I just finished my last long run of this training cycle – 31 miles.  I had been looking forward to and dreading it at the same time all week long.  Up until now, I didn’t even know that was possible.  After last week’s blisteringly fast pace, I was wondering how much time I could lop off compared to my last long run heading into Umstead:

 

March 10 – 31.1 miles in 5 hours 13 minutes

May 12 – 31.1 miles in 5 hours 13 minutes

So I ended up running the same time on the same course.  Same results means identical runs, right?  Hardly.  This is one of those cases where not only do the numbers not tell you the whole story, they don’t even share the same plot.  For that, you need context.

Context

I normally do my long runs on Saturday morning, however that wasn’t going to be possible this weekend.  This reduced my choices to either getting up at 2am on Sunday to get the run in before church or Friday night.  Neither option appealed to me much, however I chose the Friday night option to practice running when tired.  I’ve done one other night training run and though people swear by them as good preparations for 100-milers, I haven’t been entirely sold.  Yes, running when tired is good, which is why I’ve done back-to-back long runs.  It’s just that 1am with 25 miles on your legs is totally different than 1am with 75 miles behind you.

I waited until 9pm to start my run.  While the roads around me aren’t that crowded, I still thought it would be best to wait a bit for traffic to die down.  This would also push my finishing time well past midnight.  If I was going to do this, then I would do it right.  I hate waiting around to start my run and it’s not something I’m used to since I always start right when I get up.  So I sat around twiddling my thumbs and . . . just waiting.  It didn’t help matters that it was supposed to start raining 2-3 hours into my run so the longer I waited the more rain I was going to get.  This is where the dreading came into play.  I was planning on dressing warmly enough for low 50s and rain, however that still doesn’t make it comfortable.  I wore my rain coat the entire run and I think I ended up overheating somewhat.

My run started off very good.  I clocked a 9:18 pace for the first 10 miles compared to a 9:35 pace back in March.  Quite a bit slower than last week, but I wasn’t looking to come anywhere near that pace.  It was so much faster than a 10 minute pace though that I thought I had it in the bag.  All I had to do was average 10 minutes for the next 10 miles and 10:42 for the final 11.  How hard could that be?  Ahhh, hubris.  What would I do without you?

I had set up a little aid station at my house again, which I would hit right about 14 miles.  I chugged an Ensure Plus, swapped out my 2 water bottles, and was back out on the roads with barely a pause.  Even with the pit stop, my pace for this mile was only 10:07.  I was running well, but mentally I started to struggle.  Nothing like a brush with comfort (my bed was only 50 feet away!) to get you thinking bad thoughts.  The second half of the course is an out-and-back, which will also mess with your head as every step you take on the “out” needs to be retraced on the “back”.  I was trying to “run easy” as I headed out and I think I mostly accomplished this.  My hamstrings started getting tight in through here though nothing that impacted my stride much.  More of a nuisance than anything else.

I hit the turnaround at mile 22.7 (8.4 miles out) and now all I had to do was run home.  I had 2 flattish miles followed by 2 huge hills in 2 miles and then rolling hills over the last 4 miles.  The first bit went by quickly though my pace was now in the high 10s.  I had managed to do the second 10 miles right at a 10 minute pace, however it didn’t seem like I was going to able to average 10:42 since I couldn’t even do that on a flat mile.  I was getting very run down and started walking more often.  Ironically, this happened as my effort level kept increasing.  I kept my walk breaks very short unless it was a steep hill and pushed as much as I could.  It wasn’t until the literal light of the next day that I realized I should have taken more calories (i.e. any) with my on the second half of my run.  What could have been an awesome run time-wise ended up being a total strugglefest over the last hour.  It didn’t help that the rain had started falling a little harder and I was both sweating and chilled at the same time.  Luckily, I had been able to save pulling my gloves out until 6 miles to go and they kept me warm until I got back.

The one thing I re-remember during the run is how much your field of vision shrinks while running at night.  Your headlamp only illuminates a small section of the trail or road, which makes judging distances very difficult.  This was exacerbated last night by the rain which had me pulling my hat down low further reducing the area of road that was lit.  The one benefit is that time seems to pass quicker.  There are less things for you to look and think about so it’s easier for your mind to wander and lose track of time.

Overall, this ended up being a really good training run.  Probably better than last weekend’s even though it was so much slower.  This really tested me, which is just what a good run should do.  I’m happy with the way I kept pushing over the last couple hours when my body started feeling the effects of a long day at work and many miles in the rain.  It was not perfect and there are little things here and there that I could have done better, but overall this should benefit me in 3 weeks time at Old Dominion.  Whether it helps me enough to get a buckle is a different story.

Do you like to run at night?

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