belt, Camelback, etc. or plan a route where you know there will be water fountains.
A sample of my current stash. Yes, I'm still experimenting.
Plan your route and tell someone. Let them know where you are running, when you are heading out and when you expect to return. DO NOT publish your route on facebook. After all, how well do you really know your "friends"? 

Make sure your phone or iPod is completely charged. Update your playlist for some peppy, inspirational songs. 

The morning of "the Long Run"
Pre long run fueling varies to the runner. Having a thyroid that requires me to take medication to keep it moving means that I can't eat for an hour after I take my meds. So, I begin my runs on an empty stomach. When possible, I eat a light snack about 45 minutes before my long run.

Lubricate! I like Body Glide because it comes in an easy to use stick-- like deodorant. But Vaseline works, too. I've even heard of some runners who use a deodorant stick to lube, but not too sure if that works. Rub it on anywhere that you might chafe-- beware of seams on your shorts, shirt sleeves, etc. I have also been known to slather my feet in a thin layer of lube. And don't forget sunscreen!

Empty the tank. Do I really have to elaborate?

Grab your hydration, nutrition, and I always grab a piece of gum and put on Chapstick. 

During "the Long Run"
Don't over-hydrate or under-hydrate. I've been guilty of both. 

Don't forget to "eat." It takes practice to know exactly how often your body needs fuel. For my first two marathons and several halfs, I ate too frequently-- my stomach was often upset, and I always had to find a bathroom along the route. It is generally recommended that you take 1 gel about every 45 minutes. I have also discovered that I need electrolytes, so lately I've looked for gels that are higher in sodium and potassium.

If, in the middle of the run, you find yourself getting extremely annoyed by stoplights, yapping dogs, a particular song, and the next one, and the one after that, the smiling guy that walks past, and, well, everything... then you are bonking! Take a gel, if you haven't already. Don't panic. Wait for the calories and carbs to hit, and you will once again feel like you are loving life or at least you will no longer feel like a crazed lunatic.

After "the Long Run"
Cool down. I like to walk the dog, so that I'm forced to keep moving.

Stretch and foam roll.

Eat. Something with a mix of carbs and protein. I usually save my cheat meal for the long run day because I feel that I deserve it. However, be realistic-- running 8 miles doesn't entitle you to multiple buffet caliber meals.

I also like to put on some compression pants. And chill.

One of my favorite running songs. I can't NOT smile when I hear it.

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