22 Miler (July 26th): Lessons in Chunking. – Movement Labs

22 Miler (July 26th): Lessons in Chunking.

For those who may have missed it, my Weekly Workout Round-Up for July 22-29 included a Friday morning 22 mile run.

First of all, I must emphasize that a 22 mile run is not necessary for marathon training (Perth Marathon, Aug. 25).  In fact, I wouldn’t even put it on a marathon-training schedule for most of my runners (myself included).  But this run wasn’t really for my marathon training – it was a stepping stone to some longer distance training runs I’ll be doing to prepare for my first 50K (The North Face 50K, Oct. 5).  Basically, I have used marathon training as a motivator for me to increase my mileage over the past 4-5 months.  And I’m using the 50K training to keep myself honest about marathon training and my goal to build mileage – not (yet) to train for/run a super-fast marathon.  (I can’t do a 50K without decent mileage – but I can do a 50K without much emphasis on speedwork.)

So – 22 miles on Friday morning.  On Thursday night, I prepared some food, clothes, hydration, and an early alarm clock.  In the morning, I had some breakfast, finished prepping my supplies, and headed out for 22 miles.  Having grown bored with my regular routes, I decided to explore a path to the Botanical Gardens, run around/through the gardens a bit, then head back and finish in AMK/Bishan Park.  For fun and motivation, I decided to bring some friends along:

Obligatory Door Photo: Ready to rock & roll!

It didn’t take long before I got myself into route trouble.  Hint: “I think this will work” route planning on Gmaps isn’t *always* the best idea…

Long Run FB Update2

I don’t usually carry my phone when I run (mostly for moisture-related reasons – but there’s a lot to be said about this in some upcoming posts, thanks to Amy!).  However, for this long run, I knew that water stops might be few and far between, so I brought my hydration pack.  While my whole hydration pack gets sweat-soaked on a long run, it’s not *quite* as wet/dangerous for a phone as being shoved in my shorts pocket or bra top, and I trust my double-ziplock-bagging technique to keep it dry (enough).  So thankfully, when I got “stuck”, I just whipped out my phone.  [Note that, thanks to the humidity in Singapore, I only remove one of the plastic bags, and simply use the phone through the second…because the sweat on my hands alone would be enough to ruin my phone, if it got into the wrong cracks/crevices.]  And my persistence paid off, because I discovered a route/road that I will be using a lot in the future [Hint for locals: Kheam Hock Road lets you scoot right under the PIE – no sidewalks for a bit, but there’s not much traffic!]!

I made it to the Botanical Gardens, and set out to run one loop around the outside (Dunearn Rd > Cluny Rd > Holland Rd > Cluny Park Rd).  But I missed a turn, ended up almost in Holland Village, and had to double-back.  Then, while navigating the Tyersall Ave section (which I’ve never actually walked, run, or driven), I ended up climbing both Gallop Road and Gallop Walk (dead ends), before finally finding my way back to Dunearn Road.

In other words: Always expect that an exploratory run will take a bit of extra time/distance.  This had been my plan anyway – I had 22 miles to cover on one small island, so burning a few miles doing route investigation was no big deal!

For good measure, and to cement the correct path in my head, I ran a second loop – with much greater success, bringing my distance up to about 13 miles.  I swung through the Amenities Center in the Gardens to use the restroom, refill my hydration pack, and update:

Long Run FB Update 3

And with that, I left the Botanical Gardens (which seem considerably smaller when you’re running, rather than walking) and retraced my steps back toward home.  I took a short detour through Bukit Brown Cemetery – a spot which also deserves its own post.  Basically, I felt like I took a gigantic step back in time, running through this old, overgrown, mostly-neglected Chinese Cemetery.  Kinda creepy-cool, actually.

Also during this cemetery detour, I really started getting tired, mentally and physically.  I’d been cruising along just fine, but knew that it was time to start “chunking” the remaining miles.  “Chunking” is my favorite brain-tricking game for getting through a tough run, of any distance.  Basically, I divide the remaining run up into segments, by location/distance/time (depending on my mood), and simply focus on getting through the current segment.  This is a remarkably effective strategy for me, and it’s gotten me through many a tough run.  And no, the “chunks” don’t have to be equal.  On this particular day, my Chunks were:

Chunk #1: “Get to mile 16.  If you were Jeano, running the Hanson’s plan, then you’d be DONE at 16 miles.”

Chunk #2: “Get to 18.  You did 18 miles on the treadmill during the haze.  You can TOTALLY do 18 miles outdoors.”

At that point, this thought kicked in:

Long Run FB Update4

Chunk #3: “Get to 20 miles.  You did 20 miles two weeks ago in New Jersey.”

Chunk #4: “FINISH.  No, you do NOT need to stop for lemonade.  You have two measly miles left.  You can have all the lemonade you want when you get home.”

The truth is that the last 3-4 miles were really challenging.  My legs were tired and I was definitely dehydrated (despite consuming 3+ liters of water, 3 salt tabs, 2 packs of Sports Beans, and 1 pack of Honey Stingers).  How do I know I was dehydrated?  My body told me: The ONLY thing I could think about during the last 2-3 miles was an enormous, cold glass of lemonade or 100 Plus.  Yes, I was craving 100 Plus – definitely dehydrated!

[Safety Note: I was dehydrated, but safe – I was still taking in plenty of water, and not experiencing any symptoms of severe dehydration or heat-related illness: cramping, headache, chills, cessation of sweating, etc.  Running long distances in Singapore is dehydrating, and I know my body pretty well.  I wasn’t doing much damage by finishing out my last 2 miles before stopping for 100Plus.  If I felt that intense craving at Mile 10, I would have acted differently.  Safety first, people!]

Yes, I share your watermelon love, Brennan!

With 2 miles to go, I made myself practice the final miles of the marathon.  I’d be tired then, and have to keep running.  So I kept running, thinking to myself: “Quick turnover, light steps, drive your knees” (these are my form cues).  And finally…1 mile left.  “I can do anything for 1 mile.”  At that point, I knew I had it made.  For me, the last mile is usually much easier than the second to last mile!

And then…I was done.  I stopped at the first hawker center I passed to buy a cold 100 Plus.  When I got home, I gobbled down approximately one zillion slices of watermelon.

This run was exactly what I needed: Long, slow distance (9:40 min/mi pace), for both a mental and physical workout, as well as practice for a long run at Singapore temps – which will be crucial for the 50K!  And despite my end-of-run fluid cravings, my recovery went pretty well.  After refueling, showering, and propping my feet up for a few hours, I felt pretty good – and finally remembered to update my adoring bored public:

Long Run FB Update5

I even had enough spunk to meet a client for a short run, go to a Yoga For Runners class in the evening, and join KMN for a late-night-date-night at my current favorite post-hard-run spot: Fat Boys (a burger joint – very American, I know).  I ordered the chicken Caesar sandwich (I actually don’t eat beef burgers), fries, and a root beer float.  I finished every bite (so quickly that there was no photo taken!), then went home, and slept like crazy!

And that, my friends, is the story of my longest training run ever, in excruciating detail.  Thanks for playing along!

Have you ever FB-posted or Tweeted your way through a run?

How do you pick a “good” watermelon?  I poke them, smell them, and tap them – but honestly have no idea what combination of results to those tests means that the fruit will be sweet and delicious.

Do you “chunk”?

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  1. Debbie @ Deb Runs August 11, 2013 at 10:12 pm - Reply

    Congrats! Great recap, and l loved the fact that you identified that you were dehydrated, but safe; and then went on to mention what to watch out for in heat related illnesses. Nicely done!

    I tweeted updates throughout the entire 45-mile ultra last month, but then I only ran 20.5 of those miles. Remembering to tweet the updates while I was running was the hardest part!

    • Holly @ Run With Holly August 12, 2013 at 3:43 am - Reply

      I mean, there’s a whole post to be written about hydration and dehydration – and I knew I was safe. But as I was typing, I realized that seemed pretty presumptuous – except that I’ve been running in this kind of weather for almost a year now, and I DO know when something is a little off vs. really off…although it’s still hard to make an airtight case for that to a stranger! 🙂

      I found that the bonus of the updates…was that they made reconstructing the whole run a bit easier, too! Did you find the same for the Ultra 45?

  2. Jules August 12, 2013 at 2:28 am - Reply

    Yay, well done you. Good recap. No idea how you manage to update your social media networks whilst doing such a long run – I’m terrible at multi-tasking during LRs for fear that my side activity will tire me out at a quicker rate.

    I definitely “chunk” as well to keep myself motivated during long runs. Doesn’t always work 100% for me but definitely helps.

    • Holly @ Run With Holly August 12, 2013 at 3:45 am - Reply

      Well…I’ll admit that I did the updates while stopped: for a map check, for a water refill, and for a self-pep-talk. I am quite certain that I couldn’t have done them WHILE running!

  3. Logan @ Mountains and Miles August 12, 2013 at 3:06 am - Reply

    I definitely chunk. Especially w hen I am running on trails, I tell myself “just make it to XX intersection” and so and and so on. Usually it leaves me with no longer than 4 mile segments, which is really nice, mentally.

    Whooo hooo congrats on your longest training run! Sounds like you are definitely on track!

    I don’t think I have ever used FB to get through a run, but on runs when I am really struggling, I have texted my sister throughout the whole thing, ha. She sends me little motivational pick-me-ups to keep going.

    • Holly @ Run With Holly August 12, 2013 at 3:50 am - Reply

      Hahaha – I seldom chunk over 2 miles! [Although I usually don’t chunk from the beginning – I wait until the going gets tough!]

      I love how you and your sis support each other. Hope her knee is healing up nicely, and she can join you out on the trails again soooooon!!!!!!

  4. Jean August 12, 2013 at 8:33 am - Reply

    “Lessons in Chunking” made me laugh far too hard. But the effectiveness of chunking always surprises me. I find that with non-running activities, telling myself I’ll “just do ____” means that I am definitely only doing that and no more. But with running, it actually helps me a lot. I’ve never understood why.

    I don’t talk about running with the majority of my real life friends, so I’ve never tweeted about running while doing it. I HAVE tweeted while running, though, usually about funny things I see.

    I’m not a huge watermelon fan, so I never buy it. But I’ll take it if offered!

    • Jean August 12, 2013 at 9:36 am - Reply

      Pssssst, I “subscribed” to your previous post’s comments so I would get notified if you responded to my question. I never got an email but checked the post and saw that you actually HAD responded. I don’t know if that’s something you can fix with your magical technological knowledge, but I figured I’d mention it! Unless, of course, the error was on my end. Can’t fix that one.

    • Holly @ Run With Holly August 12, 2013 at 12:54 pm - Reply

      *gasp* No wonder you don’t like the warm weather. Watermelon is CLUTCH in the heat! 🙂

  5. Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama August 12, 2013 at 8:34 am - Reply

    This makes my 15-mile long run on Friday seem like CAKE! Way to rock the LONG run!!

    • Holly @ Run With Holly August 12, 2013 at 12:55 pm - Reply

      Nope, not true – a long run is a long run is a long run – if it’s new distance territory for you (either “ever”, or “for this training cycle”), then it’s a challenge – and completion should be considered a victory.

  6. Sheila August 12, 2013 at 10:26 pm - Reply

    I totally chunk all of the time – that’s how I get through most of my LR’s – I tend to hit the wall at 4.5-5 mile increments and once I learned that I started fueling right around then (not based on time, but miles) so I use my fuel breaks as chunks. HOWEVER, as I’ve gotten less particular I just have started snacking through a lot of runs which makes chunking a lot more difficult!

    • Holly @ Run With Holly August 13, 2013 at 2:59 pm - Reply

      Ha! My friend and I often “chunk” by eating. When I did my long treadmill run and had no “landmarks” to chunk with, I ate a Sports Bean at every half mile. If I chewed very slowly, I could make it last 0.1-0.2 miles. Then, I’d take a sip of water. Then, I’d run another 0.1-0.2 miles. Then, I’d slooooowly get the next one out of the package. Finally, as the distance turned to the next half or full mile, I’d repeat the whole process.

      The games we play…

  7. Amy August 13, 2013 at 12:55 am - Reply

    I chunk like a champ! It helps when I know my running route well and I can run to point A for a warm up, then pick up the pace to point B, then slow down to point C, etc. On long runs, I like to meet friends in between to run part of the way with them. I did that on Saturday and it was great.

    • Holly @ Run With Holly August 13, 2013 at 3:04 pm - Reply

      YES! Meeting friends (fresh stories, fresh energy, fresh snacks!) is a great way to chunk. It’s hard to be too low-energy when a new person comes along for the…well, run. I do a lot of my running solo, but earlier in my training would often run 5-10 miles, then swing back home for another 5-10 with KMN.

  8. Kristen L @ DYL August 14, 2013 at 1:04 am - Reply

    I definitely like to practice chunking too. I often do my long runs as an out and back, and so I like to think, about just a few more miles out, or one more mile to the next water fountain, ect. I did one 22 mile training run during my last marathon training cycle. I’m still undecided whether I will do one for this marathon. I love a good watermelon too — I have heard they should be dull, and are better if they have a big flat yellow spot (have been sitting in the field on the vine longer).

    • Holly @ Run With Holly August 14, 2013 at 5:29 pm - Reply

      Interesting! I just picked one up, and made sure it had a nice large yellow spot. We’ll see! 🙂

  9. Paul August 17, 2013 at 10:01 pm - Reply

    I realised that I have been chunking without realising I was doing it. Is it some instinctive thing that runners seems to process and exhibit when the going get tough? I dun know.

    The thing is chunking can come at the very start of the run! Just this evening, just 2K into my planned 21K run, my rhythm was haywire and it was taking much effort to continue running. I dun know why especially since I started quite well.

    So I told myself to just make it to 5K and take a break. I did and the break did wonders and in the end I was able to compete my planned distance. Heck I even managed a better timing than my Sundown HM so that can’t be too bad.

  10. […] full workout week, including with a super long run on Friday.  I was coming off a weekend with a 22 mile run, as well.  Hello, intense marathon/ultra […]

  11. Meagan August 19, 2013 at 12:37 am - Reply

    Awesome job on your 22 miler and way to stay tough during those last 3-4 miles! I have definitely unknowingly used chunking in the past, most recently on my long run yesterday (as you pointed out!). Ten miles shouldn’t cause a mental struggle for me, but yesterday it did, and breaking the run down into “chunks” got me through it. I don’t like watermelon, but I know people who thunk them with their finger. I think the more hollow it sounds the better? Or maybe it’s the opposite, haha. I love cantaloupe and honeydew and I choose them by smelling them. The sweeter they smell the better they are!

    • Holly @ Run With Holly August 19, 2013 at 10:15 am - Reply

      You know, I do small cantaloupes (although we don’t really get them out here). Hahaha…now I’m having visions of myself sniffing watermelons in the aisles of the supermarket….which would be funniest if I brought along a friend to photograph people’s expressions when they saw me sniffing the watermelons. Heeheehee… 🙂

  12. […] Chunking: Focus on the half miles.  Take a drink every half mile.  Just run half a mile at a time.  Focus […]

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