Yesterday I set out to run the longest run in my half marathon training, 15 miles. A couple of weeks ago, my 14 miler didn't go very well, so I planned this week differently. Scheduling conflicts assisted, and I found that I only was able to get in one of my weight training sessions. Swapping days around would have also put my tempo run immediately before my long run. So I opted out of the tempo run as well. Sometimes, life just happens and you have to roll with it.
Last week I noticed how much better one of my tempo runs went when I had eaten a yam the day before. One whole yam, split into servings across 3 meals. I used to eat yams very regularly, year round. Somewhere along the way I fell out of the habit of them, probably in the interest of aiming for variety. I eat them "clean": no butter, sugar, or anything for that matter. Oh, occasionally I may sprinkle on some salt or cinnamon. But I find them perfectly enjoyable baked in foil until their natural sugars begin to caramelize and escape the ends of the foil. (Place them on the center rack of the oven, but put a shallow pan on the rack below to catch the sugar ooze, or you'll be cleaning your oven more often than you really care to. Or smelling burnt yam every time you bake.) I made sure I ate a yam the day before the 15 miler.
So I decreased my other training and increased my dietary carbs by adding in a yam. One other thing I did: ignored my prescribed pace. I've mentioned before, I'm a part-time runner. I find a race to train for, train appropriately, and then go back to other activities I love until I find another race I want to train for. As a part-time runner, 15 miles is a daunting run for me. I know it's going to be over 2.5 hours of running, darn near 3 if I follow prescribed slow paces for long runs. For me, that's a long time to be running. So while I had a certain "dread factor" of having to do this run, I also had an odd sense of "bring it on!" because I knew it was the longest of the long runs, and after this I go back to 12, 10, 8 as the race approaches.
With that in mind, I decided to just run what felt comfortable. Run without looking at my pace watch. Run without caring if I was faster or slower than 10:42 pace prescribed. Honestly, I gave myself permission to do that because I expected to be slower. I planned an out and back course of 7.5 miles each direction and off I went.
It was sunny and 61 degrees at 8:00 a.m. That is VERY unusual for this cold climate. It was such a beautiful day, EVERYONE was out bicycling, walking their dogs, running, rowing on the water, etc. When I first started out, I met a couple of older men on bicycles who were racing each other, then coasting and laughing/talking/enjoying themselves. They passed me a few miles later after they had turned around and were now going my direction, and shouted out some encouragement to me. Many miles later, I met them again, and they guessed I was marathon training. I also ran past a guy I had passed earlier and he gave me a surprised, "I remember you from WAY over there!" LOL.
And here's the funny thing. I felt fantastic! I was full of energy and my legs felt light and I was having a fantastic run. Sneaking glances at my pace watch, I found myself to be averaging 9:50 minute/miles. MUCH faster than prescribed pace. When I was nearly at 7.5 miles, I realized I could be darn close to my last half marathon race time of 2:06. In a training run without race adrenaline! I was stoked! At that point, I decided to skip my "Halfway!" text home that I always send to check-in, and wait until I had run 13.1. I would run the remainder of the 13.1 at the same effort level, then walk/run the final 2 miles. I had a snack in my pocket and everything! It would be perfect. And then everything went south.
I had begun to feel my IT band on the left side talk to me around mile 9. Nothing major, but it was there. Around ten miles, transitions up onto curbs were difficult. I didn't have a lot of ground clearance on the left side. "Almost there, almost there..." And then WHAM! My left foot cramped up so badly, I couldn't run on it. I had to stretch it and walk it off. A couple of minutes of that, and I knew I was done. I looked at my watch: 12.07 miles in 2 hours and 2 minutes. I had it and I lost it that quick. The foot cramp cleared, but the IT band was really angry at this point. I hobbled on for about a mile until the Calvary came and picked me up to take me to my car, which was waiting where I left it at the start.
Surprisingly, I wasn't devastated by this. I've been doubting my training and unsure I could get anywhere close to my previous HM time. I've had a 5K fluke time PR that I haven't been able to duplicate. I was starting to fear that the HM time was a fluke as well. Now I know I'm close! I just have to put the pieces of the puzzle together to figure out why I'm having IT band issues now of all times! I'm on the foam roller twice a day now, no excuses, and will do a better job of warming up. I'm hoping that will solve it. I've never had my feet cramp up while running, so that's a new one to figure out. Potassium/magnesium? But why my foot and not a charlie horse in the leg? Things to ponder as I continue the last 4 weeks of training!