Since becoming a dedicated runner, I’ve tried incorporating a long run around my age. Back in 2014, I ran 39 miles for my 4 country run starting in Belgium, traversing Luxembourg, touching briefly into France, and ending in Germany. This year, I set out to complete 42 km for my 42nd birthday but ended up doing 43 km. I justified the “43” since technically your birthday is the first day of the next year and the birthday means you have completed that many years. It is all semantics, I know.
WARNING: This is more of a stream of consciousness type post. While I would like all my articles to be top notch, I figured that I will sacrifice quality at this point to try to build the routine of daily writing. Hopefully, over time they will improve.
I set out on this run to just enjoy it. I had no preconceived notions of total time, pace, or expectations other than reflection. My GPS watch was set only to show me my cadence (for those non-runners, that calculates the amount of steps I take per minute). Too often I find myself in the never ending loop of checking my watch for my speed, how far I have gone, or how far I have to go. If I am in a particularly low moment in a run, it can actually make the run drag even longer if I keep looking at the kilometers tick by.
After seeing my daughters off to school, I took off with good lineup of music in the playlist and a smile on my face. My journey was to take me all around the western part of Mexico City. The “fun” part of running in this section is that is quite hilly. For the most part you are either going up or down.
The last time I ran this distance was in March for the Marathon Before Work Challenge that Fast Corey created. Since then, my training has been haphazard due to family obligations, random life things, but more importantly I lost focus of my fine tuned dedication I normally have. In my mind this run was a re-confirmation to my movement forward physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In fact, it was my 14th consecutive day running. For those that don’t know, I like the concept of run streaking to get things going in the right direction. If there is no choice as to whether I am running or not, it makes it a done deal. After 3 weeks, habits are formed and it becomes second nature.Back to the run… It was a cool but humid morning. In the beginning, I did some out and backs to pad the overall distance to the big loop I was running. The first 30% of the run would have 70% of the elevation gain–over 1000 meters/3300 feet. On one particular part, I took a road in which I was unfamiliar. Much to my chagrin, I quickly found that it was much more downhill than I anticipated. As I continued to descend, I had this feeling that I was going further and further into elevation debt because I had to back track to the overall loop. In the end, I decided that the uphills are what I need to get my fitness back to top notch so I forced the smile back on the face and went into diesel engine mode as I came back to the loop.Shortly after that section I reached the peak of this run. From that point I felt more relaxed and was able to hit cruise control for a while. An interesting challenge during this run was all of the chatter coming across my phone because of my birthday. As a technology geek, I have my GPS watch tied to my phone which would chime/buzz every time another birthday wish would come across. On top of that, I had a family member in the hospital who I was trying to keep tabs on via text messages. Then there were some phone calls coming in as well. All of this caused many stops and starts. Rather than get frustrated (which can happen to me easily) I remembered that there was no time limit on this run and to just enjoy. Once I let go of any ideas of how I needed to do this run, I was not bothered by the interruptions. I definitely need to remember this frame of mind going forward.When I run 4 hours or more, I like to carry water and some sort of food. I used a 3 liter hydration pack for water and brought some Huma chia gels along with some mini Larabars. I have learned that when you are training for an ultramarathon, it is not just the running that you need to train. You need to train with your equipment and train your stomach for the food options you will use in the race. It is much better to find out that a hydration pack or type of food causes you big problems during a practice run then to have race day emergencies or melt downs. This run was almost perfect in terms of water and food. My only changes would be to eat about 15% more and to restock the water in the last hour. I ran out of water with about 30 minutes to go. Luckily the temperature in Mexico City is quite mild so I can handle it.Another point of focus to help enhance my enjoyment of the special day was to take photos. I love photography but am always too caught up in the moment to stop and take photos for good memories. Today would be different and as you can see by this post, I was able to capture much of the scenery of the run. Now that it is completed, I am content that I forced myself to stop often for the snapshots.When I crossed the 3 hour mark, I could feel some flagging and fatigue setting in. My previous experience with many long runs is that I know I have the capability to keep on trucking when I feel tired. I think I did that for about 15 hours when I ran my first 100 miler. The tough part is when I started flagging, I was almost at the lowest elevation on this run–meaning I had about and hour of straight uphill to contend with to complete the journey. Let the mind games begin!!Once I hit the final major uphill, I committed to myself I would just downshift to a low gear but keep the wheels turning over. I knew I would persevere if I just let it come to me and not worry about how long the hill was. Just relax and go with it… At the summit I had a quick decent through a neighborhood of winding streets. I could hear my feet slapping the ground quite violently which meant my form was deteriorating. Eventually I made it to the final huge albeit short climb. Slowly but surely I made it up while definitely redlining. From that point I cruised to my make shift finish line and with that, the run was over. This run instilled and reminded me of a few things:
- Relax while running
- Focus on the next step and the rest will work itself out
- Keep on smiling–it makes you feel good
- When tired, remember your form
- I still need a lot of training for 100 miler in October
- Life is good when you are committed to making it good