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My Runner’s World magazine came last night.  I devoured every page looking for inspiration and suggestions.  But one article in particular caught my attention: Against the Wall.

You’re in the middle of a run when things start to fall apart. Your legs feel like concrete, your breathing grows labored, your strides turn into a shuffle. Negative thoughts flood your mind, and the urge to quit becomes overwhelming. Unfortunately, if you run long enough, you’re bound to experience this some day.

This is the way writer Nancy Averett describes what runner’s euphemistically call ‘the wall.’  The article goes on to offer fixes for various physical and mental blocks runners can find themselves facing.

I had my own wall to conquer.  Whenever I went out to do a “long” run (and by long, please remember that this is by my standards!), I crashed around mile 4.  I had yet to go beyond 4 miles.  It was almost as if at mile 4 my body said, “Okay, that’s good enough.  Now let’s get some ice cream!”  But I knew that if I was going to improve, both in distance and speed, I was going to have to push past that 4 mile wall.

The Falls Duathlon is coming up the end of April, where I’m expected to run 2 miles, followed by a break where my team-mate bikes 14 miles, and then run 3 miles.  If you’re following along and you’re good at math, you’ll notice that adds up to 5 miles.  Everything I’ve read so far has suggested training for a distance longer than the one you’ll run on race day so that you’re able to push yourself and maybe even PR.  So if I’m going to run 5 miles on April 30th, I’m going to have to train for at least 6 miles, if not more.  Again, if you’re good at math, you’ve probably noted by now that this is at least 2 miles further than I’ve ever been able to run before.

That wall needs to come down.

Today I decided I would push through my 4 mile wall and try for 5 miles.  My plan was pretty simple: I’d run 2 miles, then stop to stretch and do some core work, and then run for another 3 miles, mimicking the Fall Duathlon race day.

I quickly did my 2 miles, filled up my water bottle, stretched, and did some crunches.  When I returned to the treadmill I thought about going home.  “2 miles is pretty good,” I thought. “No one will know…”  And yet, someone would know.  I had posted on Facebook that I was going to try to run 5 miles today.  I had also texted my hubby to let him know of the plan.  Keeping people informed of my progress, though they could probably care less, has the added benefit of keeping me accountable.  So I dragged my carcass onto the machine.  The first mile was rough.  When I hit mile 3 I thought about going home again.  “3 miles is better than 2,” I thought.  But I had said I was going to shoot for 5 and there was really no excuse to quit now.  I had no hamstring or calf pain; my feet felt much better after that quick little break; and my breathing was still sound and even.  So I kept going.  I got to 4.  “Just another half mile,” I thought.  When I got to 4.5 I still felt good.  “I think I can really do this.”  When I got to mile 5 I still felt good.  My pace was even and steady, my breathing was still good, nothing was hurting too badly, and I thought, “If I can do 5, maybe I can do more.”  So I kept going.  I made it to 5.7 before I developed a pretty bad stitch in my side and had to slow to a walk.

5.7 miles!  That’s farther than I’ve ever run in my entire life!

I stared down that wall and I conquered it. I tore it down, brick by brick.  And now I have the desire to go even further, confident that I can face down any other wall I find and push through it.

The only problem is – now my long runs might actually have to be long!

 

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If you’re new to running or fitness, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about.  If you’re an experienced athlete and you know anything about me, you know that this statement is patently false.

First for the non-experienced: two a days are basically when you workout twice during a day.  Usually you allow at least a few hours of rest between workouts.  It seems that generally athletes will do their workout in the morning before work, and then return to the gym (or the streets) for a second workout after a day at the office.

Now for the experienced athlete who knows me: Yesterday was my first two-a-day, so there.

I gotta tell you; yesterday after my first workout of 2 miles (which was agonizing) I went home and ate lunch.  Then I decided to step on the scale.  Probably not the best order of business for my day, sure.  But I was almost 7 pounds heavier than when I last stepped on the scale.  Remember a few days ago when I said that I had burned off all of those post-holiday and post-travel calories and had dropped back down to my previous weight?  Well, a few weeks after that I got a tattoo on my shoulder and so I could wear a sports bra, and therefore couldn’t workout for almost two weeks.  If you recall from my training postings last year, I mentioned that once I start to make excuses for not working out, it’s easy to keep that momentum going and find myself several months later saggy and out of shape.  So the same happened with this tattoo.  I couldn’t go workout.  For the first week I found myself missing my workouts.  I wanted to go run (strange, no?).  But the second week it was kind of nice to just sit around and relax.  And then when the third week approached and my tattoo was pretty well healed and I could go back to the gym, I still took another few days off, making excuses left and right.  So here I am, about three and half weeks post-tattoo, and I’ve gained 7 pounds.

Now, part of the reason I’m really enjoying this whole running thing is that I can eat good food and (for the most part) still lose weight.  So while I wasn’t working out, I was still eating that “good” food, in the same quantities I was when I was working out 5 days a week, which inevitably led to weight gain.

So that 7 pounds on the scale was a bit of a shock and served as a kick in the butt to get moving already!

Since I’m doing the Falls Duathlon April 30th, I figured this was just as good an opportunity as any to try out my ability to run two miles followed by three miles.  So after working 7 hours at The Running Room (did I mention I work at The Running Room now!) I went back to the gym and ran 3 miles.  And it was actually quite exhilarating.

Turns out, there are actually benefits to doing two a days.  Check out these posts:

  • Double Duty – Runner’s World magazine explained the benefits of doing two a days and suggests ways to schedule your workouts.
  • Two-A-Days – Russel explains why he uses two a days to help him prepare for races in cycling
  • Joe Friel’s Blog: Two-a-days – Joe outlines the advantages and disadvantages for doing two a days

I figured I had better do at least one two a day in my life so that I can justify wearing this shirt to workout in:

I’ve had this shirt since at least August and I’ve always felt a little like a liar wearing it at the gym.  Now at least I can say I’ve done it!

What say you, reader (if you’re out there): Do you do two a days?  If so, what is your schedule like?  Do you like them?  Do you avoid them like the plague?

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When I am struggling for inspiration to actually get myself off my butt and go for a run, I find reading about other runners’ successes is very helpful.  Even reading tricks and tips from blogs or advice columns about weight loss, exercise, or running is helpful.  Somehow, knowing that someone else out there is exercising and I’m not is a powerful motivator.

Here are my top recommendations for reading material:

  • Runner’s World (either online or subscription magazine – a great resource)
  • Athena Diaries (an inspiration for all the plus size women out there – this blogger now does ultra runs!)
  • Renee’s Ramblings (a local runner friend of the family — Hi Renee! — she bikes, runs, and bakes!)
  • Plus Runner (another great blogger who shares her experience as a plus size triathlete and runner)
  • Slow Fat Triathlete (I picked up this funny and useful book right before my first triathlon)

Leave your suggestions in comments!

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