Tuesday, February 26, 2013

From Highs to Lows: A Great Long Run and an Unexpected Speed Bump

I had a phenomenal long run on Friday afternoon. It wasn't a fun run, although parts were fun, and it wasn't a fast run, although parts were fast.

What was great about Friday's long run was the mental strength I gained throughout as I continually made choices to be my best, which added up to an incredible long run.

Central Park prettiness (not from Friday's run because the park is dead-of-winter barren, currently) 
Since it was forecast to rain on Saturday, I decided to join my friend Brittany for part of her long run on Friday afternoon. I'd run with her the previous week for 3 miles and had a lot of fun, and Friday was no different. We met around 96th Street and went up the west side of the loop, over the Harlem Hills, then down the east side.

Despite chatting, we still kept up a good pace and she was understanding when I had some stomach issues and needed to make two bathroom stops along the first loop. (Note to self, no more coffee on run days)

Brittany and I parted ways at my second bathroom stop since she was finishing her run by heading home down the Westside Highway. This was the first point where I felt I had to exercise "mental strength."

also not from Friday's run, but illustrating the location of said run. 
As I exited the bathroom, I realized that in the span of two minutes, my clothing was now freezing and wet from sweat, and my heart rate had gone down enough that I wasn't warm anymore. Yuck. I'd also forgotten my headphones so wouldn't have music for the next 5-6 miles.

I was only 10 streets from home and was so tempted to just head back to my warm apartment, but I reminded myself that I'd just have to run it later this weekend, so I headed up the hill and then made a right for a loop of the Great Lawn.

As I finished my short loop, I still wasn't sure what I was going to do. Head to Riverside Park for some flat miles? Reservoir for flat miles?

I headed up the east side, tackling Cat Hill at mile 9 but keeping a 9:42 pace for that mile (another mental strength win).

Then I thought to myself, what will make me a better, stronger runner? So I headed down the west side of the Central Park loop for more hills.

Finally, the one and only picture from Friday's run. 
As I passed the Reservoir and headed toward the 106 St. Transverse, I had the largest mental strength development yet: Do I turn left and run 10 miles or turn right and run 11? 

So many excuses ran through my head at that moment, but I decided to leave it up to the women in front of me. Are they turning right or left? Aaaand they turned right. So I was finishing 11 miles in Central Park with another round of Harlem Hills.

Getting up the last hill was pretty tough at this point, and there may have been some humming of Eminem's "Lose Yourself" as I ran up it. Yet when I reached the top I felt a sense of euphoria at how hard I'd pushed myself on this run. I sprinted down the hill and toward home, running .07 miles at 6:58, just for fun.

As it turned out when I got home and checked my paces-per-mile, I had pretty much negative splits, meaning the second half of my run was faster than my first. The perfect end to an awesome run. It left me feeling so strong.

A Speed Bump
I needed that mental strength coming into this week. After such a terrific training cycle, I guess I was due for a speed bump or two.

I don't deal with pain well. Not in terms of handling the actual pain -- I can deal with that fairly well. It's me freaking out about, "what is this pain? can I run my race? am I going to have another disaster like the Last Chance Half Marathon? what is going on?"

I had a bit of hamstring tenderness over the weekend so I skipped my planned 5 easy miles on Sunday to rest it. I was anticipating being fine to start the week, but Monday morning I woke up with intense pain in my right calf emanating from a big ol' knot. I had no idea what was happening and made an appointment with Finish Line Physical Therapy for that afternoon.

Thankfully, the Physical Therapist I'm going to there, Alison, was able to make the pain a lot more manageable through massage (also checking out the hamstring, which seems ok) and giving me some exercises. She also put some kinesiology tape on the knot that will hopefully help.

Check out that sexy KT tape. And my oh-so-shapely and unshaven calf. 
Even more importantly, she reassured my jitters, telling me that I was prepared right now for the half-marathon and pushing myself with pain would not make my goal time any more achievable. She even said that I could rest two weeks and be fine if necessary.

Ok, I'll stop freaking out. If I can't train, I'm going to take yesterday's and today's mandatory rest days (and who knows how many after...) as a chance for me to really focus on that clean eating I mentioned yesterday. And so far so good!

This is a speed bump, not a road block. 

Do you feel you get mentally stronger from your long runs? How do you handle setbacks in training?


  1. So glad you went to Finish Line PT to have Alison assess your hamstring--definitely a smart decision.

    Since I'm relatively new to the world of semi-serious running/endurance training, I've been focusing on developing my mental strength. Sure, some of it from basketball and other sports transfers, but compared to other runners, I don't have a ton of running-specific mental strength to draw on during tough times. Working out with my teammates has helped tons, and I'm excited to see how it pays off during the indoor triathlon this weekend. Chances are I'll be running the three miles solo, so I'll need to put on my big-girl pants and dig deep!

    1. I'm TRYING to be smart, at least ;)

      I'm sure having a team really helps with the mental strength aspect since you have a whole team of people you want to work hard for. Since you're running three miles, you can probably pick one thing to really concentrate on as your motivation during them. Can't wait to hear about it!!

  2. Oh no! I hope you start feeling better soon. I felt the same way the last few weeks with my groin and IT band. You'll only come back stronger because you're so eager to run when you can't!

  3. I love that feeling of overcoming a wall while running long runs, they make me more confident and reinforce the belief that I can do it. And I handle setbacks by using the time to maybe cross train and work on an area I was neglecting (perfect time for some upper body workouts!)

    1. I honestly think long runs are just as important for the mental aspect as for the physical one, much more so than all the other runs you do while training. Glad to hear someone else feels the same way :)

  4. My calves have been thing that usually cause me the most problems and I have learned to try to stop them early on. One thing I like to do is massage my calf with the knee of my other leg. It really helps you get in there and get rid of the trigger point.

    1. I normally have tight calves so I suppose it makes sense that I'm having these issues! I'd tried the knee thing before and thought it was great, good to know that it really does work for others, too.

  5. Good or bad, every long run that I finish makes me feel pretty confident.
    If it went well - it's all yay I am totally ready for the race.
    On the flip side if everything falls apart but yet you finish - you know that mentally you are there for race day.
    I love me some long runs. And wasn't able to fit one in over the weekend so am totally itching to go long and will probably have to happen mid week!

    1. Hah I have definitely had some challenging runs that made me feel like I couldn't finish a race, but just finishing is always something that makes me feel really accomplished.