vacation and a tough long run

Friday was a crazy day.  The day before we leave for vacation always is that way.  So much to do.  Everyone in my family, including the dog and the baby, is all jittery and anxious.  Excited, but nervous too.  We start to really feel how much we NEED a vacation as we are preparing to go.

I woke up early for an 8 mile run with Chris – the last time we would be running together for more than 2 weeks.  We ran a comfortable place, my quads still sore from Wednesday’s hard workout at the track followed by an intense strength training session a couple hours later.  The run was just what I needed to start my day off right.  It relaxed me and cleared my head so I could focus on all that I needed to accomplish throughout the course of the day.

I tried to remember not to pack too much, which is always my problem.  We don’t need much for the beach – bathing suits, pajamas, running clothes … that’s pretty much it.  With a family of 5 though, there is just no way around it.  Five people, even little people, equals a lot of stuff.  I packed in stages between shuttling kids to and from camps, getting lunches made and baby to nap.  By the time 4pm rolled around I felt good about all I had done.  The only major thing left to do was to take our pup, Riley, to the place where she would be boarded while we are gone.

Riley is almost 11 years old.  She was our first baby, coming into our home just before our wedding day.  She is an angel and I love her so much.  She still acts so much like a puppy, but lately it is becoming apparent to us that she is aging.  I noticed a couple of weeks ago that she was becoming incontinent, having accidents in her sleep.  I hear or see her fall down the stairs almost on a daily basis (not the entire flight, but she slips and falls down at least 3-4 stairs).  She has never sustained an injury from this, but I am so scared that she will.  The other day we found one of her teeth on the kitchen floor.  It is hard to watch my puppy dog get older.  It makes me sad.  Riley’s life changed a lot after we had kids.  I used to work from home and she would sit on my desk or cuddle in my lap as I worked.  She went everywhere with me.  I don’t have the same amount of time to spend with her anymore.  I hope she knows how I much I love her even though I don’t show it in the same ways that I used to.  On the way to the boarding place on Friday she sat in the seat next to me.  At a stop light I put my hand on her little head and pet her, stroking right on the bridge of her soft nose.  She closed her eyes blissfully and then looked up at me and I just knew without a doubt that my pup knows I love her so very much.  She is the sweetest soul.

sweet riley

When we got to the boarding place we checked her in and then as we left Abby sat down on the floor and looked up at me.  Tears filling her eyes and all of a sudden she just broke down and wept.  I hugged her tight and asked what was wrong.  “I just miss Riley, Mama.”  She did not understand why we had to leave her, why she couldn’t come with us on our trip.  It made me cry, too, seeing how sad she was.  And then Will broke into tears and all three of us stood there, hugging and crying (Gus was there too but was completely unphased as he sat in the stroller).  We went back to see the dog one more time, and the kids each picked out soft little toys to buy for her.  I wasn’t sad about leaving Riley for the week – I know she will be well taken care of and she will enjoy herself there, she always does.  But I was heart broken for my kids, and I caught a glimpse of how difficult it will be some day when we do have to say goodbye to our sweet dog.  I pray that day does not come for a long, long time.

We made it home and the kids sat right down at the table to start making pictures and cards for Riley.  Robert came home soon after that, we had dinner and then loaded all our things in the car and hit the road.  Time for vacation!

We arrived in Virginia Beach late Friday night.  None of us slept well and we all woke up super early yesterday morning.  So excited and happy to greet our first day of vacation!  I decided to move my long run to Sunday and just went out for an easy 6 miles yesterday morning.  It was hot and I sweat like a beast.  But I could not have been happier to be back here, one of my most favorite places to run.

sweat soaked and happy

After finishing up with my run along the Virginia Beach boardwalk, I walked up to the ocean to say hello.  This is my very favorite spot to stretch after a good hot run.


I came home and changed out of my running clothes – time to get to the beach with my family!  Everyone was so excited.  Will was boogy-boarding, Abby was dancing in the sand and digging for sand crabs, and Gus — well Gus was just taking it ALL in.  It was SO much fun to watch him explore the beach.  I can honestly say that nothing makes me happier than seeing my family enjoy the beach.  Pure BLISS.

my little boy and the great big sea
so happy
busy busy busy

We had such a fun day together.  By the time the evening rolled around everyone crashed, including me.  I tried to stay ahead of my hydration during the day yesterday, but it was hard.  We were BUSY at the beach and when it was time for bed I wondered if I was hydrated enough for my 16 miler.  I think I drank as much as I normally would, but I don’t think that’s enough now that summer has arrived.  Temperatures have hit record highs, upwards of 100 degrees.  I need to drink more.  My hunch about that yesterday was confirmed this morning.

I wanted to get out the door EARLY this morning for my run, so I could beat the heat.  I woke up at 4:30, before my alarm, because I had a slight headache.  I took some Advil and tried to get back to sleep, hoping that if I had another hour of sleep in me I would feel well enough to run.  When 5:45 came I woke again and was feeling much better.  I got dressed for my run and stepped outside by 6:15.  As I was stretching I looked up and saw big black clouds and heard thunder.  I texted Robert, (my weather man of a husband) and he told me the storm would arrive soon and be quick.  So I decided to wait for the storm to pass.  It cleared within about 45 minutes and I was out the door by 7:00.

storm clearing, sun rising

From the moment I started running, I knew I would be fighting for this run.  I ran along the ocean, on the Virginia Beach boardwalk.  It was HOT and the air was THICK.  And it was WINDY.  The wind is what surprised me the most.  It is always windy on the beach, but usually I will fight the wind in one direction and then have it at my back the other way.  Not today.  Today it was windy in both directions – almost like a swirling wind pattern from the storms.  I never felt like I had any relief from it at all.  I told myself to get through Mile 6 and then I would stop to fill my water bottle and eat a gel.

Miles 1-6: 8:51, 8:30, 8:24, 8:16, 8:20, 8:10

I felt strong, like I was running a smart pace.  Very consistent with my long runs over the last month or two.  But I also felt “off” – like my effort was much greater than I usually put forth to maintain this pace on a long run.  Was I dehydrated?  Was I hungry?  I didn’t know, but I was looking forward to being on the other side of this run.  I filled my water and ate my gel and hoped for a boost of energy.  I also turned on my iPod, hoping maybe a little music would help me get into a groove.

Miles 7-12: 8:21, 8:47, 8:56, 8:56, 8:38, 8:52

At about 12.5 miles I stopped to fill my water and eat another gel.  It was close to 9AM at this point and the clouds were burning off.  The sun was blazing.  The hot wind was blowing and hammering at me.  I felt frustrated.  I was working so much harder than I should have been for this pace.  My stomach was feeling off and I had already made two trips to the bathroom because of it.  I felt like my body was dealing with the conditions as best it could, but it was becoming apparent to me that I was working too hard.  I needed to adjust things if I wanted to accomplish this 16 mile training run safely.  I had three and half more miles to run.  I just wanted it to be over.

Miles 13-14: 8:42, 8:51

I stopped again at the bathroom, my stomach was not happy.  I ran the 15th mile in 9:03 and by the start of Mile 16, I was walking.  It wasn’t a conscious decision – I just literally found my body walking without a thought.  At first I thought to myself, what would you do if this were a race?  Would you give up and walk the last mile?!?  And then I started running again, determined not to “give up.”  And after a minute or two of that I thought, WHAT is wrong with walking on a day like this!?  Don’t be foolish.  This is a training run, not a race!  It is hot and sunny and windy.  Your overall pace is awesome considering these conditions.  Last summer you would never have averaged 8:50 on a 16 mile run in this heat!  These mental games are too much sometimes.  I scanned my body – calves and hamstrings felt crampy.  My stomach was a mess.  I was soaked in sweat and thirsty, but had no more water despite refilling it three times on the run.  I fought hard for these 16 miles and there was no shame in walking at this point – none at all.  I was being smart.

Sometimes that voice that tells me to push through stuff is just plain stubborn and stupid.  Sometimes it is wrong!  This doesn’t happen often, but today was a classic example of that.  I am SO glad I listened to my body today, and that I let myself walk much of that last mile.  It took me 11 minutes and 44 seconds.  It was the right decision.  I don’t feel weak because of it, I feel empowered.

16 miles
2 hours 21 minutes and 30 seconds of WORK (including the last 11:44!!)
Average pace, 8:50/mile

When I got back to my stretching spot, Robert was there waiting for me.  He had tracked my phone and saw where I was and came to meet me there.  He made me an amazing vanilla soy and fresh berry smoothie for my recovery drink (yes, he is awesome) and I ate tons of almonds for more protein.

I am so happy to be on vacation with my family – so happy it is summer!  I know it will take time to adjust to the heat and humidity and I have to believe that in the long run my body will benefit from training in these conditions.  But I have got to do it RIGHT.  And doing it right means being smart – not pushing through dangerous conditions or the wrong kind of pain.  Hydrating like CRAZY before, during and after my runs.  Eating the right foods soon after my runs so my muscles can recover faster.

I have big dreams for the end of the summer and the fall.  What I do now – and how I do it – really matters!!

How was your long run this weekend?

5 thoughts on “vacation and a tough long run

  1. Hello! I smiled you a few weeks back, I'm a friend of brian cunningham… Anyhow, hello again. I read on your blog about the Northface Endurance Challenge and I just signed up for my first 50 k in the Atlanta race. My training has officially begun as well. I only did 8.5 this weekend, being super conservative because this is my first time back to long distance racing since my 2 babies. So while in my head I wanted to do the 12 mile run most of the group was doing, I had to temper myself and remember to run my own run and don't push it. That's the funny thing about running, knowing when to push and when to pull back. Glad to hear another person listening to that voice hitch correctly tells us to pull back. Thx for the post!

  2. Aww, your doggie is so cute! I always have a hard time boarding my dog, especially since he got diagnosed with an auto-immune disease last November. He takes tons of pills and I always worry. Enjoy your vacation!!

  3. Glad you let yourself slow down and play it smart! I ran 15 a week ago and was feeling okay but then had a headache the rest of the day from not hydrating enough. The heat is really not something to mess with!

  4. I got teary eyed reading about the kids' reaction to dropping Rilley off. It is so hard for me to leave my pups every time and I want to cry when I leave. Sometimes I do. They just have such sweet intentions and loving hearts that I never want to leave them!!

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