I'd gotten away with it before, but today, at mile 22, I had nothing left.
I gave myself up.
You see, I had "cheated" on previous runs--stayed up late the night before, ate poorly, etc. Somehow I just muscled my way through 5 mile, 10 mile, and even longer runs in the past. But today I was "caught" and struggled to finish lap two of the inaugural God's Country 50k Fun Run in Anacortes.
The organizer Terry Sentinella had stayed back and tried to support me as I while stumbled through the last few miles of the second leg. But as we climbed and descended the steep hills and technical course, I knew I had nothing in me. After walking the last mile of that leg, at mile 22, I called it quits.
I hadn't twisted my ankle like on past trail runs (like on past runs), and nothing in my body specifically hurt. Instead, everything did. I felt lethargic and no amount of espresso gu's were changing that.
I wished the rest of the pack the best and sat by my car as the rest of the runners headed out to finish the last leg, the final nine miles of God's Country 50k.
How did I get myself into this? Well, it all started the night before in Seattle. My friend Jason and I met up to watch a pay-per-view mixed martial arts fight. He suggested a certain known-for-great-wings bar where we could watch the fight for free.
The fight card was great. Four dozen chicken wings and a few glasses of beer later, and Jason and I caught the 11:15 pm bus home. I knew I had to wake at 4:30 am the next morning to drive to the race, but I just assummed I'd be fine.
"I don't need that much sleep! How bad could a 'fun run' be anyway?"
And you know the rest of the story.
I learned that I can't cheat my body and I can't cheat a run.
Rest, nutrition and training are essential to finishing your practice run around town, or your next marathon. I learned this the hard way. Hopefully you won't have to.
What I learned:
- Rest Between Races -- Anywhere from a week or longer of rest is needed depending on your conditioning and the length of your competition. This means hold off from practice runs until you're 100% back. Can't stop exercising? Maybe consider some cross-training using different muscle groups. Swim, bike or simply walk.
- Get Plenty of Sleep --While some elite athletes describe skipping bed to run through the night (I'm talking ahout you Karnazes), this doesn't work for most people. The body heals itself when you're sleeping, so make sure you get your ZZZZs.
- Eat Healthy, Eat Balanced -- A balanced diet with plenty of protein, fat and carbohydrates, among other nutrients, ensures your body has the building blocks to repair and grow stronger. Note: Seek guidance from a licensed professional. I am not a nutritionist.
- Don't Stress Out -- Don't stress your body with substances like beer/liquor/wine, or major life obligations (deadlines at work/weddings, etc) right before a long run or race. Take it easy for a few days. Your body will thank you.
Got other tips for your staying strong and healthy? Add a comment below.