This morning's run was a "medium long run" of 90 minutes. I got it done with little trouble, running 9.2 miles. The mornings are getting later and cooler here (though the days are still friggin' hot--all over 90 lately). I had streetlights with me until just after 6 a.m., where a month ago they were out by 5:45. I also saw lots of other runners, whereas I've been all alone out there for most of the summer. I guess everyone's gearing up for a fall race! It's exciting!
I left the iPod at home. I am getting more comfortable running without it for longer distances, and I like to save it for when it's really needed. This got me thinking about my gear plan for the race in a month. Here are some things I've learned on my long runs the last few weeks:
1. My sunglasses (cheapie plastic ones from Walgreens) start to irritate my ears and pinch my head after about 10 miles. I figure I won't need them for the first part of Top of Utah, though, since it's 18 miles mostly in a canyon and starts early enough that the canyon should be shaded. So I will put them on top of my head (I don't even notice them when they're on my hat) and put them on when we emerge into the sunlight later.
2. A few weeks back I won some Yurbud earphones from Erin at See Mom Run Far (thanks, Erin!). During Sunday's fast finish long run, I wore them for the first time. I have a slight phobia of having things stuck in my ears. It's irrational, left over from childhood when I had lots of ear infections and had painful things done to my ears in an effort to figure out why they kept clogging up, had tubes inserted at age nine and then spent the next four years up to age 13 putting silly putty in my ears to keep water out of them. This is why I've been wearing old-school over-the-ear phones for the last two years (and it's also why I'll never do a triathlon; water in my ears wigs me out, and I'm a weak swimmer because of this).
But like the sunglasses, my old headphones start to bug my ears on long distance runs. Erin swears by her Yurbuds, as do other runners, so I gave them a shot. And they worked great on Sunday. It felt a bit uncomfortable to me to stuff them into my ear canal, but I gritted my teeth and did it. Once they were in I was fine. I don't turn my iPod on until the part of the run or race where I need a little juice, but I inserted the Yurbuds prior to the starting gun and just kept the music off until I was ready to start speeding up. The sound quality was awesome (maybe a little too good for solo runs near busy streets--it was hard to hear the cars), and the buds stayed put. Thumbs up on those for the race!
3. I noticed a lot of runners in the half-marathon I ran on Sunday wearing their Camelbaks and water belts in the race. To me, the beauty of a race is that you don't have to do that. That's what aid stations are for. That said, I've been doing my long runs with a Camelbak that I bought from a co-worker, and it's by far the best hydration solution for me. I hate belts (I feel like a cow with a belt sloshing water on my already wide hips), I'm not organized enough to stash water bottles on a 20-mile route and I don't like hand-held bottles much either, so the Camelbak was my last resort solution. Fortunately it's been perfect.
My unit holds 70 ounces of water and also has pockets for my phone, some fuel (more on that below), money and keys. I fill it with ice and then water ahead of a long one and generally finish most of it before I get home. The hose doesn't bounce too much on my shoulder but is right there when I need it. I won't wear my Camelbak in the marathon, but I'm sure glad I've had it this summer for long runs.
4. For fueling....Cliff Shot Bloks....they are working for me on the run! And a simple breakfast on race morning is a big help. Specifically, plain eggs with salt in some form, plus a bland cereal like Special K, do the trick (no dairy until after the race). After the race, I drink chocolate milk as soon as possible and eat what I can stomach (yogurt, cereal and fruit usually go down well but not much else). I'm not usually hungry for a big meal until several hours later (and then I'm really hungry, usually for fish tacos with extra salsa!).
I'm still having mild poop issues (this morning I had to stop once, and after Sunday's run I had to go straight from the finish line to the Port-a-Jon), but they've eased off a lot when I'm super careful about what I eat the day before a long run (which I wasn't this weekend thanks to a bridge date with my husband Saturday night where spicy Chex mix and chocolate were consumed and my book club meeting last night, where the wine and cheese were available in generous amounts). I did see my doctor about the poop issues and am still waiting for the results of some lab and blood tests. I really doubt they will find anything wrong with me, but it's worth a shot.
I also experimented with salt packets during my 20 miler a week ago. I'm definitely a salty sweater, though I don't know that it's ever been a problem. Eating a salt packet during the 20 miler didn't hurt, though I'm not sure it helped either. I'll bring salt along for this Saturday's 22 miler too. Hmm, maybe the salt thing is why I crave salsa so much when I finally do get hungry post-long-run....
5. Clothing: I've been lucky and have had very little chafing during long runs. For Top of Utah, I'll probably go sleeveless in a navy blue Go Lite top (much as I fear the sight of my un-toned arms in the tortured race photos that are sure to be taken that day), either my Asics capris or my Nike shorts and thin socks. I plan to head to Goodwill to pick up some cheap sweatpants for the chilly pre-dawn wait for the race to start.
I'm still suffering from that nasty blister I got on Sunday, but the neuroma pad seems to be intact in my shoe. I'm not really sure why I got the blister now. The shoes are the same ones I've had for two months, and it wasn't like I was trying out new socks. Should I take the pad out? My neuroma hasn't bothered me in the least since March, but I do fear removing the pad could make it flare up again....
In my mind, I'm already packing my gear for Top of Utah. This is good. Things are starting to gel, in both my body and mind. Part of me wishes I could feel this way forever: healthy, strong, fit, like I could run and run and never stop. I know staying in this happy state is not possible indefinitely (I'm already hearing about colds and infections starting to ping around, and I'm worried they will soon arrive at my library or my kids' school). But the things I can control I'm doing a better job with. Fingers crossed!
Now...off for a pre-work nap... :^)