Saturday, April 10, 2010

Will I Ever Learn?

Running journals are replete with references to proper nutrition. The science of nutrition has taken its place among popular topics of discussion for athletes desiring to achieve higher levels of conditioning. The human body reacts favorably to physical exercises if it is fed properly. So, it should not come as a surprise to anyone participating in a physical activity such as a ten mile run that doing so without the proper nourishment will yield unpleasant results. In addition to needing fuel for the process of creating energy, the body must be hydrated sufficiently. The body demands
a tremendous amount of caloric input in order to perform well under physical exertion.

Why is it, then, that a runner would go for a run on a beautiful spring weekend day without properly feeding his body? I consider myself of reasonable intelligence but that was not demonstrated on Saturday. The day started out differently than most of my long run days. I like to get my runs out of the way early in the morning before the heat of the day sets in and in some strange way the relative quiet of the morning solace helps me perform. A late night before kept me in the bed longer and by the time I got up, the morning window of opportunity had passed.

Busily starting my day, I failed to eat breakfast, which is never a good thing. For some reason, though, there have been times when I have rushed off to work without performing this important day starting activity. It is never good to get into a day without kick-starting the body's metabolism with a good breakfast. If one is going to skip a meal, don't let it be this one. OK, mistake number one. My next folly that morning was a failure to hydrate. This is not unusual for me. For some reason, I have always had a problem drinking enough water. This is a habit I certainly have not established and on this day, the effects were telling. Mistake number two.

I had to go into work to take care of a few things and before I knew it, the day was approaching its midpoint and I still had a ten mile run to complete. Not only was I getting stressed by the minute but my fuel gauge was nearing "E". Whenever I go to work, I tend to get absorbed in completing tasks and forget certain needs. With a period of bodily exertion looming on the horizon, I was setting myself up for a rough time by neglecting to eat and drink. When noon arrived, I had enough. Grabbing my gear I changed clothes, cranked up the Garmin and hit the uptown streets of Columbus. The plan was to run down to the river and along the riverwalk for five miles and then traverse that path to make my ten. I had thought this was a good plan, but ultimately it would prove to be ill-conceived considering I was now going on about 14 hours since I had eaten and having had not nearly enough water to drink.

The day was beautiful with skies so dark blue, they almost looked black, and I felt pretty good. The plan was to average an 8:30 pace and the first few miles rolled by obediently. The riverwalk was fairly crowded that day and I alarmed more than one pedestrian with my extremely heavy breathing. There is a reason a body needs proper nutrition before an activity like this. For me, this was a fast pace I was maintaining and that level of exertion comes at a price. By the time I made the midway turn my fuel tank was empty and hydration was at a low. My legs starting protesting the demands I was placing on them. Their requests for energy were refuted because of my failure to prepare for this run.

The run was completed in approximately the time I had planned; 10 miles in an hour and 24 minutes for an 8:24 average pace but what was telling was how I felt at the end. As I train for races later in the year, the goal is to get stronger for greater demands that marathons distances will place on me. The way I felt Saturday at the end of that run suggested I couldn't run 26.2 miles if my life depended on it. I console myself in the fact that I haven't really starting my training program, therefore I shouldn't be so hard on myself. But, I had committed a cardinal sin this day. No training activity should ever be attempted until the body is ready for it. I was not ready for this one. This is not the first time I have made a mistake like this. This is not the first time I have gone out and abused my body because I wouldn't take the time to get properly nourished. I certainly hope its the last. As I contemplate the races I have scheduled this year and as I ramp up the demands I will place on my body the need is only going to be greater.

Maybe there is a reason so much emphasis is placed on proper nutrition in the running ranks. It should not be such a revelation to me. If one is to reach a certain level of fitness, one must listen to what the body is trying to say. "Feed me, water me, give me nourishment for those demands you are placing on me." I need to learn a lesson from this. We all need to learn from my mistake. Good running preparation starts with what we put into the body. If we do it right, we will be able to get out of the body the performance we desire.

1 comment:

Drew said...

Hey, Andy! Weren't you supposed to learn from my mistake the other day? ;) No worries, I'm sure I, too, will forget the lesson I learned in short order. Memory's starting to go. :)