A Triumphant/Disastrous 15-Mile Run, or: “I feel the slap and the sting of the foul night air…”

So as you well know, I’m smack dab in the middle of marathon training for the 2014 Space Coast Marathon, coming up on November 30, 2014. I babbled endlessly about it in a previous post, so there’s no point in rehashing it here, except to say that 1) training in the summertime is the pits, and 2) I’ve somehow managed to stick to my training schedule with a determined rigidity the likes of which would make Socrates himself stand up and shout “Thank ya Ma’am!” Hmm now that I’d like to see.



So last Saturday marked our first “long” run, and I’m defining a “long” run as anything greater than 13.1 miles. This particular jaunt was a 15-miler around the Fort Lauderdale beach area. My training buddy Kristi and I took off from George English park at 4:25 AM, armed with an arsenal of hydration systems, nutritional gels and supplements, lights, reflectors, and a buttload of positive energy.

Afterward I double-checked the weather stats from the *start* of the run. At 4:25 AM on Saturday, July 26th, 2014, the temperature was 82 degrees, with 79% humidity and no discernible wind activity, forming a combined Heat Index of 91 degrees.

Ninety-one degrees Fahrenheit. At 4:25 AM. On the beach. With no breeze.

To put it mildly...

To put it mildly…

Now this, my friends, is what makes you a stronger runner. Sometimes you need to get out of your comfort zone and hit the pavement hard, regardless of what Mother Nature has in store for you. Are you used to running at night? Run in the height of day. Prefer to be indoors at a track or treadmill? Sweat it out on trails. Like the shade? Hit an open field at high noon and run in circles for two hours.

Or just wither, stoop, and puke in a steamy South Florida tropical sauna for three hours…

Now I did a little withering, but much less stooping, and absolutely ZERO puking on that 15 mile run. But check out these splits:

The captions are superfluous, but still apropos.

The captions are superfluous, but still apropos.

My overall pace was never that great — if I ever ran a race with a pace of 11:30, I’d probably want to jump out the window! — but Kristi and I purposefully went out very slow, in light of the sweltering temperatures and 15-mile journey that lay ahead of us. We didn’t want to be fast; we wanted to be strong and consistent. You know, start out at a pace and finish at the same pace or maybe even just a bit faster. For the first 9 miles, we did just that (there was a little blip at mile 8, but that’s when we hit the bridge).

But as you can see, I slammed into the wall at Mile 10. This was right during the second bridge repeat, heading eastbound on the 17th St. Causeway Bridge. Kristi was barely winded, but I was a mess. When we reached the top of the bridge, my lungs were running ragged, with an overheated body and a very light head. Plus I was starting to feel pain in my feet. We sat down on the benches while I started to recover a bit. Removing my shoes, I discovered that the insoles of my Saucony Hurricane 16’s had not only dislodged themselves, they were curling up under my feet, which was not only causing my foot pain but definitely obstructing my running form and economy.

The insoles were pretty much kaput. Their moisture and heat absorption capabilities were taxed to the point that they began to buckle up due to the varying densities of the foam and rubber materials used in their construction, resulting in the buckling up and curling in the front. They wouldn’t straighten out properly, and were entirely dislodged from the shoe. I knew they were history, but I still had to finish the run, so one way or another I had to make do. A few days later I ended up replacing them with a pair of Spenco PolySorb CrossTrainer insoles, and with that we are back in business.

But during that run, I had no choice but to continue. I straightened the insoles out as best as I could, and after a few minutes we continued and I actually felt better. Miles 11 and 12 brought us back into form, and our pace went right back to where we wanted it to be. As we ran through a Harbor Beach neighborhood, we even managed to stop and cool ourselves off through the good graces of some zillionaire’s extensive lawn sprinkler system. Words cannot even begin to describe how amazing this felt on a morning like that one.

Something like this...

Something like this…

Unfortunately, the rest of the run can only be described as disappointing. Despite the amount of water I was taking in, I was still mildly dehydrated. The simple Color Test at any pit stop can tell you how bad it is, no matter how thirsty you do (or don’t) feel. Miles 13 and 14 were slow going, with an average pace of 12:03. At this point I knew I was pretty much cooked. We were back on A1A so I managed to stop twice to use the beach showers to cool down, as my skin temperature seemed to be roughly twice the square root of the surface temperature of the tropical side of Mercury. The last mile, Mile 15, was pretty much half-walking. I didn’t care. I just wanted to finish the run, period.

It was right around the 14.25 mile point where we bumped into our weekly running group, who were out doing their 30-minute “Fun Run” to kick off the season. It was great to see some familiar faces; a little bit of a morale boost, to be honest. I found a second wind and we started running again, making it back to George English Park at about 14.95 miles (where FIT registrations were taking place) and finished those last 0.05 miles trotting about the parking lot.

And then we were done. And I looked something like this dude from the classic Raiders of the Lost Ark:

Could there be any cooler movie when you're 10 years old in 1981?

Could there be any cooler movie when you’re 10 years old in 1981?

So what was the reason for such a spectacular meltdown? The weather? The wardrobe malfunction? Not enough hydration? My 50 oz. Camelbak was bone dry somewhere between miles 10 and 11, and that’s with stopping at a water fountain once during a bathroom break at the Clipper (I refilled it again around Mile 12). I thought I was drinking plenty but it wasn’t enough. What about on-course nutrition? I had three GU gel packets: one before the run, and one at miles 5 and 10.

The takeaway from this is manifold. In steaming hot and sweltering humid summer weather, even starting at 4 in the morning:

(1) You can’t run slow enough.
(2) You need to hydrate much more than you think you do.
(3) You must replenish your energy stores more often than you normally do.
(4) Consider taking up knitting or Norwegian Hammer Dancing as an alternative.

The slow running is a major No Doy moment. Every 10 degrees over 60-degrees Fahrenheit means increasing your min/mile by a factor of 1. My 60-degree long-run pace is somewhere around the 9:30-ish mark. With a heat index of 90, maybe I could have gone out at a 12:00 min/mile pace instead of an 11:00-11:30. That’s EXTREMELY slow running for me, but this was supposed to be a training run, not speed work.

Hydration? This goes without saying. It’s time to drink at every walk break, without question. I should be doing six to eight ounces of water every mile. My Camelbak holds fifty ounces, which means I’ll need to refill every 6-7 miles in order to have enough water with me to stay hydrated on the run.

Now with nutrition, I should probably look into taking a GU every 4 miles instead of every 5. I’m a Big Guy — 6′ 2″ and 230 pounds. I come from a Race of Giants. It takes a lot more energy to keep this machine running, and 100 calories of fructose and maltodextrin every 50-60 minutes isn’t cutting it.

As far as Norwegian Hammer Dancing, there’s a lot that can be done with a Ball-Peen and a view of the fjords…

"What kind of talk is THAT?"

“What kind of talk is THAT?”

I came down pretty hard on myself as a result of this run. I wanted a better performance. I didn’t want to blaze through 15 miles, but I wanted to be strong and consistent throughout the run. That, I can assure you, did not happen. Not even close. But if nothing else I learned a real valuable lesson about how to listen to your body and adapt your running strategy on the fly. You never know when your shoes might fall apart, like mine did, or when the release valve to your Camelbak slips off the connecting tube and you have to use your headlamp in the middle of 4:45AM darkness to find it somewhere in the middle of the road. That happened too. But by the time you suddenly feel parched and thirsty, or sore, or depleted, the damage is already done. As the saying goes, if you’re running and start to feel extremely thirsty, you don’t have to worry about becoming dehydrated because you already are! The same goes for energy levels and nutrition on the go.

So the trick is to keep yourself from getting that way. Drink, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Pack extra GU and take it more frequently if you’re noticing your energy levels aren’t quite what they should be. I’m not going to suggest packing an extra pair of insoles to take with you on a run, since what happened to me is really kind of a rarity. But on a long-run, consider extra lube, glide, Band-Aids, ointment, anything that you might need in an emergency during a 13 to 26 (or longer) mile jaunt. The worst part isn’t simply not knowing what might happen, but having it happen when it was altogether preventable. And even worse, discovering it when there’s little-to-nothing you can do about it.

So take it from your Uncle Hokeydude: stay safe out there. Don’t forget your goat leggings! And here’s the video:

3 thoughts on “A Triumphant/Disastrous 15-Mile Run, or: “I feel the slap and the sting of the foul night air…”

  1. Okay, where do I start: hmmmmmm…..how about this? Two words: ELBO ROOM. Pretty much sounds like it was right where you finished. ‘Nuff said. And if it makes you feel any better, I met a new Team runDisney FB running buddy at the same lovely locale of FTL Beach at 9:30 the next morning. We only averaged somewhere in the 11’s and we only did 5 miles, so don’t feel bad. You still managed to get it done!

  2. Passed by the Elbo Room three times, actually 🙂 But we started and ended at the same park off Sunrise and A1A… wait you STARTED at 9:30? You’re a much stronger soul than I am!

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