Sunday, April 3, 2011

Long Slow Run Downhill

It's #3 thing that runners fear most.

Top of the list is injury. No one wants to be injured. "Injured" is derived from a German word meaning "not running".* We don't like not running.

Second worst is a botched race. All the training, all the planning, all the money, flushed down the metaphorical toilet. Bad weather, poor sleep, illness, out too fast, doesn't matter. They all mean a missed opportunity, "wasted" training, and probably a missed goal.

Today, I got to experience #3: Long run epic failure.

In the regimen of the modern distance runner, the long runs are the foundation on which all of the training is built. The primary colors, the musical scales, A, C, G, and T. Without the long runs, the rest of the training is pointless, nonsensical, mishmash.

We build our training around these weekly treks. We plug in the long runs, adding a couple miles each week, and then sprinkle the other training in where it makes sense.

They can be boring. Tedious, even. But they are necessary, and usually, not that big of a deal.

In the old days, I used to look forward to the long runs. They were a chance to clear my head. And since they are run at a slower pace, I could just set the auto-pilot on "cruise" and just knock out the miles.

But today isn't one of the good old days. My long run was a drawn out, slow moving torture.

Not sure why, but this morning, I just didn't have it. And by "it", I mean anything.

We've all felt like crap, especially early in the morning, but we know that once we get moving, get a little warmth in the muscles, we'll feel better.

Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, the crappy feeling lingers. It hangs off of your shoulders, dragging the ground, like an anchor.

Imagine having to sit through a horrible movie, starring you, while someone with large triceps goes off on your feet with a hammer.

I had no pop in my legs. Small hills slowed me to a crawl. Four times I just stopped, bewildered, and pissed beyond words to see that I'd only gone 1.6 miles since the last time I'd stopped, bewildered. The dog looked up at me, if I'm not mistaken, with a hint of disgust.

I was running like an old man. Older man.

Thing is, these runs are crucial. They build up the endurance and strength that we draw from during our race. They also build us up mentally. Knocking out the long runs give us the confidence that we will make it through the race with grace and power and speed.

That's why blowing up during a long run is so demoralizing.

We can rationalize why it happened. We can adjust our plan. But you can't make it up. You have to face the fact that one of the blocks of your foundation is cracked.

I cut the run short. I stretched. Then, I sulked most of the day.

Then, I showered.

Then, I turned the proverbial page, put that miserable "run" behind me, and rejiggered my training schedule to try to salvage my race.

Getting back in racing shape isn't easy. We have bad days. We have awesome days.

I think the scale tips decisively toward awesome.

Good running,

* This is not true.

Image from here.