For the first part of my running career, just about every run was torture. I would finish my run, at best feeling good that I got the workout done, but never really felt good. More like "thank goodness that's done!" Even while training for my first half marathon and 6+ months of training, I never had a "wow, running is fun" moment, until about mile 5 of the race. It was at that point that a switch inside me had flipped and running became fun. That day, I finally got running.
Today, not all runs are great, but most have at least some part of them that's fun. Some days, I try to enjoy simply being outside. Other days, the truly magical days, are where my feet are flying and everything is easy. Sunday was one of those days.
This was the tail end of a heavy 2-week training block. Last weekend was not so great, with my 4 hr ride getting cut to 3 hrs and my legs feeling awful. I did some hard thinking about what may have gone wrong, and really felt that my performance was limited my nutrition. Pizza on Friday night (paleo? nope!) and completely blowing off my recovery drink after Saturday's brick was a huge contributor to my lack of legs on Sunday. I bought a tub on First Endurance Ultragen (Cappuchino flavor) so I would have no excuses in the future.
Friday was a 3,000 m swim (30 x 50 m tempo to sprints!) in the morning followed by a 30 min run that afternoon. And that run was rockstar awesome. Really, I have no idea where it came from, but it felt GOOD. Saturday was a "test" day. Or as Will said "one of those days". I had a swim/bike brick in the morning. I was supposed to swim 2k but ended up swimming 2,700 m. Oops. Then I dried off, changed, and hit the roads on my bike for 2 hrs. I picked the local hilly route, catching the two biggest hills in town.
Random aside: I wish I could quantitate exactly what the elevation gain was on that ride, but when I tried to dowload all the files from my Garmin to the computer, it wouldn't do it. I called Garmin support and it turns out that I was 10 firmware versions behind on my device. Oops. And as it turns out, when you are that many versions behind.... all of your data gets deleted when the firmware is updated. Awesome.
I felt decent going up the hills. My heart rate was controlled and I wasn't wiped out. Speed still isn't there, but speed is really relative, given wind and how tired I am. So, I'm going off of effort and HR to define my progress. Once I wrapped up the ride, I went home, drank my recovery drink, then chilled on the couch for a few hours before going on a 25 min run. The evil couch-monster and the cats nearly tricked me into a nap. Both cats had pinned me down and were lulling me into a nap. But knowing that a storm was blowing in, I escaped their evil plan and got my run in. Normally these afternoon runs feel awful. The intent is mental training, so you can teach yourself to run when you're tired. This run wasn't great, but really, it wasn't bad either. And the tempo was pretty fast. Then I came home, took a nap (with both kitties - turns out I lucked out and they're good nappers), then took an ice bath. Dinner was pho and not pizza. Much better. I also slept in my compression socks, hoping to make my legs nice and fresh for Sunday.
Sunday was my long run - a half marathon. I was pretty skeptical that this run was going to be a good one. For starters, I've only been running since the week of March 11th. My only long run of the year was on March 25th at 10 miles. My last 10+ mile run was in October 2011. I've been doing a bunch of speed work (5 miles a session) and 1 hr tempo runs since the 25th, so my weekly mileage has been fairly consistent. But still, a half marathon on legs that have only been running consistently for 5 weeks... alright!
I went running with my friend Steph and a bunch of other people (ok, I was in a race, but I treated it as a training run with a bunch of people and aid stations). Steph is training for Kansas 70.3, which is the same weekend as Boise. We ran together at the Denver RnR half marathon and we are typically the same pace. And we keep each other entertained. Perfect for a long run.
This run was also a preliminary test of my race-day nutrition. First Endurance has two products which I want to use on the Boise run.... Liquid Shot is used in lieu of a gel. And Pre-Race, which you can take alone before the race, you can mix it with the Liquid Shot and take it before the race, or you can mix it with Liquid Shot and take it during the race. The last option is unofficially known as the hand grenade and I am strongly considering this for the run leg of Boise. Today, I didn't quite feel like having a hand grenade, so I took ~100 cals of liquid shot and mixed it with a half scoop of Pre-Race and took this about 30 min before the race start. And wow, did this taste nasty. The Pre-Race is horribly bitter and icky tasting. But it works, so I will tolerate the taste. (they also have pills of pre-race, I just didn't know about this when I ordered and got the bulk powder). It took about 15 minutes for the Pre-Race to kick in and whee! I was feeling good.
The race started and I immediately tied my jacket around my waist. The forecast was high winds and sleet. Fortunately it wasn't too windy and it was sunny. Still a bit chilly, but not too bad considering we could have had sleet. Steph had on about 10-zillion layers. After the first mile, she stripped off her running tights.. and she still had another set of pants under them. TWO layers of pants! It was hilarious. The first few miles were spent pacing and trying to get comfortable. More than a few times I'd look at my Garmin and see we were going too fast and tried to reel my feet back in. I was hoping for water stations ever 1 mile. My nutrition plan was to have water every mile and some Liquid Shot every 2 miles. Well, the aid stations were every 2 miles. Boo. And I needed something to wet my mouth every mile, so I ended up taking a sip of the Liquid Shot every mile. Somehow, my stomach was perfectly fine with all of this, so YAY. We walked the aid stations, since neither of us were really racing and we weren't sure how this long run was going to turn out. After about 4 miles, I think the Pre-Race or maybe the Liquid Shot (I don't know) really kicked in and my feet wanted to GO. Poor Steph was trying her best to keep up. I'd look behind me, she would be back there saying something, and I'd laugh like a crazy person. The people around me surely thought I was crazy. Wheeee.... caffeine! At mile 6 I walked a tiny bit more to let Steph catch up with me and then I really didn't see her after that point. At mile 7 I finally quit trying to tell my feet to slow down and I just let them do as they pleased. I really don't like pushing that early in a half marathon, but I couldn't hold back any more. I was also getting fun little energy surges each time I sipped on the Liquid Shot. The entire run my legs felt AWESOME. No fatigue what-so-ever. And my stomach, for the most part felt good. This is the first long run in a long time where my legs and stomach felt good. It was awesome.
Somewhere around mile 9 or 10 I found some other friends that we had started with, but ended up pretty far behind due to Steph's strip show at mile 1. I was pretty pleased I found them AND passed them. The legs just wouldn't quit! The wind did pick up quite a bit (headwind) and at mile 10 the sky started spitting. I just made myself go faster. Well, maybe not faster, but just keep going at the pace I was holding. The miles just ticked away and then I was on the evil viaduct that goes over I-25 to the race finish. Its a nice long hill. I did walk the steep section but made myself run the less steep parts. (I also ran up all of the other hills on the course - yay!). Then it was to the finish line and I was done.
Hardly any training and I match my Denver RnR half marathon time almost exactly. And this time, I felt good the whole time. Legs felt good, feet felt good, shin splints weren't there, and my stomach was awesome. It was amazing.
After the race, a bunch of us went to a bar and grill for a birthday party. I had a 32-oz margarita and a burger. And then I didn't eat dinner because I was so full. But I did get in another ice bath so at least I did on thing right. And today, I am barely sore. I have some very tiny bits of soreness but overall, I feel like I could run or ride if I needed to. But I don't because this is my recovery week (which really means I have 4 easy days before the intensity kicks in again).
Overall, I'm pretty pleased with how quickly my legs and endurance are coming back. It makes me pretty hopeful for a good performance at Boise.