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This is Your Brain on 20 Miles

Posted Apr 08 2013 12:55pm

Yesterday I ran my first 20-miler of this training cycle. No matter how many times I’ve covered the distance, 20 miles always feels really far. Seriously – what is it about the 20 mile distance that makes it feel so much longer than a run of say, 18 miles? I ran 18 a few weeks ago and felt great. Ran 20 yesterday and was wiped out for the rest of the day. Exhausted, sick (well that may have been more to do with my choice of fuel than anything else…more on that in a minute), and unmotivated to do much else but lie on the couch. Funny how 2 measly little miles can make a world of difference.

Anyway…anyone who has ever run 20 miles knows that you don’t just go out and do it. Well, most of us non-elite recreational runners don’t. There’s the build up, the preparation, and then (typically) the roller coaster of emotions to keep you company for the 3ish hours of running. Running 20 miles is a process, a journey.

So, for your enjoyment here’s a glimpse inside the mind of someone who approaches these super long runs with a bit of trepidation.

Reader Warning: Proceed with caution. The following litany of crazy is real. Yes, all these things were really going through my mind yesterday. And yes, I talk to myself during runs. Doesn’t everyone?

Scene: Sunday morning. 7 am. Up, making coffee and toast, obsessively checking the weather.

Why is it only 26 degrees out there? What happened to the beautiful spring weather we had at the end of the week?

Ugh that wind sounds awful. And it’s raining. I think I have a stomachache. Oh no…I’m feeling sick. How am I going to get through 3 hours of running feeling like this? My legs are too tired. And it’s cold. And windy. Maybe I should wait until Monday…

IMG 1024My slight mental exaggeration of the conditions outside as I procrastinated the start of my 20 mile run

3 hours later… (10:00ish am). FINALLY ready to go. Head out in a direction I rarely run to mix it up a little bit.

Yikes! It’s colder out here than I thought. Cold rain, cold wind…maybe shorts wasn’t the best option?

Okay, calm down and shut up. Just run one mile at a time . You can loop back by the house to change in a few miles if you have to.

Woohooo! Never mind. This whole “start downhill” thing is awesome. I’m flying! I love running! Why don’t I run this way more often?

One minute later, a truck comes careening around the corner forcing me to jump into a ditch. Oh yeah, that’s why….

Mile 1: 7:48

Oops. So much for the whole start slow strategy. But this just feels sooo good!

Miles 2 – 4 all clock in under 8:00/mile.

Oh! I’m already at the bridge (my planned turnaround point)! Those 4 miles flew by! I love running so much! Okay – let’s keep going. Just run to the center of the next town and then you can turn around.

Miles 5 – 7. Still holding a sub-8 pace without much effort.

Yikes that wind is really bad. At least I’ll have a tailwind coming back, right? Maybe all the wind will blow some of these clouds away. It’ll be nice to see the sun…

Oh a hill! Where did that come from? Wow…look at this view. I don’t care about the traffic, this run is amazing!  I should’ve just planned to run out this way the whole time. Is it too late to call Evan and ask him to pick me up 20 miles from home? I don’t think I want to turn around.

550I’M SO HAPPY!! RUNNING IS MY FAVORITE!

( Source  - side note: you should probably click that link. Gold mine of happy cat and dog pictures)

Get to the center of town, resign myself to heading back in the other direction. Pace immediately drops.

Ummm…did I really run down all these hills? No wonder I was feeling so good on the way out. I swear the road was flat just a few minutes ago…

WTH is up with this wind?! Why isn’t it at my back? I guess I should take some sort of fuel, maybe that’ll help me feel better.

Pull out the Margarita flavored Clif Shot Bloks that I stuffed in my pack that morning after a frantic search for Gu came up short (note to self: be better prepared next time!).

Margarita shot blocks

Nastiness in chewable form

Ugh. These things are the worst! How do people chew and run at the same time?! My teeth. Everything is stuck together. OMG I might gag. This flavor. Why did I think I’d like the taste of margaritas while running?!?!  Oh this is so so gross. Okay, fine, I’ll choke down one more and then these things are going away. (I am clearly not overdramatic or anything…)

Seriously, why do these things exist? They need to invent some sort of fuel that just dissolves on your tongue. Like a breath strip! Oh I’m totally going to invent that! I’m going to be the hero of runners everywhere. And will surely make millions. Enough with this chewing while running crap. It takes too much energy.

Hmmm…I guess that’s sort of why they invented Gatorade. No chewing, gives you calories and electrolytes. But Gatorade is nasty. Who wants to run with that crap? Nope, I’m getting to work on this Fuel Strip idea as soon as I get home!

Oh I love this song! Florida Georgia Line + Nelly should be so wrong, but it’s ohso right.

Finally back at the bridge. 10 miles in 1:18…I’ve slowed down, but still keeping a decent pace, all things considered.

Oh my gosh, the sun! I can’t believe it. Rain jacket off, arm warmers pushed down. This is the best and most wonderful day for running. Look at that river. And those mountains! Oh I just love Vermont.

DSC 0029Not really my view from Saturday. But a perfect representation of why I #lovermont

2 miles later…

I’m hungry. Shouldn’t I be back at the house by now? Maybe I should choke down another one of those awful Shot Bloks. Ugh. Or maybe I should just practice without the extra fuel. You know, to run with depleted glycogen stores or something…

NO. That’s stupid. I’m hungry and I’m tired and this wind is pissing me off. Why hasn’t it been at my back this whole time? Am I going crazy?

IMG 1084It was around this time that I started fantasizing about having lunch at my favorite local cafe

Choke down another Shot Blok.

Ugh. I never want to eat these things again. Barf.

Oh but what should I have for lunch when I get back? Crap, I’m hungry. I guess that’s what I get for starting the run around 10:00. How many miles do I have left to run? {mild panic attack} Ahhh don’t think about that. Just make it back to the house. Focus on one section of this run at a time.

Finally! Back in town! Why did the way back feel soooo much longer than the way out? Oh but I love this view coming into town. It’s so beautiful here. I’m really going to miss it .

{Cue dramatic, emotional mental montage of all the good times we’ve had in this town. Complete with sappy music, of course.}

Hello house! Why did I think running by home during a 20 mile run was a good idea again?!

Throw windbreaker (should also throw arm warmers that have been pushed down to my wrists but feeling way too lazy to get them off).

Miles 15 – 17. Down a familiar stretch for the final miles.

WTH is up with this wind?! It’s getting worse! How have I only run 14 miles at this point? I feel like I’ve been running forever. All that stupid uphill. Now I remember why I don’t run that way…

Okay – focus. Just 3 miles. Past the farm that you wish you could buy and around the corner. You’ve done this run 1 million times. You can do it again. Don’t think about how far. Just think about getting through this next mile. And then you only have 2 more…until you turn around.

AHSLKDFHDSLKHF this wind! Doesn’t it ever stop gusting? Why did I decide to run in this direction? Am I even moving forward? I want to cry. Or punch someone. I’m gonna punch Wind in its stupid face. Or maybe I’ll just lie down here on the side of the road. That would be nice… I wonder how long it would take for someone to find me.

I’m still hungry. Those stupid nasty Shot Bloks did nothing. I wonder if Evan is waiting for me to eat lunch. Just a few more miles until I can eat all the food! Gah I can’t wait to eat! And foam roll. My feet sure are hurting. So much pounding.

Finally – the turnaround point!! I see it. Maybe I could just turn around a little early. I mean, does 0.2 miles REALLY make that much of a difference?

I swear if I turn around and don’t feel the wind at my back I’m going to scream. I seriously want to murder somebody right now.

hurricane against the windThis is basically what I felt like. Obviously not an exaggeration at all.

Miles 18 – 20. Tailwind. FINALLY!

This is amazing!!! Downhill. Wind at my back. Oh! Macklemore . Can’t [nobody] Hold ME! Put this on repeat. It’s bringing me home.

Oh – look at that cyclist heading toward me. He’s clearly struggling against this wind. At least I know it wasn’t all in my head. This wind is no joke! Sucks to be you right now, buddy.

Look at that pace! You’re flying! Oh I love this tailwind. And this sun! And Vermont! Let’s see how fast you can finish this thing.

Okay – push up the final hill. Don’t let the pace drop now. You’re almost there. Just hang on….

7:11 final mile baby!! BOOFREAKINGYA! I love running!

And then I proceeded to sit on the back deck for a very very long time, until my hunger finally motivated me to get up and shower.

Long run conquered.

Unfortunately my post-run high was short-lived. I spent the rest of the day battling some major, not blog-worthy digestion issues. I’m blaming the margarita shot blocks (consider yourself warned!!). I’ll stick to Gu from here on out, thanks. Or, you know, the yet-to-be-invented Fuel Strip. It’s the wave of the future, I’m telling you.

Fuel strips promo

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