Berlin Marathon Training Week #3 Day 1 Lessons Learned From a Humbling Long Run

Location: Pasadena, CA

Temperature: Mostly sunny, 72 degrees with 50% humidity

Type of Run: Long

Length: 16.38 miles

Type of route: long gradual inclines, long gradual declines with two hill climbs and one hill descent

Time: 1 hour, 53 minutes, 4 seconds

Pace Per Mile: 6:55

Reason for Run: The long run is a staple of half marathon and marathon training. It builds endurance, muscle strength and increases energy production in cells. By building endurance, your body is getting used to running longer distances which is obviously critical to successfully completing a marathon or half marathon.

How did I feel? NOT GOOD! Yes, the per mile pace and overall time were great but I had to stop twice. Once was at a stoplight around the 11.5 mile mark that I normally can avoid but I was too fatigued to pay attention to the light pattern and adjust my pace based on that pattern. The second time I stopped was with one mile left up the steep Holly Street hill. This was due to fatigue. I needed to stop for a few minutes and rest. I rarely flat stop during runs but this was one of those days. Fortunately, I did finish the final mile.

I believe several factors were involved in this run not being up to par despite the time and pace looking good. First, I was in my own head with this run. As I had mentioned in previous training blogs, my per mile pace has improved over the last several weeks. Also, I’ve done this particular route numerous times and since long runs are usually run at a very easy pace, I’ve rarely run this route under two hours. I was determined this time to run this under two hours which meant the pace would have to be brisk. Why? Mostly because I wanted to prove I could. This was the wrong mindset. This long run should’ve been at an easy pace. There was no reason for my ego to get in the way of a proper easy-paced long run early in marathon training. This bad mindset caused some anxiousness before and early in the run. That anxiousness led to a nervous feeling around my stomach which is uncomfortable. Long runs can humble the best of us if you approach them with the wrong mindset. Time was not important today. It was simply getting the run done. Simply put, I put too much pressure on myself to perform to a high standard when it wasn’t necessary.

The second thing affecting this long run was the weather. It was mostly sunny and only 72 degrees. However, the humidity was around 50%. For southern California, that’s significant. Humidity greatly affects running performance. Your body cools itself down when sweat evaporates. However, humidity prevents the sweat from evaporating so your body isn’t cooling itself off like normal. This keeps your body warmer than it what it would be normally at a certain intensity. If the body is warm, it’s going to slow you down because..well…it doesn’t want to die. The humidity definitely added discomfort. When I finished my run it looked like I ran through a car wash. My shirt and visor were almost entirely soaked and my arms, legs and neck were wet. Yeah, it wasn’t pleasant. Since I haven’t run in more humid conditions like this since last summer my body wasn’t used to it. I have noticed a pattern of my first runs in warmer weather and/or more humid weather after running in cool weather have been difficult. I suspect my body will adjust as it has been doing the past several years.

This is how I felt today. D’oh!

The third thing that I believe affected this long run negatively was slight dehydration. I didn’t drink enough water over the weekend. With a long run coming up, I should’ve prepped my body better by ensuring my fluid intake was appropriate. Any distance run will be negatively affected by dehydration. Your body needs enough water to regulate itself properly and when it doesn’t get that, it reacts by making you feel less than yourself.

Bad runs will happen just like bad games happen to football, baseball and basketball players. The best things to do are to reflect on why the run was bad and do your best to ensure things you can control, such as hydration and mindset, are in control. This will minimize the amount of bad runs you’ll have. Accept those bad runs are part of the training cycle, you still are capable of accomplishing your goal and move on because tomorrow is another day.

Running With You,

Donald

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