So last Sunday (7/7) I ran 12 miles for the first time since the Broken-est Half Marathon last October. It was a cool Sunday evening, I felt great, and even ran the last 6-7 miles at PR pace without working too terribly hard. Then, today (7/15), I went out for another 12 miler. This was, shall we say, a less spectacular run by just about every possible metric. Whereas I finished last Sunday's run with a few sub-8:00 miles and felt strong all the way, today was the first run I've had in a very, very long time where I literally found myself questioning just how many more steps I had in me before I could no longer avoid collapsing into a twitching pile of sweat and sunscreen.
At 11.5 miles, it was not at all clear whether making it to 12 was actually in the cards. Half a mile has not seemed so un-doable and interminable since reaching 12.6 miles in my first half marathon. Most of the time when I start feeling bleak about a long run it tends to be a mental thing and I still feel reasonably good physically. Not this time; this time, it was my mind dragging my body along, which felt completely drained and utterly exhausted (also, both my right quad and hamstring started cramping up on and off around mile 9, which has never happened before, and didn't exactly help. I'm blaming inadequate hydration, for now). Definitely a triple recovery beverage kind of day (sweetened ice tea, grapefruit soda, and Gordon Biersch blonde bock, for the record).
This isn't terribly surprising. Whereas my run last Sunday was during a cool evening (probably 50°ish), I headed out for today's run around 2pm, and although it wasn't stupid hot or anything, it was probably at least 70°, which for me is noticeably warm and enough to make a difference. (I used to scoff at the idea of temperatures over 60° affecting performance all that dramatically; a relay leg through Napa in 80° heat disabused me of that notion.) Also, on this route, the first water fountain is at about 6 miles. There's another at about 7 miles, and then that's it. When it's cool, that's totally adequate, but I think maybe 70° is just a little too warm not have water before 6 miles or after 7, so that may have also played a role.
The bigger issue, though, probably has more to do with the reason why I ran my long run on Monday this week instead of Sunday. I may have mentioned at some point that in addition to being a runner, I'm also a martial artist, so from time to time, Sunday evening is fight club.
Out of all the different parts of karate practice, sparring is probably what I'd consider my weakest point. That isn't a huge deal, except that I'm now most of the way (I think) through my second degree brown belt, meaning it won't be too much longer until I'm a third degree brown belt, which will put me probably less than a year away from my black belt testing. And it kind of makes me a little bit sick at my stomach to think about testing for a black belt with what I consider to be my current level of skill in terms of sparring.
Our regular practices are on Monday and Wednesday nights (which is why I don't normally run on those days). We do some sparring then, but to be honest, there is already so much else to practice in terms of basics, kata, weapons, and self-defense that there isn't always a ton of time for it. So, a while back, our sensei started an informal sparring night wherein experienced martial artists from all different styles would get together at our dojo once every month or two and just work on one-on-one fighting. In an effort to address what I see as my woefully inadequate sparring skills (relative to everything else, at least), I've decided to do my level best to get to every fight club I possibly can. The only trouble with this is that Sunday also tends to be when I do my long runs.
As you may have guessed, doing a long run AND fighting like ten different guys for two hours later that evening is not really a functional option. I'm not saying I couldn't do it; just that I'm a lot more likely to end up injured and/or getting my ass handed to me. Potentially multiple times. (It's also unclear how much quality fighting I'd actually be capable of getting in before I just can't move fast enough anymore to make it worth the effort.)
Hence Sunday night fight club, and Monday afternoon long run. Which is definitely more functional, but still more or less equivalent to doing two long runs in the space of 18 hours. (Seriously; I more stumble out of fight club than walk, and getting out of the car once we get home takes some doing. Getting to sleep does not.)
So yeah. Not terribly surprising that I'd have a less-than-stellar long run post-fight club. Still! I'm glad that I did it; whatever doesn't kill you, and all that. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get dressed for karate in an hour (it's Monday, after all).