Tuesday, August 18, 2009


While out having a couple drinks with some friends the other night:
"What did you do today?"
"Oh, I ran 18 miles...that's why I'm kind of out of it"
Cue general astonishment and the general "18 miles, I could hardly run 18 feet!" comments.

Yes, I ran 18 miles...but unlike my first 16 miler, this was not all sunshine and rainbows and ponies and runners high fun. This was a struggle, every step of the way, a fight between my mind and my legs who were firmly rooted in the idea that no, we would not be running another step today. I was "lucky" enough to have this run on my schedule on a lovely 82 degree day with 85% humidity. If you know me at all, you know that type of weather pretty much spells doom in my opinion, and from the second I stepped out my door, I was worried. Normally on longer runs, the first few miles feel super easy because I'm running slower than usual, but that was not the case this time. From the outset, my legs felt heavy, and I was hot. I couldn't stop the doubts in my mind, even as I finished the first mile, of "how the HELL am I going to finish this?"

And so I struggled onward. Legs just not feeling into it, sweat dripping all over the place, I'm sure I looked utterly attractive as I trudged along. Through the parkway where I did my first "long" run as a high school XC runner - I remember being proud that I went 6 miles instead of the 5 prescribed for the newbies that day. I kept thinking to myself that my legs were going to shake off the lead one of these miles, surely I couldn't do a full 18 feeling as bad as I was. I was at mile 4.

Into the woods I continued, hardly noticing the wildflowers and random animals nearby. The parkway I was running on is actually fantastic for running, and under any other circumstances I probably would be happy to have found such an oasis from the ugly suburban streets of Tosa...but not today. I felt like I was running in a sauna. As I came out of the parkway, I saw a really sketchy looking van sitting a little ways up the road. I'm not normally one to get really nervous about strange people/things lurking when I run [it would be kind of impossible to run in Madison otherwise] but this road was deserted and it creeped me out. Sooo that meant turning around and running back to where another trail split off, probably adding a quarter mile or so to the run. Whatever...that meant I could skip my lap around the track that would have been coming around mile 16. I trudged onward into the Greenfield golf course...finally, like a mirage...a bubbler! I could have stood there and drank the cold, amazing water all day, but alas. Like 13 more miles to go. Ugh.

Soooo I kept going. I ran into Greenfield Park and began my lap around the outer edge. There was actually a really nice trail through the woods that I enjoyed, and finally I was starting to feel just a tiny bit better. As I turned a corner I suddenly saw a familiar sight - white dashes on the grass...CROSS COUNTRY! I felt a little nostalgic as I decided to run along the course until I got back to my turn around point. Back through the golf course, back to the miracle bubbler, time for my gel! The caffiene and sugar got me feeling a bit better for the next few miles, although a giant hill at about mile 10 almost destroyed me. I had now run through parts of West Allis, Greenfield, and Brookfield, and was heading into my 4th city of the day, Elm Grove. I ran into the park, which was the site of many silly rendezvous with my high school boyfriend, and around the pond they have there...there's a really nice path that goes all the way around - I can't appreciate enough the nice things that parks do for runners/walkers! There was another bubbler which was once again my salvation, and I would have liked to have stopped right there...but oh wait, I still had 6 miles to go.

And those were, hands down, the worst 6 miles of my life. Almost immediately on leaving the park, my legs basically started rejecting the idea of running. Cramps in my calves, my knees starting to hurt...everything was just going haywire as I just attempted to keep moving forward. Frustration...hating my life...why the hell am I doing a marathon...this is the WORST...ohhh why is there a hill here...good thing there aren't any people around to witness this....is this ever going to end? Those were basically my train of thought...with the one underlying thread of - just get it done. Just do it. Just finish.

I trudged up another huge hill towards my former high school - how am I even still running? I had to stop a few times to try to stretch out my legs, but they seemed to pretty much be beyond help at this point. The bubbler inside the school was another glorious, glorious thing...water has never tasted so good in my life. And then I was headed back up the hill..2.5 miles to go...let's do it.

It was a LONG 2.5 miles. When I finally arrived back at my driveway, I felt like I had been severely beaten. I walked into my house, grabbed a water bottle, and lay down on my floor - disgusting as I was, there was nothing else I was really capable of doing at the moment. I really was too tired and sore to even be excited about what I had just accomplished. Pretty much my only thought was: I have to do this, or something similar, for the next 2 months, all leading up to running this + 8.2 miles....WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE???

Run stats: 18.1 miles, 2:32:40 (8:27 pace)
Really, I think the stats make it look a little more successful than it was, since I had to stop a bunch of times for water, stoplights, and just a few general "I'm about to die, if I don't stop in the next 3 seconds my legs just might collapse underneath me" stops. Wimpy, but with the heat they were really the only way I was going to make it through. I am pretty pleased with my average pace when I WAS running though. I swear, I try and try to slow down, but it seems I hover between 815 and 845 no matter what.

So what's next? Well, I am headed up into the Wisconsin wilderness for 5 days with the BF, so all of my running distances will probably be approximate, and I'm taking a "down" week and making my long run ~10 miles, partially just because I feel bad leaving the BF alone, and partially because I don't want to get lost in the woods. Hopefully I'll get in at least a decent tempo or fartlek or something, but we'll see. Week after next is the MMM, so that will be a solid hard 13.1 miles. It's a challenge getting the miles in with all this moving and traveling and business, but I'm trying to get it done.

And for those interested, my weekly training rundown...
Monday - off [though I did swim 2000 meters without stopping, which I'm fairly proud of]
Tuesday - 9 miles easy [733 pace]
Wednesday - 2 miles easy + 8 miles moderate [731 pace]
Thursday - 3.9 miles easy [w/ sister, no watch]
Friday - 6 miles tempo [718 pace] awesome, awesome run!
Saturday - 4 miles easy [cut short by a blister that made it impossible to run without a limp for the second half...thank you blister band-aids for saving the day on Sunday!]
Sunday - 18.1 miles long [827 pace]

Rock the house. I will likely be on a blogging hiatus for the next week or so at least, but I mean, this post is long enough to make up for a few days I think...hopefully I'll be back after the long weekend with tales of running in the north woods and all sorts of other fun stuff!


Amy said...

Can I just say that I really enjoyed reading your recap of this run? I know it was probably totally miserable, but to me it was absolutely beautiful! What a journey you went on during this run....from the cross country course to your old high school...I'm sure it was torture but wow, now I know why my friend likes marathons because they are a journey.

I'm really proud that you accomplished this mega run. Not many people could've done that! This will definitely help you on your road to the marathon.

lindsay said...

i've had long runs (and shorter) like this. from mile one, every step is difficult. thankfully they aren't all like this, and slogging out these really tough ones help build mental toughness. it's a huge victory to not quit and press on, no matter what your splits are. you got the miles in, that's the most important part of training.

hopefully this week the runs aren't as torturous!