I generally don’t write about my runs here, since my goal is for you to stay awake when you read No Meat Athlete. After all, if training were exciting, there wouldn’t be a need for so many amazing inventions to help us get six-pack abs while we sit at a desk, sleep, eat, and/or take care of business in the bathroom.
But going out on a limb and assuming most of you haven’t ever done a 30-mile run in training—this was my first—I figure maybe you’d like to hear about one.
It’s a shame they don’t give medals for these things. If my 27 miles two weeks ago was my first n’arathon, then this was my first n’ultra. Not the farthest I’ve ever run, but the farthest I’ve ever run in training.
When I first signed up to run a 50-miler ( the North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Miler on June 6th), this was the part that scared me. Having to run 30-plus miles all by myself, without the hype and adrenaline rush of running a race. But the day finally came, and without a good excuse to put it off, I found myself heading out for a 5-hour run on a perfectly good Saturday.
I mapped out a 10-mile loop that started from and ended at my house which I would run three times. This, I thought, would make the whole thing more comfortable and break the thirty up into manageable chunks. Thirty is a lot. Ten I can handle.
Loop 1: Cursing Last Night’s Rhone
The first loop was fine. It made me wish I’d had one fewer glass of delicious wine the night before, but otherwise all good. My iPod kept me company, I stopped at Charm City Run to pick up a little something for Erin’s first Mother’s Day, and I finished up the first 10 miles feeling good.
I fueled up on some Vega Sport and homefries. If I’m going to run that far, I’m going to eat whatever the hell I’m craving. Homefries sounded good, they were in the refrigerator, and I ate them.
Loop 2: Zen Breathing after an iPod Betrayal
Loop 2 started out well, until relative disaster struck: My iPod died. I figured these things charge in a half an hour or so, but apparently that wasn’t enough. I entertained myself for a lot of the time with a breathing exercise I heard about recently—four breaths in through the nose, four breaths out through the mouth. Two steps per breath.
Ready for the weird part? With each breath, touch your thumb to a finger tip, starting with your index finger, then your middle finger, then your ring ringer, and finally finishing at your pinky. Then repeat, thousands of times until you’re in a trance. Stupid, yes. But it made me feel happy and it killed some time when I otherwise might have gone insane. Try it.
When I finished the second loop, I was feeling great. Except my crotch was absolutely on fire; I swore at that moment that I would not run again until I had bought new running shorts. After applying more Vaseline than I thought necessary, I grabbed some more homefries, some pretzels, two cupcakes, and two glasses of water. I’m all for natural running fuel, but there’s something about ultra-distances that makes me crave junk. When I interview Brendan Brazier again (this week), I’m going to ask him about how optimal nutrition for ultras differs from that for shorter distances.
Loop 3: The Road Catches Up To Me
The third loop is when it started to get old. For one, this was my first all-road run of any considerable distance in a long time. Second, I didn’t wear my CEP compression socks because I worry about getting addicted to them. And about 25 miles in, my legs got really heavy and tired of pounding the pavement.
Other than that, it was pretty uneventful. The Vaseline I applied wasn’t sufficient, and if the chafing alone weren’t enough to make me trash my current running shorts, the horrific blood stain that now graces the liner most definitely is.
But I made it. Five hours and 10 minutes after I started, I was back at my front door. As soon as I came in, I lay on the carpet for a long time and had Erin bring me things. And I was pretty damn proud of myself.
One more of these thirties (or thirty-five) and a few weeks of tapering, and I’ll be ready for the 50. I haven’t quite made peace with that one yet.
Happy Mother’s Day
I’d like to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to my wife, Erin, who has now been a (wonderful) mother for just over three weeks. I asked her what she wanted to do to celebrate, and she said, “Go get plants for the garden.” So that’s what we did. Plus I got her a gift certificate for some Vibram Fivefingers.
And of course, Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, too. And to all the other mothers out there. I now realize how much work you all do.
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