The long haul: surviving long training runs

Hello from Canadian cottage country!

Hello from Canadian cottage country!

My legs hurt today. Memories of yesterday’s 18km training run. After a week of travel, partying and my second winter cold, I wasn’t exactly feeling motivated. But it had to happen. Around the Bay is about 4 weeks away and I’m slightly behind in my training plan.

We planned a fairly boring route through cottage country (see map below) but I really enjoyed it. We basically ran back and forth along the same road twice. When we were running toward the lake, the sun was at my back which helped melt my water which was freezing in my fuel belt. (Seriously, is winter over yet??) It also had logical milestones that helped break up the run into manageable bits.

We ate a good breakfast. We kept a slow pace, and the weather (for once) was being moderately cooperative. The front half of that run was tough. I was hurting. But somehow, I found some hidden energy reserve, and finished stronger than I started. This seems to happen a lot. Graham, my faithful running companion, once likened my running style to a freight train. I seem to pick up speed as I go, rather than slowing down as I get tired.

This run got me thinking about long training runs and how to avoid “hitting the wall.” There are definitely a few things I’ve learned that help make these long runs a little more manageable. If you’re training for a new distance, here are a few tips to help you out.

Food

Obviously, food is important for any runner, but it’s especially important when you’re upping your distance significantly. I’m a proponent of natural products, but long runs are the one time I opt for energy gels to help me out. During long runs, your body craves carbs, electrolytes and water. Try experimenting with nutritional products that will help power you through your runs. I like PowerBar Gels, or GU Chomps energy chews. Although be warned: the energy chews are kind of hard to eat when they’re frozen!

Pace

In order to actually finish your distance, you need to make sure you don’t exhaust yourself early on. My average pace is about 5:40/km. On these long runs, I’m averaging about 6:00/km or a little slower. I find that I’m able to maintain this pace pretty consistently over the entire distance, and if I still have energy left during the last couple of kilometres, I’ll pick up the pace. If you’re doing a new distance for the first time, try not to set a time goal. Your goal should just be about finishing.

Stretch

I cannot overstate the necessity of stretching after your long runs. Let my own screw-ups be a lesson to you. After this weekend’s long run, I diligently stretched every muscle…except my hip flexors and man, they are screaming today. I certainly won’t forget them next time. Spend extra time stretching after these long runs and if you can, try incorporating yoga into your training schedule.

Planning

This is the hardest part. You have to be willing to build time into your schedule for these runs. To get up and run 18+km is pretty significant. It means going to bed early the night before, planning an easy day after that, and eating and drinking properly the day before and after. It may mean you have to leave the party early, but it will be worth it. And while everyone else you know is nursing a hangover or sleeping in, you’ll already be done a huge run. Aww yeah! Nailed it!

For more tips, check out this article here.

long training run

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