I started the week out sick. Yep, sick again, this time it was a head cold with serious snot issues. Symptoms included a fever, headache, sinus pressure, congestion, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and body aches. At the advice of my “trainer and coach” Ryan, I took it pretty easy and rested (and ate) as much as possible. So, needless to say, I didn’t do much running during the week. The weather didn’t help either. Snow, rain, ice, sleet, snow, ice, more snow, more ice and really cold temperatures. This has definitely been the coldest, darkest and snowiest winter in the last 5 years. You have no idea how much I’m looking forward to spring. By Friday I was feeling mildly better and got a 5 mile easy treadmill run in that evening after work. It didn’t feel great – I spent the whole time grasping for breath and dealing with snot. I spent the rest of the night hydrating and mentally preparing myself for Saturday’s long run of 20 miles.
The 20 mile long run would be my farthest run to date and my longest run leading up to the marathon. I’ve planned my schedule so I have at least two 20 milers (maybe three if I wanted) a few weeks apart in preparation for the race. The theory is that if you can run 20 miles during training, you can run 26.2 on race day (with all the endorphins, excitement and the cheering crowd to get you through the last 10k). I was pretty confident in my ability to run 20 miles. Last week’s 18 miler was almost euphoric and gave me a confidence boost that I didn’t expect. Although I’d heard people say that there’s a huge difference between 18 and 20, I just didn’t believe that the two extra miles would affect me much.
But 20 miles is a really really long run. Especially if you’re running by yourself, which is why I was really appreciative of having the support of TNT. Last week’s 18 miler went by so quickly with the help and conversation of my fellow teammate Abby and coach Rhonda. I was looking forward to having some company to help pass the miles and share this training experience with. I almost talked myself out of going that morning because I was so cold and tired, but the thought of having some running companionship got me out the door. So, you can imagine my shock and disappointment to show up at Forest Park at 6:45 am Saturday morning to no TNT.
Cancelled? Seriously? This can’t be happening. I know the weather had been bad the last few days, but I got no email, no phone call, no indication that the group run would be cancelled. We’d been told that they only cancel for really bad weather (dangerous conditions) – it was 16 degrees, but not snowing or raining. I’d run in much worse weather than this. Where was everyone?? How did they know it was cancelled? Was there a hotline or something? It didn’t even cross my mind that the run would be cancelled. I couldn’t believe it!! I waited impatiently in the Visitor’s Center until 7:10 when I was absolutely convinced no one else would show up and decided to try to do the 20 miles alone. Ugh.
The first few miles were spent fuming. I was very angry with TNT and very nervous that I wouldn’t be able to do the whole 20 miles by myself. It was cold, I was still sick, Forest Park is really hilly. Whine, whine, whine…I know. But after a while, running does something (chemically, I guess) to you as you start to get into a groove. By mile 4 I was feeling a lot better, less bitter, and decided to just HTFU and get the 20 miles done. I didn’t want to go home and face telling Ryan (and all of you) that I couldn’t do 20 miles because I was cold and lonely. It was not an option.
The trails in the park were too icy to run on, so I ran in the streets – the same basic loop that I ran with Jenn and Victoria a few weeks earlier. I took my time and explored a few streets that I’ve never tried and stretched my first loop (usually about 5.7 miles) out to about 9 miles. Not bad. I stopped by my car and loaded my pockets with more Sport Beans, more tissues, and a large water bottle. The sun was starting to come out and it was getting a little warmer. I decided to run to Clayton via Wydown (a gorgeous street lined with enormous beautiful houses) and then back to the park through Washington University campus. Since the sidewalks were not cleared, I had to stick to the road and ended up running through some beautiful neighborhoods and side streets.
My mind was really wandering at this point. Here’s a list of some of the things running through my head: (1) I wonder if Chris and Lindsey had a nice dinner at McD’s last weekend? What did they order? (2) What am I going to wear to Paige’s bridal shower next weekend…and I still need to get a card for the gift. (3) I really want to see Brooke sometime soon…I’m worried about her. (4) Why is this song on my iPod? I hate Pink Floyd. Ryan and I need to go to more concerts. I wonder who’s going to be at Riverport this summer? (5) I need to get some new running shoes asap – how long does it take to break in new shoes? I wonder if they’re open on Sundays? Oh, I hope they have pink ones. (6) I wonder if I’m going to feel good enough to go bowling tonight? If I beg, maybe they’ll let me bowl in my Uggs. I think I’ll wear pajamas the rest of the weekend. (7) Wow, I like that house…it’s huge…very pretty…I want to live there...I wonder how much it costs? I bet their utility bills are outrageous. (8) What am I going to eat for lunch? What am I hungry for? How about french fries, sushi, tomato soup, an omelet, pizza, fruit, chinese food, bagels, Panini, chips, donuts, veggie burger, salad, and cookies? That should be enough. (9) I’m so excited about my trip to Cabo San Lucas with the girls in April and to Florida with Ryan in May. Sunshine!! Must buy new bikini. Can’t wait to get a pedicure. New sandals! A daiquiri sounds really good right now. (10) Why are the miles going by so damn slow?! Am I finished yet??
Around mile 14 I knew I was running very slow – the hills were tough and I felt as if I was carrying 10 extra pounds with all my gear, sweaty clothes and water bottles – but I wasn’t really concerned with time…right? From the start of my training, I decided that I just wanted to run the marathon “to finish.” No time goal in mind, just a good run and a good overall experience. Since it’s my first marathon, whatever my time would be was guaranteed to be a PR. But at times like this, the competitive side of me comes out. I know myself well enough to know that on race day, I’ll be pushing myself to go faster because I don’t like getting passed. I will be aiming for a time goal, whether I want to admit it or not. So, the question becomes, do I set a time goal for myself for the race? If I set one, there’s a chance that I’ll push myself too hard to try to meet the goal and end up not having a great overall experience. And if I don’t make the time, I’ll be incredibly disappointed in myself…even though I finished a full marathon (which was all I wanted to do in the first place). On the other hand, it’s really motivating and encouraging to have a goal. And if I can be realistic (and not set my goal too fast) it would feel that much better when I meet the goal. I go back and forth with the concept. I just don’t know what to do…
At mile 17 I realized I was starting to get closer and closer to my car. This was bad. I knew that if I was close to the car, I would be tempted to stop a little early and not do the full 20 miles. “18’s good enough, right?” So, I turned around and tried to make the trip back a little longer…which didn’t quite work out the way I hoped. At mile 18.5 I passed my car. It was about this time that I mentally and physically lost the desire to keep running. My legs really hurt. My feet were soaking wet, frozen and hurting, with every step feeling like they were being pounded into the pavement. I could feel two massive blisters throbbing on my toes. My saving grace was Tom Petty’s “Running Down a Dream,” which came on my iPod at that moment. Listening to the words and knowing that I was running down my own dream got me to mile 19. And then I wanted to cry again. I tried to think about all the reasons I was doing this…for myself, for Ryan Brown, for all the Leukemia and Lymphoma patients and survivors that my fundraising would help. And I can honestly say that none of that really helped me…unfortunately. Actually, what got me through that last mile was the thought of lunch. I was SO hungry! The quicker I finished, the quicker I could eat!! Bring on the food!! Yes, it’s selfish, I know, but it worked.
I finished mile 20 about one hundred feet from my car. I walked very very slowly to the car and sat in the backseat for about half an hour, watching my legs twitch and trying to keep myself from throwing up. I felt terrible. After a Gatorade I finally felt good enough to drive myself home, although I was terrified that my legs would cramp up and hit the gas/breaks and cause an accident. Once home, I made myself another miserable ice bath. I can’t believe that something that hurts so much can actually be good for you. But amazingly, my legs felt great afterwards! Ryan and I had a nice lunch of soup and sandwiches and then I went back to bed for a wonderful nap.
20 miles down. I can do this marathon! Here are my super slow splits:
Monday: 4.0 miles
Friday: 5. 0
Total: 29.1 miles