Friday, September 24, 2010

Surviving the Long Run

It’s Friday. Almost 5 o’clock. I won’t make some comment about it being 5 o’clock somewhere because I’m sick of hearing that. For me, it doesn't have to be 5 o’clock anywhere. If I want to drink that badly, I consume regardless if it’s 5 o’clock in Taiwan or not (that would be 5 a.m. Denver time, but perhaps I like to pour beer on my Cap’n Crunch. Don’t judge).  Wow, that made me sound like a drunk. I’m just bragging. I’m 110 lbs. of can’t-hold-my-liquor over here.

As soon as I am finished driving kids around, I will pop a cold one. It’s happy hour. Again! (Housemartins, circa 1986).

Here I sit like I do every week on the eve of my long run asking myself, “Where in the hell will I go this time?” (The fact is I’ve run the routes around here a bazillion times and it’s getting tough to be creative. I’m about ready to just run down the highway for a change. Me and the truckers could bond or talk about strip clubs at the very least).  “IPod or no iPod?” “Bring fuel or hide it in the bushes?” (Note to self: pick different bush to crap in). “What is the weather going to be at 7 a.m.?”  

Doing these long runs week after week takes mental fortitude. Here are some SUAR tips for getting through long solo runs.

  1. Think about the reward. I like incentives. On my run with Dean (name dropping) I  talked about imbibing in beer and baklava at the end. Oh yea, porta potty. Get ready. This was around mile 7 of 21 miles. He politely informed me that we couldn’t talk about B & B until we were through the last checkpoint and only had 3 miles to go. That’s crap. I need that B & B incentive the whole way. My reward? Usually a big coffee and fatty pastry.
  2. Do the Walkie Talkie. I learned about this from Runner’s World. The walkie talkie is when you fart every time your foot strikes the ground. This can be great fun and a nice distraction whether you are alone or in a group.
  3. Keep eyes off of the Garmin. I try to glance sparingly at the Garmin. Typically I only look at it when it beeps at a mile mark so I can gauge pace. Anymore than this and things seem to drag. Have a rule about how often: every song, every mile, at half way etc.
  4. Change up the numbers. Instead of saying, “Shit I have to run 18 miles! I’ll never make it!”  I tell myself I have to run six miles three times. It just sounds better. However, I wouldn’t advise telling yourself to do one mile 18 times or two miles 9 times. Ugh.
  5. Bring your phone. Yeah, yeah, for safety and all that, but I also bring it as a lifeline. I’ve never had to call for a mid-run pick up or therapy session, but I reserve the right to do so. I like to know that if I get sick or cold or depressed I’m not out there all by myself.
  6. Have something in your back pocket. I like to have a plan for when I get sick of running, am tired, am bored, am achy. What will I tell myself? How will I keep going? Visualizations and imagery work well too. Getting in the habit of relying on yourself for mental pick-me-ups is a good trick for race day as well.
  7. Do the half and half. I like to break up my long runs by taking the first half in peace and quiet. No music. Just my breathing and my feet on the pavement/trail. At the half way mark, I put in some music and it becomes a different run entirely.
  8. Talk to yourself. I love this tactic. I don’t do it continuously, that takes too much energy and would make me look insane. But sometimes I give myself a little verbal nudge: “Okay you can do this.” “F*ck this.” “One more mile and you can have a GU.” “Damn, I have to take a dump.”
  9. Change It Up. Every once in awhile I change up my form for a few minutes. I try a different foot strike or concentrate on pulling back my shoulders. I might move my arms more/less or unclench my fists. The point is to mix it up and let your body move differently for a few minutes. I also try varying my pace every now and then. Speeding up until the next stop sign. Slowing down for a half a mile.
  10. Visualize running the race. Usually at some point in the long run I’ll get super inspired for like five minutes. This usually happens after the half way mark when I know I’m closer to finishing than starting. I imagine myself running the marathon. I am strong and capable and well trained. This never fails to give me a boost.

    And the bonus survival tip:

  11. Bring toilet paper. It keeps you fresh. I wouldn’t advise packing it out, though.

What’s your best long run tip???

33 comments:

  1. Hit the trails. It doesn't matter if it's a city park or a beautiful forest preserve, a long run on trails is just always awesome.

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  2. I was just thinking that - where will I run tomorrow? :)

    The half and half is a fun idea. And I keep my eyes off the garmin too. Hmm, other tips? Well, this is weird, but I really have fun bringing a camera and taking random shots and that keeps me distracted. But fast runners probably don't want to do that ;)

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  3. Thanks for your tips. Good to know I am not the only one who find amusement in syncing up farting and feet striking the ground.

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  4. i am so glad that i'm not the only one who talks to myself during a long run!

    confession: sometimes (in my head) i'll pretend that i'm a celebrity and make up celebrity drama that stars me. like what actor i'm dating or what movie i'm in. yes. i am a loser!

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  5. I'm partial to rule #4 and I almost do 3 mile intervals with this rule. Hate it, but it's all i got. Will definitely try the walkie talkie/yellie this weekend. Thanks for the post.

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  6. Thanks for the tips. I'm hitting that mental meltdown moment. Just one more big run and then it's taper time. It's just one..more...big...run! 20 miles! Wish I had you there to motivate me. I'll use some of these to get thru it. Thanks again! See you at Denver!

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  7. after making it 20 miles today, my only bit of advice is listen to eminem till i collapse. do it to it and tell me what you think!

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  8. The best part of having a coach is never having to decide where to go on my long runs and nearly always having someone to do them with. Chatting really makes the miles go faster.

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  9. Good tips ;) I'm at my ropes end looking for new routes, too. I'm not sure what to do anymore!
    But, I have a secret. I'm the queen of talking to myself. My hole neighborhood probably thinks I'm nuts but I swear it helps with my breathing and the boredom!
    Good luck! Don't crap yourself!

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  10. For me, the long run is about planning ahead. I have to visualize where I'm going beforehand; then, getting there is so much easier. That's the A-type in me writing this.

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  11. I like the tips! I have recently done the music thing - meaning half of the run without music, and the last half with music. It does break up the run.

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  12. I try my best to explore a new "scenic" route during long runs. That way I'm so distracted by the new sights. Since I do my long runs in the morning, I use some of this time to have my daily conversations with God. Part of it asking for strength and endurance for the long run, hehe!

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  13. LOVED that Housemartins song. Which I know was not the focus of the post, but it still brought me back to simpler times and I'm therefore commenting.

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  14. can't find to find out the results and how it went...

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  15. LOVE this post!
    I sing to my music. Sometimes I sing out loud, but mostly I just mouth the words.
    Also, I usually run out-and-backs on my long runs, so I always think of the total distance: At 5 miles, "Wow, I will have gone 10 miles when I finish."

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  16. Best tip: Bring paper towel. It holds up better than toilet paper especially if it starts to rain. :)

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  17. I so ENJOYED this post Beth!! I'm just starting out and knowing these things up front will be helpful!

    Thanks for the laugh this morning I especially liked your idea about running on the highway....just visualizing you doing this tickled me=)

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  18. Bring a friend (or more)! I'm lucky to train with an awesome group and rarely run a long run alone. Company makes the miles go by soo omuch faster/easier!

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  19. Great tips. I ran my 20 miler without my garmin last week (battery dead) and fond not staring at it and stressing about pace made the run go much faster.

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  20. My advice: if you're running out-and-back, start against the wind.

    You know I love the Housemartins - Happy pop songs that most people don't listen to carefully enough to hear that the songs are usually about the violent overthrow of the monarchy.

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  21. Hmmmm - I'm guessing a treadmill long run is out of the question?!

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  22. That's the first time I've heard of number 2--very funny! I also like to combine different loops. Today my friends and I ran a 6-mile loop, stopped for GU/water, then continued on a different 15-mile loop. Breaks up the monotony.

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  23. This is why I love White Rock Lake... it's uber-crowded with runners and cyclist and there is never a shortage of distracting people-watching.

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  24. Just when I think I've got you figured out, you bust out with a Housemartins reference. Well played madam .... well played.

    No great long-run tips here, but I think I might try the half-and-half approach on my run tomorrow. I intentionally left my iPod home on a trip last week since I knew I'd be running with co-workers, and I was surprised by how much I didn't miss it.

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  25. I like you list! I break down my long runs into smaller segments too to make it a little less mentally taxing!

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  26. Try a leftright adventure run.
    Example. Every 15-30 min take a right or left alternating between the two. If your running with music maybe make a turn every few songs. Or just be spontaneous about it.
    I find myself wondering where it will be that I end up this time and forget about the time.
    Mix it up. Have fun!

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  27. Great post! I def play mental games with myself on my long runs. I force myself to not calculate or think about how many miles or left, or I try not to say '1/3 done' or something like that, because sometimes that is not that reassuring..

    I never run w/ my phone, though... which is pretty dumb since i am always running alone and the only person who knows I am running is usually my training partner in Western, Canada. She's 2 time zone and like 1,200 miles away.... So yah, I really need to start running w/ my phone but i just don't have anywhere to put it...

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  28. You totally hit the big ones. I LOVE breaking time up into various segments. 3 miles is my preferred split. XXX 5Ks left. 30 min left, just an episode of Modern Family..

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  29. better than toilet paper -> diaper wipes! I also have a whole alternate life for myself that develops in my head when I run. All sorts of fastastic scenarios...I'm pretty awesome in my own head!!

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  30. Ah, 3 & 4 are part of my tactics for EVERY long one! I've learned to keep my eyes off the Garmin all the time, unless it's speed work and/or towards the end of my run and I'm antsy. Then, breaking a looong distance into smaller ones works wonders for me. Meaning, I have to figure out a way to NOT think about 26 around Denver as just a big ol' loop. Ugh.

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  31. Love the tips. I do my long runs with a group but definitely need to know how to survive them alone. Oh, and there's nothing wrong with beer and CapN Crunch.

    Winks & Smiles,
    Wifey

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  32. I also break my long runs into three or four segments, just to keep from thinking it is so long. I talk to myself too and to the cows that I see, hey, I live in Kansas so there will be cows!

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