What’s a Pocket Run? + Ultramarathon Training Week 9

This weekend I had a “put it in your pocket run”. You know the song lyrics, “Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, save it for a rainy day.”  A pocket run is similar. Even though I hate having them, pocket runs are perfect mental ammo for race day.



On Saturday, the morning dawned rainy, windy, and cold. I had 22 miles to do (it was a build week again) and I had plans to go out to Barrington to run. I had packed my bags the night before, made my post-run recovery smoothie, and even hopped in the car just start to drive out there.


But looking at the weather and knowing that I was most likely going to be running on my own out there anyway, I just decided to do my run along the lakefront. That would save me the drive out there, and I would have plenty of time to visit the EDGE and recipe test for the Thoughtluck on Sunday.


I started out heading north into the headwind. I thought “I’ll just do 11 north, turn around and come back. It won’t be hard.” My first mile was about a minute slower than I normally run. “That’s ok, you’re just shaking off sleep.Nope. By mile 4, I bonked. I had very little energy and the wind was blowing the rain directly into my face. I was wearing my Team Nuun hat, but that was barely helping. The thought of dealing with this for 11 miles sounded awful. It was quickly turning into a bad training run.


Rainy pocket run sadness
Mile four slowly became mile five, and I began my self-talk. “Becca, at least make it to the Evanston sign. Then you can turn around.” At the sign, I checked my watch and saw that I was 6.6 miles into my run. “You can at least make it to mile seven and then turn around. If you do that, you’ll get home at mile 14 and then can run 8 miles south with the tailwind. Then you can Uber home.”


That’s the kind of mental bargaining you start to do when physically it feels like you are running on fumes.


Luckily I didn’t hear my GPS beep at mile seven. I thought I was really losing my pace; the mile seemed to last FOREVER. When I finally did work up the courage to look at my watch (dreading to see a 15 minute mile pace), I shockingly discovered that I had already reached 7.5 miles! More self-talk. “OK you might as well round it to eight.”


At eight I reached a park. I sat on a rock, ate an energy bite and did some math. If I could make it to 9 miles, then I would only have to run down to North Avenue Boat House before I could turn around to run home. That would save me on an Uber cost.
Needless to say, by the time I got to 9 miles I was able to convince myself to go all the way to 11. I reached the Baha’i Temple and felt glorious. I made it! I even had enough energy to make a terrible pun (B’hi there, Baha’i temple!).  “Surely now, I thought, I would have the tailwind and this run would improve!


Pocket Run half way point
My face: “Well, this is terrible.”

NOPE. My watch mocked me as it happily chirped out my next mile split. SLOWER THAN BEFORE?!? Even the weather mocked me. Before, the rain has abated, but now it picked up again with force. The slow, grueling shuffle continued.



That sounds miserable right? Anyone who is reading this, any non-runner at least, would say, “Why the hell didn’t you just go home and wait until it stopped raining?!?” Well, I can’t explain it. This run was awful, I wanted to quit the whole time, but I didn’t. That what’s makes it a put it in your pocket run.


A “put it in your pocket run” is one of those runs that you save and cherish, even if it was a dismal experience. You finish the run, and then you put it in your mental pocket. Why? You save it for race day. You save it for when your lungs are burning, your legs are aching, you are mentally fatigued, and that evil thought enters your head. What if I stopped running and didn’t finish the race?


That’s when you reach into your mental pocket and you pull out a miserable 22 mile run. A miserable 22 mile shuffle that you did in the pouring rain and the wind and the cold. That you finished even though it was a mental bargaining session. Where you spent 3 1/2 hours in the rain feeling like quitting but you didn’t. Where you proved that you are stronger than you think you are and you can do more than you think you can.



You take that pocket run, you remember how you felt uncomfortable, or tired, or drained, how you wanted to quit but somehow didn’t, and you say, “If you can deal with that nonsense and get through it, you can handle what you’re feeling right now.”


So that’s why I count this Saturday’s 22-mile slog fest as a pocket run. A run that I’ll cherish. A run that I will add to my stockpile of mental ammunition. A run that, if the need arises on race day, when my body and mind wants to quit, I’ll reach into my pocket.
Some race in the future:

Inner voice: Hey Becca, remember that time you were able to make it 11 miles in a rainy headwind up to the Temple? And then 11 miles back home in the most non-tailwind ever?
Me, dying in a race:  Yeah?
Inner voice: Yeah, so you can do this run too.



Happy running,



Ultramarathon Training Week 9

(Catch up on previous weeks here)


Monday 3/20: EZ RPE 4
Last day in Highland Park with the puppy! I learned that the suburbs are dark at 5:30 in the morning. So dark that you almost run up and startle a skunk. Narrowly avoided a terrible start to a Monday. Total: 5.0mi


Tuesday 3/21: Speed- Hill Tempo double-decker sandwich
Ran to the track to meet up with some NP Chi speedsters. I planned a fun beast of a workout: 4 hill repeats, 2 mile tempo, 4 hill repeats, 2 mile tempo, 4 hill repeats. I felt phenomenal!  My splits were exactly the same! 7:14 and 7:12, then 7:14 and 7:13.  I love consistency!  Total: 10.5 mi


Beautiful morning at the track


Wednesday 3/22: Strength + EZ RPE 5
Easy post strength class run on the 606. Total: 7.0 mi


Thursday 3/22: Rest day
Hot yoga and EDGE boots


Friday 3/23: RPE 5 to NP + NP workout
We ended up doing a “Cunningham workout” meaning we ran the whole time. Burpees at the bottom of one staircase, run up the stairs, past the Bean, down the other stairs, do a set of jump squats. Back up the stairs and repeat. Over and over. Ended up doing a little bit too much mileage for the day.  Total: 8 miles (planned: 5)

Pocket Run NP workout shot


Saturday 3/24: Long Run
A mental slog, described above.  Total: 22.70 miles


Sunday 3/25: Trails
Wow were the trails muddy! I ran with Brian, Jerry and some other EDGE athletes out at Swallow Cliff. The drizzle stopped at the beginnin of our run and for about 2 hours it was very pleasant! I even had to take off my jacket and gloves! I did 3 sets of Jerry Loops (Each loop = 1 mi of stair/hill repeats) before ending. Then Jerry challenged me to slide down the hill belly first for $100. DONE.  Total: 15.0 miles 


Pocket Run Muddy slide



Total week’s mileage: 68.20.  Total time: 10 hours. WOOF. 


One foot in front of the other.  6 weeks away from race day!

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