Friday, October 26, 2012

In the Long Run

***if you are new here, and have no idea what this is going to be about you have two intelligent choices:

a) Leave Now.

b) Start here, then work your way back, m'kay?

Once I crossed over into the double digit runs, and interesting thing started to happen. Shit began to fall apart.

I ran 10 miles, came home exhausted, but pleased.

The day of my 12 mile run, things didn’t go near as smoothly. I hit mile 10, struggled through mile 11, and then hit a wall. I walked up a hill and then trotted, ever so slowly, the rest of the way home. I was out of water, I was tired, I was crampy and I was on the verge of tears. It was the first time I had given in and walked in my whole training plan and frankly, I felt like a failure for not having run 100% of the course.

Thankfully my husband gave me the good old fashioned tongue lashing and reality check that I so desperately needed at that point, and we came up with a smarter plan of attack for the next run. We had noticed that 10 miles seemed to be my absolute outer limit of energy. As an early morning runner, it is my habit to run “on an empty tank.” That is to say, I don’t eat before I go. We planned out my 14 mile course, and decided that my husband, my “pit crew”, would meet me at the 10 mile mark, and give me fresh water and some sort of energy food, be it GU or power beans or something…

The day of my 14 mile run came, and I set out, trusty little water bottle in hand. As had been my custom, I conservatively only took a sip or so every mile. Around mile 8.5 or 9, I started to cramp, but just ran through the pain. It wasn’t until about mile 9.5 that I downed the rest of my bottle, knowing that help was on the way. I noticed, almost immediately, that the stitch in my side disappeared almost immediately. A minor lightbulb moment, as I realized that the cramping? Was dehydration. I hadn’t been drinking enough, out of fear that it would make me have to pee. (Is that TMI? Do I care?)

Anyway, I made it beyond the 12 mile mark, and actually to full half marathon distance, before taking a few walking steps. I allowed myself to walk up a hill, and arrived back home feeling much better than I had after the 12, and much happier with myself.

And then 16 happened.

A few things to note about the day of my 16 mile run. We were on vacation, in south Florida. I had pumped myself up for this run, plotting out a course that kept me along the beach or the intracoastal for almost the entire distance. I kept thinking “ooo, flat!! This’ll be easy!” and “ocean breezes! It won’t be too hot!!!” Incidentally, my husband’s half marathon plan called for him to run a 6 mile course, so we could actually run the first part of the run together. We stocked up on water bottles, planned out pit stops, to give me fresh water, bought power beans for me to eat along the way and were generally cocky about the whole thing.

Go ahead, finish laughing. I’ll wait.

To say that things did not go well would be an understatement.

It was hot. DAMNED hot. And humid.

Ocean breezes are a MYTH. And apparently? No such thing as intracoastal breezes.

Running with my husband always prompts me to run faster. Which is generally a good thing. He is a much faster runner than I am, but I can hold my pace for a lot longer…for now. But not when it means that the first miles of a long run are clocked in at a pace well above what is normal for you.

Flat is not better. At least not if you are used to running on hills.

The energy beans didn’t enjoy their brief stay in my stomach, and checked out on someone’s front lawn.

All told, I drank 48oz of water and only managed to run just shy of 15 miles. And honestly, I walked probably a third of those miles. It. Was. Miserable.

We chalked it up to environment and me starting off too fast, which burned me out too early.

We came back to PA, and I shook it off, and focused on the next big run, which was 2 weeks away: 18 miles.

At this point, I started really obsessing about wardrobe. (I know! So unlike me, right?? ;))The problem was, MN in October? Kind of unpredictable. The day before we landed? In the lower 80’s. The morning of the race? 29 degrees. I settled on a trusty pair of reebok running shorts that had served me well for better than a year for that day, and decided to see if maybe they would be the winner-winner-chicken-dinner for the marathon.

My “pit crew” and I pored over the course, and devised a hydration plan, adding Powerade (the flavor and variety being provided at the marathon) into the rotation, and a GU stop as well. We decided that I should eat a GU before I set out as well, just to help me get through the first big push.

The morning of the run came, and I took off. As had been my habit, I drank relatively little for those first 8 or 9 miles. In fact, when I came to my first “refill station” I still had a fair amount of water in my bottle. No matter though, I felt pretty good, and just kept going. I made it to about mile 14, and I hit the wall.

I started alternating, 2 songs run, 1 song walk.

At about mile 16, my shorts were so soaked with sweat that I could literally feel it dripping off the hem, onto my calves and then running down, into my socks. Apparently my reeboks had “wicked” as much as they could handle. They would not be joining me in MN…

I trudged home, clocking in with a total of 18.7 miles, and collapsed into my husband’s arms. At about that same moment, my iPhone shutdown, the battery completely drained.

Later, as we dissected this run, we would determine that my main downfall was not drinking enough in the beginning. Once you start to get dehydrated, it is almost impossible to swing the balance back in the right direction.

The day of the 20 mile run, which was to be the last of my long runs before beginning the taper, approached, and we planned it out with surgical, precision. It just so happened that my husband’s training plan called for him to log a 9 mile run. My favorite route has two potential finishes…one that brings it in at 9 miles, and another that bumps it up to 11. I had anxiously been waiting to share this route with him, so this was my big chance. Gleeful doesn’t even scratch the surface about that.

We talked pace. I explained that, if we were going to run together, my big fear was that the pace I planned to be would be too slow for him…I was aiming for 10:30. We agreed that, if it was too slow, he would just pass me and meet me at the house.

I donned a pair of well-loved Nike shorts, and prepared to head out. We had decided that the main evil for my phone batter was the Nike app that I tend to keep running…it keeps the screen lit up the whole time that it is running, and fills my head with a little voice that tells me how long, how far and how fast I have run. To compensate, I planned to just run with the iPod app running, and the screen darkened and use my Nike watch to capture the run and post it to Nike+ instead.

We got to the bottom of the driveway and waited for the watch to locate satellites. And we waited. And we waited. Nearly 10 minutes passed. Finally, in disgust, I agreed to swap out, and use the Garmin, which I knew I wouldn’t be able to consult about my pace or anything until the sun came up at the very least.

Resigned to running “blind” and more than a little aggravated, we set off…I had no idea what pace I was setting (he was following). Without my electronic crutch, I decided to just run what felt right, and deal with how “slow” it was later.

We made it back to the house, where I snatched up a new water bottle and kept going. A quick glance at my watch left me agog…9 minute mile average. Shit. What had I done? There was no way I could hold that pace the rest of the run…I was going to burn out and probably soon. Dammitdammitdammit.

I kept going, mentally chewing myself out.

12 miles came. "What a dumbass…you know you’re gonna pay for this."

14 miles came. "I give you another mile, tops, and you’ll be walking, moron."

16 miles came. "Alright, you *might* get lucky and pull off another mile, but then you’ll be walking for sure."

18 miles came."Boom. This is happening."

And then 20. I walked up two hills in the 18th and 19th miles. But not because I was tired. Not because my legs were spent. Because my inner thighs were chafed so badly from the shorts gathering and rubbing for so many miles, that my skin was raw, and needed a break. The Nike shorts? Also did not make the cut for MN.

When I stopped the watch and checked my pace, I could scarely believe what I saw...I had just run 20 miles, with an average pace of 9:30.
I was elated. And for the first time, since the thought had first crossed my mind to do this thing, I knew, for certain, that I was going to finish. That I could do this thing…

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