Monday, February 18, 2008

I'll never run that long again

Have you ever pushed your body to the limits? That point where you are almost surpassing your tensile strength? Depending on how you look at it, there are tons of ways you can answer this question. Maybe you have been pushed to some emotional limits or physical limits or intellectual limits or xyz limits.

Many a times, such events are a consequence of our quest for superiority over something. For example, maybe you just want to prove to yourself that you can get that which you want, regardless of what it takes.

Why am I saying this? Let me tell you about an experience I had recently.

At this time of the year, I usually run moderate milage in preparation for the upcoming season. Since graduating from the NCAA type of seasons (cross country in the fall followed by indoor track in the winter and then outdoor track in the spring), I have adopted the single season mentality. I just get myself ready for road races and anything that has $$ and fun. Road racing "starts" (there are always road races all over the US) around March for me.

The Mexico saga threw my schedule off. As such, I did not really train much for about two months which means I am out of shape. At the time when I was dealing with my visa issues, I never really thought of staying in running shape. Well, except that one time when I took my running clothes to Ciudad Juarez, only to be stuck there without a visa. That "strangled" my attempt to maintain my running shape.

You might be wondering what I meant by moderate milage. Let me clarify that a bit. Last year at about this time, I was averaging about 50 miles per week. My longest run was 19 miles. This year, my average milage is 5 miles per week and my longest run had been 8 miles. I call what I did last year moderate milage.

Well, I need to get in shape quick. There are so many upcoming races that I want to do but for those of you who know me, I dont just go to races to run. I go to compete. It is fun that way. This means I have to be in shape or I cant compete.

This past Saturday, I decided to take the express lane to getting in shape. It also happens to be an express lane to getting injured, depending on what you do during and after your run. I decided that I would increase my long run from 8 miles to ... take a guess ... 2 hours. Two-hour runs usually range from 17-20 miles depending on what shape I am in and what I am trying to accomplish from the run.

I was a little skeptical of my run and I was afraid I wasnt going to finish it. But I did convince myself that I would not run any faster than 7-minute pace and that I would slow down if need be. I hit the first mile in 7:20 and was at mile four at 28 minutes. I wasnt feeling great, but I knew it usually takes me about that long to warm up especially when it is cold. For the next 50 minutes, I felt like a champ! I was cruising and feeling great. At this point, I had an option of heading home which would have taken me 15 minutes. This would have put me a little over 1.5 hours total. Since I was feeling good, I decided to add a 25 minute loop. Finishing this loop and heading home would have given me exactly two hours of running, just as I had planned.

I finished the loop feeling like I owned it. I almost did some sprints in between my run just to celebrate how I was feeling.

Turns out, my body could only handle 10 extra minutes. I didnt know this then but I could tell going slightly uphill that things were going to be rough at some point. For those of you who know where I live, you have seen that there is a 1-mile climb to my house. It is not that big of an elevation but it is one that will deliver the final punch when it needs to.

I only made it two minutes into the hill. It usually takes me about 5-7 minutes to complete it. I couldnt move my legs, my head started spinning, I started swaying to the sides ... I had never really hit the wall in my life.

(For those of you who dont know what hitting the wall means, watch the video below. Even elite athletes, like marathoner Kayoko Fukushi of Japan hit the wall).

Finally, I stopped. I walk home. For the first time in my life, I walked home from a run. No, I did not jog, I WALKED. I a little over a half a mile to go. I couldnt imagine myself face planting and possibly inflicting more harm than those I had already caused. My total milage was 17.26 miles for the 1 hour 55 minutes that I was out running. I swore never to run that long again but as I write this, I know that in two weeks I will be doing the same thing. Only this time, I will actually go for two hours non stop.

Here is a Google Earth capture of my long run route. Can you see the disconnect from the start point and the finish point? Click on the image to see the route I followed.

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