Monday, July 13, 2015

SRM WEEK 14 OF 20: Long Runs: New & *Sooo* Improved

This week marked my first "big" long run of my SRM training cycle--ie, a distance that starts with a "2". Because of having the 10-mile race in there, my long run schedule made kind of a big jump, going 16-17-Race-16-21.

I've gotten a lot better at mentally facing most of my long runs, but things that start with "2"s are just a whole other beast. I had it all worked out, though. A running friend and her adorable family are sadly (weep!) leaving the Bay Area for Oregon, and as a kind of last hurrah a bunch of us had planned to hang out at the DSE Six-Hour Endurance Challenge in the Marina Sunday morning. (No but seriously. Some people *actually* run for six hours.)

This was going to be perfect! I would leave the house at 7, giving myself an hour to run the 5ish miles to the Marina, then run up to 10-11ish miles with friends (not to mention all the aid station support!), then run the 5 miles back home. Not only would company and course support help the miles fly by, but this plan would also mean I'd be done with my run before noon. (See: Things that never happen, ever.)

Alas, I was stuck awake Saturday night with a wicked bout of insomnia, and when 4am rolled around and I was still wide awake, I knew there was no way I was getting up in two hours for 21 miles of running. Just, no.

So, loops through Golden Gate Park alone in the heat of the day it was. Lovely.

Now, I hope it goes without saying that 3+ hours of running is never particularly pleasant (at least not for us mere mortals), but I can say that this one was no worse than my recent 16-17 milers and perhaps the least miserable of any 20+ run I've ever done. This was also my longest training run since 2012, and finishing it with no injury scares/concerning pain anywhere and not feeling like death was pretty heartening.

It was hot for SF (upper 70s & full sun), so my pace was a bit slower than normal, but it didn't feel slow--I felt pretty comfortable and in a good rhythm just about the whole way. I was meant to run miles 16-19 at goal marathon pace & then finish with two easy ones, and I think the heat did mess with that plan a bit, though. Running 8:00 miles felt much harder than usual, and towards the end of the second one I started to feel lightheaded, which is generally not something that happens to me while running. (After a hard race, yes! But not during.) I was drinking a lot of water (obviously) but during those faster miles I could feel it starting to slosh around in my stomach, another thing that just doesn't tend to happen to me.

Something I learned from my sessions with the nutritionist is that this usually indicates that you need more salt. Because the body needs a very specific water/salt balance to work properly, it can't just absorb all the water or salt you put in it. You can actually be dehydrated, but if you're also low on salt, your body won't absorb the water--it'll just slosh around in your stomach.

He said that he has seen this problem countless times with athletes who feel like crap during/after hard workouts, particularly if they're sweating a lot. They will be obsessed with hydration but also obsessed with "clean" eating, which almost always means they aren't getting enough salt to actually retain all the water they drink. Peeing clear doesn't necessarily mean you're hydrated.

(BTW, that is the reason you might need salt in hot weather workouts, not preventing cramps. Repeat low sodium/electrolytes does not cause muscle cramps.)

We've done a good bit of data collection on my water intake, salt intake, & sweat rates at different distances & intensity levels, & apparently the balance is pretty good most of the time without my having to do too much about it, because I virtually never have any of those problems. I don't tend to get sloshy stomach or bad dehydration symptoms, and I've always been able to do pretty long, intense workouts on nothing but water with no problem. But I think probably the fact that it was so hot & sunny during this run and that I was out there for a good bit longer than normal with nothing but water (and two gels during the fast miles) meant I lost more sodium than usual & just reached a point where I couldn't retain the water anymore, even though I needed it.

Because of this and the fact that marathon pace felt just *so* hard at that point, I only did three fast miles. I'm pretty sure sure I could have finished the fourth, but was just feeling too lightheaded & nauseous to feel 100% safe trying. (In a race situation I totally would have kept going.) So instead it was three easy miles to the end, definitely with more pauses than were strictly necessary in order to enjoy bits of shade here & there.

During the run I had been mentally doing the math re: how many carb calories I would need to eat before bed and came up with ~830, which, I gotta say, is a pretty daunting number considering you can't just inhale a pizza or two & call it good. Here's how it went down:

  • Immediately after the run: Granola bar, glass of milk, & a beer. (I keep meaning to ask about whether the carbs in beer are a legit source of refueling or not but haven't yet managed to remember. Real talk, though, after 3+ hours & 21 miles in the sun, I have no fucks to give about this. A cold beer is being had. Also we are just not even talking about the alcohol, because 5% ABV beer counts as alcoholic only in the most literal sense.)
  • An hour or so later: Chips & guacamole, several slices of bread with chevre, 2 margaritas, & 3 carrots (since we learned from Sports Nutrition Part 3 that you can't just pound a bunch of carbs & expect them to do much other than turn into fat)
  • Two hours later: Flank steak tacos, grilled veggies, salad, corn on the cob, plus an additional giant heap of flank steak (I like to think this was because my body was gearing up to crank out a whole shitload of new red blood cells which was causing me to crave iron. But probably it was just really really good.)
  • Four hours later: Pita bread with hummus & baba ganoush, two big bowls of chicken stock loaded up with garlic salt, & two more glasses of water.

Which comes to a grand total of I have no freaking clue but at least I didn't go to bed hungry/thirsty. Hopefully, I ended up somewhere in the right neighborhood.

I definitely want to write a longer post on this at some point, but I just want to say that the difference in how I feel day-to-day and especially after longer/harder workouts since I started putting all the nutrition stuff into practice is just HUGE. In the past, a 10-12 mile track workout or a 3+ hour run in the heat (on almost no fuel!) would have left me a complete zombie for the rest of the day. Not now, though. In fact, in spite of the fact that my overall mileage has been up as has the sheer number of tougher workouts, marathon training has never felt so easy. (Obviously, the hard workouts still feel hard. But I don't feel utterly wiped out at the end of every week, which is new.)

~*~*~SRM WEEK 14 OF 20~*~*~

Grand Total: 44 miles

    * 19.5 easy
    * 3.5 speed
    * 21 long

Monday: Karate. For some reason I had Monday off, which I spent mostly cleaning my house & running errands.

Tuesday: a.m. strength / p.m. 3 warm up, 7 x 600m @ 5K pace w/ 200m recoveries, .5 cool down = 7 total. Chill speed work at Kezar with SF Track Club.

Wednesday: karate

Thursday: 8 easy

Friday: 8 easy. No 2nd workout scheduled this week, I'm assuming because of the big long run jump.

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 21 long


  1. I trained for a marathon over the summer just once. Not a single long run was under 90 degrees at any point; in fact, it hit 100 during several (this was back when I had to run in the afternoons due to work). I fast figured out I needed much more salt than normal on those days or my blood pressure would be so low I'd be dizzy or faint.

  2. All these hot weather runs will pay off when it starts to cool down. All of a sudden it'll feel easier to go sub 8 and you'll be thankful that you pushed through those awful sweaty runs.