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Posts Tagged ‘marathon’

12/31/10

Tomorrow marks four weeks since my first full marathon, four weeks since I’ve run a single step. The marathon was incredibly brutal and completely amazing all at the same time (I am working on a blog post about it…will hopefully finish it within the next year) and left my legs in such a state of disrepair that I haven’t run since.

But today was warm. And sunny. And gorgeous. And I just couldn’t say no to another run. So after getting way too little sleep last night and cleaning six houses in as many hours, and while knowing that I had a late night ahead of me (New Year’s Eve, after all!), I came home near four o’clock, changed into a pair of running shorts (yes, running shorts! at the end of December, imagine that), laced up my running shoes, marathon tag still wrapped around my laces, and bounded out the door. A short stretch at the end of the driveway later I headed west on Garrett Drive.

I began with a brisk walk to warm up and took an assessment as I went: left knee- fragile, both hamstrings- tight, i.t band- unpredictable, toes- good, spirits- high!

Within two minutes my excitement and curiosity about the run ahead and the restlessness that had been building within me for four weeks, had taken over and my brisk walk had turned into a brisk run. My plan had been to walk awhile, then run a slow steady pace with intervals of walking. But I must confess that in my moment (by moment, I mean around twenty-seven minutes) of weakness, I abandoned this plan and ran, with no walking, the rest of the three miles around the block and back to my house, averaging a nine minute mile. Oops.

The first few steps were stiff and awkward- like my legs had been incased in concrete. For several minutes each step was a struggle- a struggle to move my joints enough to propel myself forward, a struggle to lift my feet high enough to leave the ground. My legs felt as though they had been filled with lead, felt as though it had been years since I had moved them. I began to wonder if the entire run would feel this forced, wondered how long my gait would feel so…unnatural. My hips and glutes ached with every step, as though someone had taken a baseball bat to them moments before I began my run. My lungs were about the only thing functioning properly, the only thing not in suffering as the miles added up behind me. There was no gasping, no heaving, no burning chest or aching side or churning stomach. To my surprise, they felt as though I hadn’t missed a beat.

So cardiovascularly the entire run felt great, muscularly though…ugh.

Eventually most of the concrete got chipped away. And by the last mile the tightness in my hamstrings had diminished, the deep pain in my hips and glutes subsided and my gait felt at least a little closer to what I would consider normal.

What a thrill to be running again. Inspite of the physical discomfort, my mind stayed in a very positive place before the run, during and for the rest of the night after- my knee hadn’t given out, my i.t band hadn’t locked up, and after the first two minutes, I had run without walking…what more could one ask for? 🙂

As I closed in on my last half mile the road said to me, “Welcome home.”

“Thank you, old friend,” I said in return. “It is good to be back.”

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Women's Half Marathon 2010

It is 11pm as I lay here on our living room couch and stare at this computer screen, pondering the day’s event, my blistered toes throbbing, my shredded muscles aching, my tired head pounding…

13.1 miles.

1 hour and 54 minutes and 30 seconds.

An 8 minutes and 45 seconds per mile average.

The hardest I have ever run in my whole life.

I can honestly say that I gave it everything I had and more, that with each mile, as I became more and more fatigued, and as my body screamed louder and louder for me to stop, I just dug a little deeper and somehow found the willpower to keep moving forward.

I exceeded my original goal (that being to break my previous PR of 1 hour and 58 minutes and 22 seconds), by 3 minutes and 52 seconds. And for this I know I should be thrilled.

But for some reason, just in the last few weeks, I decided that it might be possible for me to accomplish an even bigger goal of mine: to finish the race with an 8 minutes and 30 seconds per mile average.

I’m not sure why I thought this would be possible. I have done no speedwork and very few “run for time” runs. I have been running 4:1 intervals (run 4 minutes, walk 1 minute) almost exclusively since April (in an effort to combat a lingering knee injury) with only a handful of “run the whole time” runs sprinkled in and the longest run I have completed at a pace faster than a 9 minute mile was 6 miles. So I’m not sure why I thought I could run more than twice that distance at an even faster pace.

But I did.

Silly me.

I was wrong.

This bigger goal would have had me crossing the finish line at 1 hour and 51 minutes and 21 seconds. I missed this second goal, this bigger goal of mine, by 3 minutes and 9 seconds.

And though I have tried to be rational and positive with myself all day today, if we are being totally honest in this moment, then I have to admit- I am disappointed that I missed my bigger goal.

I realize that this probably seems crazy to all you non-runners out there (and for that matter, maybe to some of you runners too). I realize this. Give me a couple days and I may just agree with you. But at this moment in time, in my current state, I cannot yet see it that way…

So one of the voices in my head has made a list today- a list of all of the things that worked against my goal, all of that which worked to keep me 3 minutes from it (Besides not properly training for this specific goal. I guess that’s kind of a big one…), all of the reasons that it should be understandable, even ok, that I “failed”. This is the voice that always tries to encourage me. And today I think it is trying to protect me from my mostly irrational feelings of defeat.

It is working.

A little bit.

So. The list.

reason 1) Not enough sleep or food. My nerves kept me awake. My nerves tied my stomach into knots, rendering me unable to eat more than a few bites for a breakfast. My fast pace kept my stomach in knots, preventing my usual mid-race consumption of calories.

reason 2) My race playlist got scrambled. Not sure how. But the songs I had in the order of when I anticipated I would need them were jumbled and mixed. So instead of pushing play and sliding the ipod into my pocket, I kept it in my hand and fumbled with it’s buttons after each song ended, my sweaty fingers sliding clumsily over it’s face, searching for the melodious energy I was depending on to keep me moving.

reason 3) Hills. So many damn hills. Picture running up and down a see-saw. Up. Down. Up. Down. With no relief. For 13.1 miles. Damn hills.

reason 4) A searing sun. A blinding sun. And all of the physical reactions that come with that. Squinting eyes. Building headache. Fire to my skin. Chills covering my body, racking my body from mile 10 until 2 hours after the race ended.

reason 5)  Negative energy from a fellow runner. I don’t think the negative energy was intentional. But nevertheless it messed with my head in the days leading up to the race. And knocked me off my feet around mile 9.

But as encouraging as this voice is trying to be, this voice is almost always accompanied by another voice. Sometimes the other voice is quieter. Today it is louder.

So here’s the list the other voice has made for why I should have met my goal today:

reason 1) I have been running A LOT. Running 18 miles just last week. Consistently running 3-4 times a week for 5 months (and off and on for 13 years before that). And I have been cross training/strength training faithfully (for the first time in my life) once or twice a week for 9 months.

reason 2) I trained through the heat and humidity of the summer and race day was significantly cooler and less humid than the weather that I trained in.

reason 3) I am in the best shape of my life. (Oh, but how I underestimated what it would take to run that fast for that long!)

reason 4) I am used to setting goals and meeting them. I really thought today would just be another one of those times. That no matter what it took, no matter how hard it got, no matter how much it hurt, that I would just do what it took to meet my goal.

reason 5) I can run 5 miles at an 8:15 pace. And I can run 18 miles. So based on that I should be able to run 13.1 miles at an 8:30 pace. Right?

And as all of these thoughts are swirling through my head today, so are my memories of the race. 

Most of the race was a blur. A blur of cheering spectators and encouraging volunteers, a blur of buildings and trees, water stations and porta potties, asphalt and running shoes, men and women all headed to the finish line. The weather was cool and breezy at the start. A little warmer than I would have liked by the end.

My supportive husband and mom, sister and sister-in-law, father-in-law and one friend spent their morning watching the race. I spotted them and their sign at miles 6 and 8. And they spotted me. Their encouragement gave me a burst of energy for the minutes following. Their support means the world to me.

The winner of the race did not look like a runner. Her 6 minutes per mile pace defied her bigger build and heavy footsteps. Surprised and perplexed would be the best words to describe how I felt when I saw her leading the pack by almost half a mile.

The pacers and the women running beside them were the only other runners that stood out to me. To see the pacers, relaxed and comfortable, running 13 miles for the sake of another and to see the women who were running beside them, women who had a goal, women who leaned on the strength of another, women who pushed themselves, knowing that if they could just keep up, that they could achieve said goal, is an image I will not soon forget.

My Garmin kept track of my pace for each mile. I have looked over it several times in an attempt to see where my 3 minutes went.

Mile 1: 7:56

Mile 2: 7:55

Mile 3: 9:42

Mile 4: 7:58

Mile 5: 8:50

Mile 6: 8:40

Mile 7: 8:29

Mile 8: 8:37

Mile 9: 8:18

Mile 10: 8:22

Mile 11: 8:12

Mile 12: 8:58

Mile 13: 9:54

Mile .1: 0:59

I think it is safe to say that mile 3’s potty break, and mile 12 and 13, were what did me in. By mile 12 I had run completely out of self encouragement, run out of all of the mental games I usually play, run out of juice, out of adrenaline, out of ability and out of confidence.

So I am left with three words and three things learned.

Word number one: Demoralizing. (How it felt to watch the runners around me and in front of me continue on strong as my depleted body slowed, their bodies becoming smaller and smaller as they charged into the distance.)

Word number two: Dismaying. (The experience of reaching the bottom of that last brutal hill -cruelly placed, as it was perhaps the steepest of them all- a few tenths of a mile into mile thirteen and looking up, then fighting with myself all the way to the top, as every few steps I slowed to a walk, then took off running again only to find myself walking again, seconds later.)

And word number three: Devastating. (The word that best describes the moment when I knew my goal had slipped through my fingers, slipped right through as I stood -or technically ran- and watched powerlessly.)

And my three things learned:

1) To set more realistic goals for myself. For pete’s sake.

2) That next time, if I want to run a 1:51:21 half marathon, I am going to have to train harder. Or at least better.

3) What they mean when they say “Running is 80% mental and 20% physical.”

Today’s race was harder than I was. The hills stronger. My goal better than I was.

And I am humbled. Which is probably good. We all need to humbled once in a while.

Note: At this point (mostly because I am a really slow editor but also because I don’t always know how to make time for my blog) it has been 2 1/2 weeks since the race and 2 1/2 weeks since the night that I wrote this. Just wanted you all to know that I am feeling much better now (both physically and emotionally). Thank you.

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