Saturday, May 5, 2012

Today's Long Run into a Wall

Cock a Doodle Doo
I got up pretty early today to run 14 miles. For the past few weeks, I've been getting up when Norman gets up to pee. Norman is our almost two year old Choc lab and my running partner. He gets up right around 4am, and I started running at that time to be able to finish in time for work, and also because it's peaceful and the air is cool.

The plan for today was to get the miles in and to also do some REAL hillwork. I've been practicing hills to try to get ready for Pasadena. There's a pretty decent mountain in central Phoenix called Camelback, and the streets near this mountain are the best bet around for building hill strength and experience. So the route I built has some mild rollers for the first three miles, then a flat stretch where I extended to about 7 miles. Then the ascent.

I've been eyeballing Tatum Blvd. going North for the past year as a hill challenge. I've only ever flirted with the very bottom 1/4 mile, but today, I was determined to crest the beast. Tatum goes up about one mile at a pretty decent grade before it flattens, then MacDonald goes East into a 1/2 mile mega-incline. This was tough, but I slowed my pace and got into my hill-chug "I Think I Can, I Think I Can" mode and turned around at the 9.1 mile mark. I had been thinking about the reward of the downhill after slugging through this uphill, and my pace was almost instantly fast.
Crap. Now I'm going to have scary clown dreams tonight
But what I didn't count on was that I would get tired of going downhill!???!!! WTF! I had planned to glide down to the 11 mile mark and push back home for the last three miles (mostly slightly downhill) while keeping a 9:00/mile pace. I ate a GU somewhere between 7 and 8, and had had most of my water, but I knew a couple of abandoned houses along the route where I could refill. But all of that was not on my mind, as my quads and hammys started complaining, and I began hearing the internal "WALK" chant. I had hit the wall and still had 2.5 miles to go.

The Wall is a phenomenon in running when a person 'runs out of gas'. Technically, when we exercise, our bodies use oxygen to burn (oxidize) fats and other ready sources to meet our energy demands. But if we create too much of a demand by going too fast or too far (or both), our bodies build up lactic acid in the muscles (which feels sore) and we can't get enough energy to keep going because we can't get enough oxygen into our cells to burn stuff to create energy, so our brain tells us to stop or at least walk. If you've run in longer distance races, you have seen people walking with droopy shoulders, heads down, and legs dragging zombie-like. They have 'hit the wall'. The strange thing is that after a short walk, we usually feel like we can run again. But once we start to run, out bodies immediately revolt, and we have to walk. In races, it is a sad helpless thing to see (and experience). On Saturday mornings, it just looks like some guy out there running for the first time in his life. Graphically, it looks a lot like this:
Those spikes are me walking

I pushed myself, chastised myself, and eventually resigned, happy that I had at least finished my goal distance and the gone up the Tatum beast. As for the Wall, I've been told that its good to hit it once in a while. Maybe its one of those 'know your enemy' things. As Norman and I pulled up to the driveway a little more than 2 hours after starting, I had the feeling that I knew this 'Wall' character a lot better, and I hope he leaves me alone and goes off to bother someone else for a while.

1 comment:

Christina said...

Running downhill is hard work and I've gotten tired, really tired on downhill races and wondered what the heck was up.
That was an incredibly successful run you had. And hurrah for hitting the wall. If you don't practice mental toughness in training how are you going to know what to do during the race?