Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Long Run. Getting it done, safely

My last training post discussed track workouts.  I love track workouts, but I really feel like getting your long runs completed is really the most important part of your training program.  If you miss a shorter distance run, it isn't going to have the same impact on your big picture training as if you miss a long run.  I'm not saying you can't ever miss a long run, in fact, on nearly every marathon training program I have done, I have encountered a week due to illness, injury, or travel that it just didn't happen.  The half marathon is no different, except the long runs are shorter than those for a marathon.

For this fall, I am doing slightly longer runs that I have in the past for a half marathon.  My best half marathons have always come shortly after a full marathon, so I am just trying to have several long runs that are further than 13.1.  If I was only looking to do the Louisville Sports Commission Half Marathon, without having two events leading up to it (Iron Horse and Iceman), then I would likely even try to do a 20 miler, and make my training more like that of a full marathon, yet just race a half.  This might be excessive, but considering I am already looking to do a spring marathon, having higher than average mileage for me right now is on track.  But, I stand firm in that if you can run 10 miles, you can race and half marathon. 

So, this past Thursday was what I think will be my longest run before Iron Horse.  The way my weekends are planned, with Iceman three weeks after, and then the LSC half a week after that, I will essentially be starting a taper followed by recovery period before Iceman and LSC.  Hopefully this goes well.  I'm thinking 10 miles this week for my long run, and then 6 the week before Iron Horse.  Then I will start back around 7 or so, and start adding again before Iceman.  I think I can get back up to 10 before Iceman, and then skip my long run the week of Iceman (travel and other race being the reasoning, and Iceman itself will be a huge enough event that I won't lose any fitness from doing it, just may exhaust myself more!!!)

I have the word "safely" in the title of this post.  It has two purposes.  First, you shouldn't add too many miles per week to your long run.  I typically add one mile each week for two weeks, and then take a step back week on the third, but then on the 4th week, I add one to what I would have run had I not taken a step back.  Here is the pattern, 7,8,6,10, 11, 9, 13, 14 ect.  The step back week allows for some recovery, but it doesn't let you lose fitness, which is why you return the following week as if you have not taken the step back week.  I hope this makes sense, and this has worked for me well out of my almost 10 years of marathon experience.

The second purpose is runner safety.  While I was running on Old La Grange Rd by myself, a resident stopped me and mentioned she was concerned that I was alone.  Yes, I know running alone isn't the best, but sometimes you can't always have everything be the best.  But, you can take precautions.   I am friends with an OC Sheriff, and I spoke to him and he thought that Old LaGrange Road is pretty safe, and hadn't heard any incidents, so I wasn't concerned enough to stop running alone.  I asked about carrying pepper spray, which I haven't even thought to carry since college, and he agreed that it wasn't a bad idea if I am alone, just watch to not spray myself. 

Here is my list of things to aid with runner safety, especially if you are alone.
1.  Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back, and vary your route/time if possible.
2.  Bring your phone, ID, and insurance card.  Also, have someone in mind you can call if you do run into a problem, be it weather, injury, or sickness.  Sometimes you feel great at the start of a run, but feel really bad when you are running or get a muscle pull.  And, there are always those storms that weren't on the radar, but pop up out of no where.
3.  Be visible.  Wear bright colors or reflective fabrics if you will be running at dusk/dark, or in  high traffic areas where being hit by a car is a possibility.  Run facing opposing traffic.
4.  Try to find a balance of being on visible roads, but not so much traffic that you are constantly at risk for being hit by a car.  This is a hard one.  I will sometimes run on the sidewalk of highly trafficked roads so that I am not "alone", but not in traffic either.  I also try to run by businesses and have places on my route that I can seek shelter or assistance. 
5.  Make eye contact with those around you, and be aware of your surroundings.
6.  Carry extra food and water, if you are planning a really long run or will be in a remote area.
7.  Take self defense class and carry personal protection items such as pepper spray, whistle, or other distress signal.

Last week, I had my first long run since having my discussion with the resident of Old La Grange road telling me to watch out for scary looking vans and the sheriff.  Seriously, I started running in a bad part of Columbus, OH, while in college, and have been running by myself for the past 10 years in Detroit suburbs, Toronto, outside of Cleveland, and now here.  Granted, running in a rural area has things that startle me more than those things I am used to in urban areas, and I am not used to being out on roads and not in an enclosed park that is closed to motor vehicle traffic, with a bathroom and drinking fountain every 2-4 miles.  I've gotten used to carrying water, planning bathroom stops to align with the gas stations, and even called dispatch a time or two for finding hunting debris on the side of the road that I mistook for a crime scene.  I was really not worried about myself so much.  I was really worried that my daughter had a school walk a thon at 11:30, and I had to drop my son off at school at 9:00, and I wanted to run 15 or so miles.  I had 2.5 hours to get home, run, and get to school.  The plan was to run as quickly as possible after dropping him off, and then finish my run at the school, since it was on my running route.  It was a walk a thon, so I could show up all sweaty, right?  I wasn't even going to need to go into the school, I had hoped. 

I packed up my camelback with my phone, ID, insurance card, water, 12 clif blocks (2 packages), my camera (in a Ziploc freezer bag), pepper spray, and an alert horn.  That was a ton of stuff!  It was pretty heavy.  I got my son dropped off and home, and it was cool and overcast, but I had plenty of time to run 15, if I hit my splits and didn't take too much time getting my food out of my camelback, I should be at the school in plenty time.  I was going to run back and forth on Old La Grange Road, until I got in enough miles to head home.  I do a lot of business at Tri County Ford, and with the fire station being at the opposite end, I figured I would have a place to seek shelter from the cark clouds that showed up as soon as I got to the fire station.  I thought about all the places I could seek shelter if I needed immediately, and also thought that if I got caught in a storm on my first out and back, I would just head home to get cleaned up before going to the school, but the dark clouds passed.  I thought I was good.  I finished the first out and back and was heading back on my second when the sky opened up, and I got caught in a downpour!  It actually felt great, but I was 2 miles from the school and 3 miles from home, so I was going to be at the school sopping wet!  I did not plan for that!  I did stop quickly under a tree to move my phone from its outside pocket in my camelback to an inner pocket, in the freezer bag with the camera, for added protection from the elements.  Then I just tried to hurry to the school as fast as possible.  I hoped it would stop before I got there.  My daughter's group was the first group after the lunch period to walk, and I thought that maybe they would still be able to walk outside if the rain stopped before their start time.  No such luck.  I arrived at the school in the pouring rain, right at the 15 mile mark, at 11:30.  The only bad thing was that I was drenched, and dripping water everywhere!  All the PTA members who had volunteered for longer shifts than just one grade were wearing school tees.  Maybe I could buy an extra??  Thankfully, the aunt of one of my daughter's friends let me borrow her tee since she had a second one underneath, and I was no longer freezing, but still very wet.  I was making little puddles on the gym floor.  I know attending a walk a thon immediately after a long run probably isn't the smartest or easiest thing to do, but I didn't feel too bad, aside from the embarrassment of being sopping wet.  I did end up mopping the floor around myself a couple of times, and escorted the school mascot around the gym, since seeing out of those costumes is tricky.    It was a blast, and I'm glad everything worked out that I could attend.  Yes, it is my child who chose to wear her Ironman shirt to the walkathon!!

 Keira and I
I hope you have a great week!  Any other tips for staying safe on the run would be appreciated too!

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