Thursday, April 22, 2010

Runnin' On Empty

You can have people tell you something a million times. But until you actually experience it, it might not mean much to you. I guess that just proves that some lessons are best learned the hard way.

Case in point - my Tuesday night run.

I was anxious to get back on the streets after taking a full week (and one day) - gasp! - away from running, too busy with packing and moving details to find the time. Plus, my body felt a bit worn out - sore in places I don't usually feel - from hauling boxes and other heavy-lifting that had consumed the past week.

Tuesday was a perfect night - warm enough for shorts, but just breezy and cool enough for a long-sleeved tech shirt. My ideal running weather.

Despite only moving roughly two miles from my old place, the new starting point forced me to completely re-think my routes. I didn't have my "usuals" - my go-to 4-miler or 6-miler. Or the 8-miler for when I wanted a longer run.

Luckily, I'm pretty familiar with the city, so I was able to mentally plan where I wanted to go from my new digs - about six miles (at least I thought it was about six miles) around familiar streets that I've run with my team or as part of marathon training.

I was feeling ambitious - perhaps mixed with a twinge of guilt for taking so many consecutive days off - so I included the Webster Street Hill. Yes, the same one I semi-complain about for being part of our weekly team runs. (Internally, I know it makes me a better runner and is tremendous training, but that doesn't change the fact that it's still really hard.)

My run started less-than-perfect. My shins were aching for the first couple of miles, something I hadn't really experienced before. I stopped and stretched a bit and felt good enough to continue on. I chalked this new pain up to my many days off, lack of pre-run stretching and maybe a touch of running too fast. (I didn't know where the mile "markers" were, so I really had a hard time gauging how fast I was running.)

Two miles in, I loosened up and felt great. I even tackled the Webster Street hill with less effort than usual. (I almost wrote "effortlessly" but that would surely be an exaggeration!) I returned home energized and happy to have gotten in a good evening run. Another six miles on the books.

I posted my run to Daily Mile, noting that I felt good. And it was great to back.

Then it happened.

It started with the slight feeling of weakness and queasiness. My mind immediately focused on hydration. I knew I hadn't had much to drink during the day (only one large bottle of water) and had nothing before or during my run. I grabbed a bottle of orange Powerade Zero from the fridge and started sipping.

Minutes later, I decided to jump in the shower to clean up for dinner. By the end of my shower, my stomach was doing flip-flops and, at times, tightened and cramped.

I actually sat down briefly in the shower, hoping it would pass. It didn't. Once showered, I dressed in flannel pajama pants and a hooded sweatshirt. I was freezing - even though it surely wasn't cold. At all.

Not wanting to submit to this ill feeling (and partially wanting to pull my weight around the new place), I told TC I'd help him make dinner. That plan didn't last long. Just a few minutes in, I told him he'd have to take over while I made an emergency trip to the bathroom. Not to get too specific (trust me, I'm leaving out most of the details), I eventually vomited - nothing but liquid. Orange Powerade, to be exact. (Hmm, I wonder if I'll have to cross that off my grocery list in the future?)

I felt slightly better, but not great. I curled up in the fetal position on the couch, waiting for the feeling to pass. I knew I needed to eat something.

I'd had a bowl of cereal for breakfast and a bagel with cream cheese for lunch. My hydration for the day consisted of a cup of coffee and the aforementioned large bottle of water. My post-work run was planned before dinner, so there was a good chance my tank was simply empty.

I managed to eat a small bowl of chili - yes, let's go for chili when I'm not feeling well! - and it helped. Although I wasn't back to my normal self, I felt better. At least the nausea and weakness seemed to subside a bit.

I've been told about the importance of fueling and nutrition, but I had never experienced the fall-out of not doing so - at least not to this extreme. I've been lucky to avoid the consequences of not properly fueling, especially given my tendency to skip meals entirely. Not to worry, I'm working on that - and working on planning healthy smaller meals or pre-run snacks.

The whole experience, while somewhat unpleasant, was a good reminder that food isn't just for enjoying. It's also fuel - and just as important as the right running shoes, a well-planned route or any of the other steps I take to help me achieve my running goals.

The next morning - when I was feeling much better - I mapped my run online and discovered I'd done 7.18 miles at a 9:10 pace - a strong run for me.

But apparently a little too much on an empty tank.

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