Successful Failures

Three times during my training I have failed to run the full distance I had planned to run. I learned an important lesson from each of these “failures” and each has made me a better, more confident runner.

19 July 08. Goal: 8 miles. Actual: 5.5 miles. This run taught me a few things, not the least of which is that Google maps needs to update it’s satellite photo of Randall’s Island! After getting a late start, I ran over the bridge, and quickly discovered that the landscape was very different than I expected. A lot of construction on the island had changed a lot. I ran around as much as I could and on the way back up the steep ramp I died. My mouth was dry and I just couldn’t keep it up. So I learned:

– Having a plan and knowing where I am going is critical if my mind is going to win the war with my body. When I begin a run my body has agreed to the planned run and route. If for any reason the original terms of the contract are altered during the run (late start, route change, etc.), my body immediately considers that a breach of contract, and begins negotiating.

– Drink water—start drinking way before the morning of your run. Start hydrating the whole day prior. The water needs to be in your muscles during the run, not somewhere en route.

17 August 08: Goal: 14 miles. Actual: 11.5 miles. I had been on vacation in Colorado, so it had been a week since my last run. However, that last run had been my longest ever (12 miles) and was in Boulder, CO (over a mile above sea level). I planned to run two 2-mile loops then two 5-mile loops. I had to stop half-way through the last 5-mile loop. I was exhausted and parched. So I learned:

– Stay confident, but don’t get cocky. Despite the great high-altitude run the prior week, the fact was I hadn’t run in a week!

– Loops = bad. Psychologically bad for three reasons. 1) I was too close to home too many times, too tempting. 2) No sense of getting anywhere, just running to run as opposed to getting somewhere. 3) It just gets boring.

– For runs over 10 miles, I need to be able to hydrate during the run.

6 September 08: Goal: 20 miles. Actual: 19.5 miles. Because of constraints on my planning time I had to end my long run not at my house but with a final 1/2 mile loop in the park. In addition to the psychological no-go, I was also parched when I got there. So I learned.

– Finish long runs at a finish line, not a loop right next to your house, dummy!

– Though I had hydrated well before and during the run, I didn’t have access to a sports drink to replenish lost electrolytes. For runs over 17 miles I must be hydrating with water and sports drinks during the run.

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