I was very excited about sharing my 9-mile long run from this past Saturday with you, but I got a little cocky and completely crashed and burned due to a number of factors. I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to tell you all about it, but then I figured that you could learn from my mistakes.
The long run is like the dress rehearsal for the race. You build your endurance and confidence by preparing your body to go the distance. It’s really important to get your long runs in during your training, even if you skip some of the other workouts.
DO eat healthy, filling meals the day before your long run. It might take some experimenting to figure out what you need to avoid. Some people don’t do well with spicy foods, dairy, or foods that are high in fiber. My lunch the day before was a whole wheat tortilla with marinated tofu and veggies, tortilla chips, and a peach.
However, my dinner was a veggie sandwich on whole wheat, greasy kettle chips, and a cookie.
DON’T overdo it on alcohol the night before your long run. It had been a long week, and I was looking forward to the bluegrass concert we had tickets to. Well, the tickets also included 4 (small) beers, which I had over the course of the 4-hour time span we were there. I didn’t think it would affect me much, but drinking beer left me dehydrated the next morning before I even started. Next time, I’ll alternate beer and water.
DO get enough sleep. It can be hard when you have a 5:00 AM wake-up call on Saturday morning to head to bed early on a Friday night. We didn’t get home from the concert until after 11 pm and didn’t get to sleep until after midnight. I’m an 8-hour per night kind of person, so that alarm at 6:30 AM was not welcome.
DO lay out your clothes & running accessories the night before. Particularly if someone else is sleeping, it can be difficult to tiptoe around in the dark trying to find the socks that don’t give you blisters. For me, the quicker I can get out the door, the less time I have to try to talk myself out of my run.
DO eat and drink something before you head out the door. Mistake #2. I don’t usually eat before my normal weekday runs, which are always less than an hour, so I thought I would be okay this go-round. Obviously I was too busy taking self-portraits of myself. I’m not hungry that early in the morning, but I usually make myself eat a half of a banana before heading out on my long runs and then plan on fueling along the way. If I’m driving to a different trail or to meet up with a group, that usually gives me enough time for the food to settle in my stomach.
DO make it social. I can do my normal weekday runs on my own with no problem, but spending 9-12 miles inside my own head is not exactly my cup of tea. I’m an extrovert, and if I can talk to someone during my long runs, I know that I’m not going too fast. Saturday’s plan was to run 5 miles by myself and then pick up my husband, Joe, for the last 4. The first five miles were so awful (cramps! stomach issues! too fast of a pace!) that there was no way I would’ve gotten back out there if it weren’t for the company. Sometimes I do long runs with my mom, the Nashville Striders, or other groups that have scheduled runs.
DO fuel in the middle of your long run. Again, it might take a few tries to figure out what works for you. At mile 5, I went inside to get Joe, went to the bathroom, ate half a pack of CLIF Shot Bloks, and drank some water. From that point on, I was as good as new. In fact, I was half-considering going for 10 miles. Depending on the distance and the weather conditions, sometimes I’m just fine with Gatorade, but I’ve also fueled with fruit leathers and Gu. So far, I haven’t had a bad reaction to anything I’ve tried, but other people might have more sensitive stomachs.
DO eat a good meal after your long run. You’ll probably find that you’re hungrier than normal a day or two after your long run, particularly until your body gets used to it. Usually I have breakfast plans after a long run, but Saturday, Joe and I spent a while trying to figure out what we were going to do, and I never really got around to eating breakfast. By the time lunch rolled around, I was ravenous, and peanut noodles with vegetables and tofu sounded like a great plan. Even though this was a totally normal-sized meal for me, my stomach was starting to rumble just three hours later. A long run doesn’t give you carte blanche to eat everything you want, but do make sure you get enough food and water.
Where are you in your training plan? How far was your long run this past weekend?