Running is difficult. Improving run performance is more difficult still. This year I ambitiously decided to run 2 half marathons before summer. My Running Room store needed a clinic instructor for The Chilly Half, and since it was the first half marathon clinic in the new store location when asked to do it I took on both clinics. I am always up for a challenge!
I typically don't run much in the summer because of the heat. Last September when I started running again I was training 2 new runners who were building up from scratch. This meant some pretty slow running, but it was good to take time to recondition and inspire new runners. When the Chilly clinic started I was surprised how many people started a bit behind (in my opinion) and so we continued to work up slowly.
As I approached race day it did not seem practical after months of slow running to tackle a PB on March 4. I decided to run the Chilly Half with my clinic, slow and easy like a training run towards the Mississauga Half in May. As it turned out the race was freezing and I was coming off a bad sickness, resulting in a demoralizing punishing slow run that was honestly quite miserable. Once I recovered I jumped into the LSD's with my Mississauga runners who push my pace, and I have been training fast for the past 6 weeks.
Today we had our pre-race route run of 21.1K- full distance. Building up to this I have been eating with discipline to keep my nutrition really consistent. I tend to be a bit underweight on the best of days and I need a good reserve to pull off a PB. Today I was loaded up with water, gels and although I had a couple of beer last night I was rested and feeling ready to go.
We ran fast- After a 5:30 warmup pace Wayne and I were running a sub 4:30 to 6:30ish with a ton of time sub 5:00. It was a strong run! By about 15K I began to suffer blurred vision. This has happened to me before when riding intervals on my stationary bike for a long workout, but never on a run- exercise induced hypoglycemia.
Strenuous exercise can cause the levels of glucose, or sugar, in your blood to drop to abnormally low levels. This can cause blurred vision, headaches, shakiness, excessive sweating, heart palpitations and fatigue. To avoid serious long-term effects, you will need to treat low blood sugar promptly.
Because I have experienced this before I knew well enough at the first indication of a symptom to stop and walk- how frustrating! I had already taken a gel at 8K. Clearly I did not eat well enough yesterday and the standard oatmeal/berries/yoghurt/maple syrup & coffee breakfast I had was inadequate. Compound that with a couple of beers adding dehydration and the balance has tipped. Thankfully this was a training run and not race day! Although a little demoralized yet again, I still felt stronger on the last leg than I usually do- the last stretch did not seem quite as agonizingly long and I made it all the way to the end asymptomatic- success. I did have to walk whenever my vision worsened but I sent my running buddies on their way and ran it in alone. I took another gel at 19K to get me through. I hated holding my guys back and finishing behind them after running most of the race together was stinky.
Driving home I was sick in my car. I missed a L turn light and the gentlemen behind me was honking and waving maniacally. I got slowly out my car and approached his. He rolled down his window and I said "I just ran a half marathon. I am throwing up in my car." Then I turned and walked slowly back to my car. Think about that the next time you are impatient on the road :)
After a post run rest, water and a meal I am recovered, left considering what this means for training faster long distance running and of course race day in 2 weeks. I will need to keep the nutrition disciplined with serious extra focus on the entire week before race day. This means serious carbo loading race week, no alcohol the night before, a full 8 hours sleep and gels all the way. This is what training is for and improvements are hard to make. I have run 4 half marathons and I could easily plateau in performance- in fact I may choose to do that someday- but as it stands I am 40 and I am chasing that elusive PB. Wish me luck!
At the end of the day we are all training and we all encounter challenges. Training smart means constantly adjusting program elements to offset imbalances we perceive in an attempt to avoid injury or conditions that not only hold back our training but can put us out for good. Train smart folks! I am trying to also. Improvements do not come easily and they are worth it. It does require attention to detail and quick action at the first sign or symptom. We all struggle to improve and it isn't easy for anyone. That's some consolation and motivation at the same time.
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