Tuesday, February 15, 2011

There is Only Forward

Blue Skies Today

Soda in the Sun

Post-run Feet

Sunday’s Long Run (2/13/11)

First things first: Dr. Pepper is an excellent post-run recovery drink.  I’m not much of a soda-drinker, but Matt left his pop behind on Friday, so I feel obliged to drink it.  After running ten miles, it tastes amazing.  The other thing that’s amazing is taking off your shoes and socks, then stretching your feet into the sunshine while sitting on your patio.  That feels good too.

This long run was a good one.  I hit my stride early in the run; by mile 3 or 4, I was cruising comfortably.  It was a fun run, too.  I decided to multi-task by running to campus to take care of a little chore in the lab, so I finished the first 60 minutes of the run, then popped into the lab for a few minutes.  On my way through campus, I explored the area near the giant football stadium.  I saw some guy leaving a mysterious envelope tucked into a statue’s arms; of course I was dying to know what it contained.  I restrained myself and kept running.  I discovered a tunnel that runs under Wellborn Road between the football stadium and west campus—I think the tunnel was my favorite part of the run.

I took a lot of unintentional breaks during this run, mostly for street-crossing.  Because of the breaks during the first 60 minutes of the run, I made it my goal not to stop for the final 40 minutes.  At that point, it was easy to knock out 20 minutes of continuous running.  The final 20 minutes were a grind to finish.  At that point, I had an estimated 8 miles under my feet, with 2 more miles to complete.  The fatigue and overall soreness were enough that I forced myself not to think about any of that.  All I kept thinking were Zen-like mantras such as

There is only forward.

Feet move forward.

Breath goes in and out.

Arms pump.

There is no pain.

There is no fatigue.

There is only forward, feet moving forward.

Maybe it sounds insane, but all this chanting in head let me dissociate from the pain of running when I was losing energy and strength.  It’s something I do during races too, toward the end, when I’m close enough to finishing that if I just focus on that singular goal of feet moving forward, then I know I will finish and I’ll finish strong.

Running is like that: it lets you boil your goals down to a single focus.  I often use running to think about the rest of my life, but in those hard, heavy moments at the end of a long, long run, I think about nothing other than finishing.

* * *

As an aside, I have a question for my fellow long-distance runners.  What’s your recovery plan after a long run during race training?  Today is Tuesday, which is two days after finishing Sunday’s long run.  My legs feel mostly fine, just a little tired, and I’ve taken Monday and today as “active rest” days.  That means I do everything I would do during a normal work day—walk around, climb stairs, etc.—but I have neither run nor biked.  I might do some yoga tonight, but I’ve taken it easy with the exercise because I want them to recover from this run.  Tomorrow I plan to bike to work.

I’ll thank you in advance for any words of wisdom you offer!

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