- Fueling (what you've eaten before, during, and after)
- Sleep (or lack thereof)
- Injury (can include anything from the traditional runner's injuries like plantar fasciitis to blisters/skin chafing)
- Weather (includes everything from sun, wind, humidity, temperature, and precipitation)
- Terrain (asphalt versus trail, etc.)
- Gear (e.g. shoes)
- Crowdedness (are you trying to weave in and out of other runners, dodging cars/bikes/stoplights, etc.)
- Altitude (are you at sea level or at 12,000 feet above sea level?)
- Course (e.g. straight line vs. lots of hairpin turns)
- Time of day/night (6 AM versus noon versus 6 PM versus midnight)
- Hormones (women, but possibly men also to a certain extent)
- Mood (are you feeling happy, sad, angry, scared, etc.)
(This picture would be a great Demotivational Monday submission, no? Rachel, are you hosting another round of Demotivational Monday this week?)
All kidding aside, it seems that there is less frequent discussion about the variables that contribute to or result in an unusually GOOD run or race. I started thinking about this last night.
Very specifically: I had an 11-miler on the docket for this past weekend in preparation for my next half marathon coming up in two weeks. I was planning on taking a stepback week next weekend. However, due to work commitments, lack of time, and lingering soreness from a new fitness class that I took last Friday (more about that another time), I had to change up my plans. I will be doing the 11-miler next weekend instead and therefore took this past weekend as my stepback, as all I had time for was a 5- or 6-miler.
I don't usually take these "stepback" weeks very seriously. So I went out yesterday late afternoon with an attitude teetering on reckless abandon. And wouldn't you know it - I felt really, really good yesterday. It was one of the best runs I've had in quite some time. My legs and lungs both felt great, and unintentionally my pace ended up being about 45 seconds per mile faster than I usually train at. It figures that an unplanned stepback-week run is the run that feels fluid and effortless, eh? Ah, the irony.
Now I am trying to isolate the variables that contributed to yesterday's unusually good run. I want to do what I can to replicate them again in the future! As far as I can tell, there are three potential variables:
- I squeezed in a 3-mile run on Saturday. I almost never run consecutive days, especially on long run days. But things were so busy over the weekend that the 3-mile run was the only thing I could muster on Saturday. I know some folks like to get in an easy shakeout run the day before a big race in order to get their legs going. Perhaps following this practice made an impact for me?
- With the exception of bananas, I usually wait at least 45 minutes after eating anything to go running. Yesterday I was so pressed for time that I scarfed down some Greek yogurt and then left for my run just a few minutes afterwards. This seems more questionable/risky as a positive factor (I don't usually have GI issues, but I know that doing something like this certainly tempts fate). But perhaps it helps to have something with some substance/protein in my stomach right before I leave?
- I do almost all of my long runs first thing in the morning on weekends. Maybe I operate better in the late afternoon? When I was in college I used to love doing my workouts around 4:00 or 4:30 PM because that was when I felt most energetic. Perhaps on a fundamental basis, that hasn't changed?
I'll be experimenting more with these three variables in the coming weeks. This is going to be fun!!!
In the meantime, I would love to hear about any other practices or rituals that any of you have stumbled upon that mysteriously contribute to good runs? Any superstitions? Please share your secrets!