A long, long run

Before yesterday morning, I had a whopping zero miles for the week.

The week.

Due to lots of reasons, some valid and some not-so-valid, I hadn’t run since the 12 last Sunday.  And all week this hung ominously over my head like a dark rain cloud.

“You haven’t run all week.”

“You do remember you have to run 20 miles on Saturday, right?”

“Not once. Not even once.  What is wrong with you?”

So, on Friday morning, when the weather was perfect, I struggled to decide whether or not to run.  One side of my brain said “No, you shouldn’t run.  You should always take the day before a long run off.”  The other side said, “Zero.  Do you want to go into your 20 mile run with zero miles for the week?

I quickly sent an email to a few friends whose input I respect, and when they both told me to go for it (as long as I kept it to under 30 minutes and didn’t go too fast), I decided to head out.  I loaded up the toddler in the jogging stroller and got a nice 3 mile easy run in.  It felt great.

You know what felt better?  No more zero!

Knowing I had this 20 mile run scheduled for today, I should have done a better job with my diet yesterday.  I didn’t eat very well (meaning I didn’t eat much), and then we didn’t really have dinner.  So at 7:45 I cooked a pot of whole wheat pasta and ate pasta with olive oil and a “poor man’s pesto” for dinner at 8:00 pm.  I checked the weather (they were predicting thunderstorms all morning), laid out my running gear for the morning, plugged in the Garmin, and headed to bed around 9 pm.  I was exhausted, and knew I needed sleep since was planning to get up at 5 to go run.  What an exciting Friday evening…

I was still tasting that pesto this morning when I got up.  Gross.

My alarm went off just before 5, but I had been sleeping fitfully since about 3 am.  So I got up, got dressed, and ate a piece of toast.    I headed out to the bike path around 5:30 am.

I had a plan to break the run into four 5-mile sections.  My fitness/running mentor (yes, I have a mentor now) recommended that I start out slow and then progress faster as the run went on.  So my plan was to run the first 5 miles no faster than 10:00/mile, and hopefully slower if I could make myself do it.

Foreshadowing here:  Keeping the pace over 10:00/mile was the least of my worries.

I am not kidding when I say those first two miles are the worst miles I have run in, oh, years.  Anything that could irritate me, did.  I retied my shoes three times in the first 0.1 mile.  When the Garmin beeped at me a few minutes later, I first panicked that the battery was dying, then realized that it was trying to shut down.  I had forgotten to restart it after tying my shoes, and I had lost something like a half mile.  Talk about a mental challenge.  Luckily when I hit my known “1 mile” mark, the Garmin said 0.50, so I knew it was almost exactly a half mile I had lost.  But I was disappointed, I had really looked forward to seeing that 20.00 pop up on the screen.

I felt like I was running in quicksand.  I had a headache.  My legs were heavy.  My mind was playing tricks on me.  I kept trying to tell myself that it would get better, but at a few points I felt so awful I was almost in tears.  It was a low point, that’s for sure.  I stopped and walked at least twice, maybe three times.

2 miles into my run, I realized that something needed to change.  My attitude, definitely.  But I needed something to reset my whole run.  I felt silly, but I decided to try taking a gel.  Yep, 2 miles into my run I needed to fuel.  Luckily I had grabbed an extra when packing up my belt for the first 10 miles.  I had purchased one of these CLIF Double Expresso gels a few weeks ago at Dick’s.

It tasted horrible, yet awesome all at the same time.  And I think the 100mg of caffeine went straight to my head, because I felt better within minutes.  (it was at this point I also realized I had not had any pre-run coffee…)

The first 10 miles were awesome.  I felt good, and really enjoyed the running.  The slower pace was really nice for a change.   I really wanted to keep track of my 5 mile “laps” but with the half mile Garmin snafu, I have to estimate everything.

First 5 miles:  54 (ish) minutes
Second 5 miles: 50
Third 5 miles: 53
Last 5 miles:  53

So it turns out that I was pretty consistent, but that middle 5 miles was definitely my best.  I will admit that I struggled on most of the last 10 – well, the last 7.  I made it to 13 miles pretty comfortably,  and realized at mile 18 that I felt a lot better than I did on the 19 miler last week.  I was still tired and wanted to quit, but I wasn’t as tired as I had been.  I did allow myself more walk breaks on the last 5 though, so the pace reflects that.

And then I looked down and was running sub-10 minute pace the last mile – so I must have had something else in me.

I’m still questioning how on earth I can run 20 miles and be ready for 26.2, but I’m allowing a leap of faith that the running gurus know what they are talking about.

I’d type more, but I am heading out for my Mother’s Day dinner (I’ll be spending Mother’s Day in airports and on planes).

Tomorrow I leave for Switzerland for a week, and hopefully will get to run some there.

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