Whether you are training for a marathon, an Ultra or even something crazy like a obstacle race or adventure race, one day you will glance at your training calendar and spot these dreaded words: LONG RUN.
The long run. The day of training that simultaneously has the time consumption of race day and none of the excitement. The absence of good vibes makes this something to power through. You won’t be out there with hundreds of other racers…you will be alone. There will be no gunshot (or one of my favorite parts of ultras the announcement of “go whenever the hell you want, it’s going to take you literally HOURS to finish ha ha ha”). Delicious Aid Station treats and spectators are non-existent.
During your long run YOU have to rely on pure IRON WILL to get your butt out of bed and spend the next few hours punishing yourself…on PURPOSE!!
Over the past few years I have developed a few strategies to help myself overcome the little voice in my head that screams “what in the world are you doing this for?” These strategies are key in changing my mindset from HAVING to do my long run to GETTING to do my long run. It helps to trick myself into looking forward to the most brutal of all training days.
Recently I applied these little tricks to my own 27 miles of training (as I push towards the Holiday Lake 50k my first race since last May). Overall it went pretty well. I definitely ran slower than normal but my goal was not speed and rather to simply put in the miles. By the end of training my body felt good (barely any soreness) and I was able to maintain a positive mindset the whole time (which is HUGE).
Tip #1: Get it done EARLY
By far the most important thing in my life is my family. I am very proud to say that my training has RARELY interfered with family time. This is important for a few reasons. Firstly, I abide by the SCIENTIFIC LAW that “A happy wife is a happy life”. If I have any nagging thought of “crap…Linz is gonna be pissed at the crazy time commitment” then my racing suffers. That tiny negative thought will screw you up during an Ultra, because what follows is “maybe I should just drop out at the next aid station and spend the rest of the day apologizing.” That’s a bogus mindset that you can’t have if you want to finish something so challenging, so take care of your relationships first….NO DRAMA = a happier runner = better racer.
Secondly, nutrition is easier in the morning. For the most part your race day will start early, so it’s good to work out your nutrition kinks in training. A long run will simulate the actual event better than anything else. So you can use this day to figure out what your body can handle and what it can’t handle. Does bacon give you the runs? Better to figure out on training day than race day (otherwise you’ll be spending half your race secretly looking for premier pooping spots).
And lastly, you get to be active the rest of your day (extra training in my opinion). Afterwards, my wife, two year old daughter and I spent the day at a children museum. You think you’re tough? Try to run 27 miles before chasing the Energizer Bunny around a museum for a few hours.
Tip #2: Save your favorite Podcasts/ Audiobooks
Throughout the week I saved up my favorite podcasts for my long run. That way my mindset was “I can’t wait to listen to _______ on Saturday!” rather than “Ugh this long run is going to SUCK on Saturday.”
The bi-product= I spent half the run laughing out loud like a psychopath in the middle of the woods in the dark. Creepy? Yes. But it made the miles that much easier.
“Tell ’em Steve Dave!” for the win!
Tip #3: Treat Yo self!
At mile 15 I found my way back to my car and chugged a Cherry Cola. It was damn good (as described in the video above). While secretly testing my stomach, I was also just giving myself a treat (“good boy”). Find something you love to eat or drink and reward yourself at some point. Do you love Snickers? Don’t eat Snickers EVER… EXCEPT on your long run. All of a sudden you have tricked yourself into LOVING your long run. I’ve used pizza, pop (the real name for soda…IOWA), candy bars, whiskey, and, of course, Twizzlers. You can focus on nutrition the rest of your training, but right now you are tired and hungry so TREAT Yo SELF (copyright Parks and Rec).
Tip #4: Celebrate the Little Things
Did you reach mile 20? Give out a little shout for joy!
Did you run an 8 minute mile? Call a buddy for a minute!
Did you finish the run with clear urine? Yay you kicked dehydration’s butt!
Did you get back up after you kicked a stump and faceplanted? Laugh it off, what a goofy thing this trail running thing is!
Point is be grateful for small things every mile, keep putting one foot in front of the other, before you know it….you are FINISHED!!!!!