I felt good starting off yesterday. Started running at Tumalo Falls just before 9am on a big 18+ mile loop. Went up Bridge Creek trail and cut over to South Fork. Alternately hiked/ran South Fork. Two years ago I think I hiked all of South Fork and thought it was really hard. Not now. Not after all I’ve experienced in the last two years. I’m fairly certain I ran more of it than I hiked this time. I had my first gel at 45 minutes while hiking South Fork. I remember thinking it felt past time for a gel, even though I don’t usually take one until an hour into a run.
I’d made it my goal to run all the rolling hills between Swampy and Swede shelters. I did that, but at a cost. I didn’t want to take the time to stop for a second gel (I stopped taking gels “on the run” after choking on one) and compromise my goal of running the rollers. I should have just stopped for a minute. I thought, “only 1.3 more miles to Swede, I’ll take one there.” That was the longest 1.3 miles of my life! I thought I’d learned this lesson before. Well, today just confirmed it.
Not far out of Swede I started feeling sleepy. This has happened to me a lot lately, usually around 8-10 miles in a long run. (Maybe this is why I tend to get “low” points in races in the 10-13 mile range too.) I felt kind of spacey and lightheaded. I tripped and fell at 7.25 miles, skinning both knees a bit. I hate that sprawling, falling, suspended-in-time feeling; that “oh shit!” thought that runs through your head just before you wonder how you’re going to land this time.
Man it hurt! Not a lot of blood, but a lot of dirt. I got up, assessed the damage, shook it off, walked a bit, then tripped and almost went down again. This really flustered me. My confidence was gone. So I decided I should just hike for a while. I hiked maybe 1.5 miles, almost to the Shooting Star shelter, crying and feeling sorry for myself.
During this time I got smart though: I took a gel. And another. And a couple more with 2x caffeine. I started carefully trotting again, and was able to pay better attention to the trail. I had taken five gels in just more than an hour. (No, my stomach was not bothered. Thankfully I have never had any stomach issues while running.) By 10 miles in I was feeling much better. By 13 miles in, I was feeling confident and strong again. It helped that the couple of miles between Shooting Star and the Skyliner trail were nice downhill. Then I ran all the rollers on Skyliners Trail, then all the rollers on the Tumalo Creek trail back to Tumalo Falls. My confidence was back, and I felt strong! I don’t think I’ve ever run all those rollers before (and the ones Swampy to Swede too!), but I did today. I was amazed how I was able to turn a really bad run around and finish happy and strong.
Starting tomorrow I’m going to modify my gel frequency schedule, and start taking them sooner. What worked for me a year ago isn’t working now. My body just seems to be going through the gels like crazy. I am not the same person I was before. I am different mentally and physically, and all new cells. Bodies are not static, but always changing.
I learned some valuable lessons yesterday. 1) Don’t wait for a landmark (aid station, trail junction) or a certain time period to go by to take a gel if I’m already starting to feel like I need one. 2) My mind might say “you just had a gel, it’s not time for another yet,” but my body might be telling me something different. I learned which one to listen to. 3) If I feel sleepy, light headed, spacey, start tripping or stubbing my toe, or if I get emotional (feel like crying) or negative, I probably need to eat. 4) If I hit a really bad patch, don’t assume the rest of the run is going to suck. I might just come back stronger than ever, and have one of the best, most fulfilling runs I’ve had in a while.