Monday, July 14, 2008

Where's my Runner's High?

For those of you that don't know, a "Runner's High" is when you are exercising for a long period of time and then you basically just feel awesome. What happens is after your body meets a certain point (based on your physical exertion), your body releases endorphins that appear like opiates and then somehow all of that makes you have an out-of-body sort of experience. (I don't know what all of that means...but that's what my thorough research said)

Scientists still debate whether or not the release of endorphins is actually the cause of one's heightened performance. According to ScienceDaily, a study was performed by scientists from fields of Nuclear Medicine, Neurology and Anaesthesia at the Technische Universität München (TUM) and the University of Bonn. They had ten athletes run for two hours and had scanned them with a positron emission tomography (PET) before and after. The article states that they used radioactive substance [18F]diprenorphine ([18F]FDPN), which binds to the opiate receptors in the brain and hence competes with endorphins. I have no idea what that means but the bottom line is, their performance was tested somehow.

Basically what they found out is that the Endorphin Hypothesis holds true- there is a connection between the release of endorphins and the emotional state of the athlete. For more details, see this blog post.

So now that we know (or we at least have a concrete example) that the Runner's High exists- and we know that in order to get one, you have to run for a long period of time- why the heck have I not gotten it in over a couple of years???? And only during the past year have I started to run a marathon regularly and only over the past 6 months have I started running ultras!!!
Which means that I got a runner's high from running 10-13 miles, not from my 26-65 miles. That does not make sense. If anything, I'd think I'd have a high every month from all of these races.
I'd like the scientists from all of those medical fields to do a study on me and see why I'm getting gypped.

It was so long ago that I can't remember my experiences that well- but I do know that runner's high are awesome but also scary. When you get the high, you feel like you're on top of the world. It's so great because your speed picks up and you seriously pass millions of people. However, the high's are very scary because you never know how long they're going to last. I remember getting the high one time at around 8 miles and I still had a couple miles to go. I wanted to take advantage of the high and go fast, but I didn't know if it'd stop after 30 seconds and I'd screw myself from wasting all of my energy. What a dilemma.

I know people say (and I've experience this) that during ultras people will get like 5 winds. They'll have low points and then high points and then back and forth. This is not what I'm referring to- that's different than the runner's high.

I'd like to hear from some of you (especially the ultra-runners) if you've had the high and if you did, what distance it was for.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Free Help for Your Runs

I've been thinking a lot lately about what helps me get through long runs (and even short ones) and I realized that a lot of it has to do with some of my nonverbal behavior (thank you Communications class).

Many of you might laugh at this post or think it's cheesy but I'm going to go out on a limb. I have found the following things below to be very helpful during long runs, especially when you really want to stop running and quit, and I thought I'd pass the info along.

I'm not talking about smiling at other people or anything (although that helps, too), I'm talking about smiling to yourself during a run. Similar to what I just said in my previous post, simply smiling at yourself can remind you of why you're even running. Why are you? You're running becuase you enjoy it and it's fun. Stop and take a break.

-Make the sign of the cross and thank God for the ability to run
Despite the funny picture above, I'm serious about this one. When I went to the Dormition Monastery last year, one of the Mothers talked about how important it is to make the sign of the cross. She said wherever you are, remember God and cross yourself. Even if you're in school or in public and don't want to physically cross yourself, make the sign with your eyes. This advice really stuck with me.

Furthermore, I always want to thank God for the physical/mental ability to run since so many people are not capable.

Having said all of that, during my long runs (especially when I'm struggling to keep going) I really try to make the sign of the cross and thank God that I'm even able to run. When I've been running for hours and I'm just in a zone, not smiling or thinking of anything helpful, I kind of wake myself up- smile- and then make the sign of the cross. It sounds funny but no one sees you and if others may see you, just do it with your eyes.

It works for me. Try it out.

Tough Training

Well I definitely thought I'd be running more in the summer than in the winter and so far I've been very wrong.

Why did I run a crapload when it was freezing outside and I couldn't feel my fingers and I was bundled up and now that it's warmer it's been hard to run? I think one big reason is after Kettle, I just took a huge break- which I wasn't used to. AND- I wasn't going to have a race for 1+ months- which I wasn't used to. Regular races motivate me to keep running during the week, but also make me slack on keeping up with my long weekend runs.

Another reason is that IN summer weather sucks and the humidity is horrible!!! If I lived in beautiful CA all the time like some of you do, things would be muchhh better. If only...

Basically, I don't have much discipline.

Part of why I haven't written in awhile is because I've been too embarrassed to say I've averaged 1 run/week so far for the past 1+ months. Ohhh well. I still have until August 23rd (Silver Lake 50/50) to get back in shape. I don't know which distance I'll choose.

Last Thursday I got a good 5 mile run in at the canal. It was nice to run out all of that lactic acid and go fast. Then last Friday I ran about 8 miles at the canal. I was a little rusty starting out since I hadn't run much lately and I wanted to go faster than I should have. I had to keep telling myself that I am only running for myself. I like running and it's a fun sport. No one is forcing me to run. It sounds silly but telling myself that seriously helps me mentally with my speed. Once I remember why I'm actually running, I'm able to pace myself more easily and I don't mind slowing down.

After my run I did about 15+ running hill repeats and then I decided to do about 10+ walking hill repeats. I always notice and talk about how fast some runners can walk up big hills during races while I'm hunched over trying not to die. And I always ask people if I should practice running up hills more to increase my walking speed, or if I should practice walking up hills...
I just decided to start walking up them and I surprisingly found myself trying not to run up it. It was pretty hard walking up it but I can already tell it'll increase my speed if I keep it up. My calves are sore from just a few repeats.

Now it's Tuesday and a few days have passed since the last time I ran. Dangit. One day at a time.