Conquering the Long Run

I have completed all of my long runs!

According to my training plan, I complete a long run every Saturday, starting at five miles and tacking on a mile about every week. This Saturday I ran my final long run of 11 miles before my half-marathon — it’s less than two weeks away!

The major downside of training during winter while living in Oswego is the inability to run much outside. The harsh winter winds and freezing temperatures don’t allow for a safe (or successful) long run. I tried it a few times, but didn’t run as far or as well as I would’ve liked to because I was constantly avoiding snow piles and ice patches.

It's a bit difficult to run with this going on.

As a result, most of my training was spent indoors on the treadmill. While it’s definitely much better than nothing, running on the treadmill is nothing like hitting the pavement outdoors. I knew it would be an adjustment, but I didn’t realize how much until I started running outside while on vacation in Key West. It took me a few miles to hit my usual pace and the wind was definitely a factor I didn’t have to focus on before.

I knew I would have to complete at least one long run outside so that I wasn’t completely unprepared on race day. Well, I’m glad that I had to do 11 miles while I was at home because I don’t think I could have gone somewhere else for better preparation. Oppenheim, do you realize how many hills you have?!

For your entertainment, below are some of the thoughts that ran through my head after each mile marker.

Miles 1 & 2: Easy peasy. Keep this up and you’ll be golden.

Mile 3: Wow, after only a few hills, this mile is almost completely downhill. Lovin’ it.

At this point I turned around and headed back toward my house to hit another route after six miles.

Mile 4: Oh yeah, if it’s all downhill one way, it’s all uphill the other way. Holy crap, my legs are burning.

Mile 5: Whyyy is it still uphill? And where did this wind come from? Worst. Mile. Ever.

Mile 6: Phew, this is mostly straightaways and downhill. Wow, my legs feel good.

This is where I turned down another route to get some more scenery in. It’s also where I hit my stride and my¬†breathing completely became second nature. I’ve heard about “hitting your stride” before, but it’s never happened to me before. Post about that to come soon!

Mile 7 & 8: I can’t wait to blog about this. My legs feel awesome. Man, I can’t wait for dinner tonight.

Here I look up and see nothing but a long, winding incline.

Mile 9: Crap. Oh, crap. Why do I keep finding mile-long hills. Why does Oppenheim have so many hills? And why are there so many dogs out without leashes?!

I turned around and headed back for home.

Mile 10: Only two more miles left. Just keep running, just keep running (said in Dory’s voice from “Finding Nemo”).

Mile 11: Final mile. Push, Samantha. I can’t wait for some food after this. Mmmm, foooooood.

I finished in 1:49:46, which is basically exactly on target for the pace I want to maintain on race day. My goal is simply to finish the race, but ideally I would like to finish within 2:30:00. If I keep up this pace of about 10 minutes per mile, I’ll definitely be able to accomplish it.

There was still one mile left until I got home, so I used it as a cool-down and walked the whole way back. I thought about running part of it, but my right hip really started bothering me so I nixed that idea. No point in overexerting myself and putting myself at risk for injury so close to the race!

So what have I learned about completing long runs?

  1. Take it one mile at a time. If things get really hard, focus on one step at a time. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Tackling 11 miles is a lot more feasible to me mentally when I only try to do a mile at a time.
  2. Relax. When the going gets tough, a lot of people tense up naturally. Do your best to keep your shoulders relaxed and your hands loose.
  3. Make sure you swing your arms back and forth. This sounds simple, but females naturally tend to swing their arms across their bodies without even realizing it. This forces your body to work harder, tuckering you out sooner.
  4. Regulate your breathing. For me, my breath feels most natural when I take two breaths in, then two breaths out. Try to maintain a regular pattern to help your body relax into a groove.
  5. Distract yourself. Whether it’s with music, a running partner, or other things that you have to get done, sometimes it’s best to focus on anything but what you’re actually doing. I like to zone out to music or random thoughts so I’m not focusing on the pain in my legs.

What lessons have you learned from long runs, or exercising in general? Do you prefer the treadmills or the great outdoors?

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Posted on March 21, 2011, in Exercise, Goals, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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