Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Out with a Whimper
Well. This was certainly not the way I had envisioned cresting the hill of my marathon training: 32 miles planned over two days, 21.5 delivered.
So what the hell happened? Saturday morning it started well enough. I took off for my 10-mile pace run with a spring in my step and super fab new shorts on my hips. I did mile 1 in 8:14, tried to back off for mile 2 (8:24) but by mile 3 I had crept back to 8:14. This pace is considerably faster than the pace I hope to maintain for the marathon, but it felt nearly effortless and I decided to just go with it. I was ascending a small hill when I felt it: a sharp pulling and then snapping sensation in the middle of my left hamstring. Immediately I stopped, crying out, "ow, ow, ow," and reached around to the back of my leg. I had gone exactly 3.7 miles. I stretched, walked, stretched some more, and then decided I would at least run to reach four miles. Grumbling, I ran the quarter-mile, sharp pain shooting through my leg with each stride. Clearly ten miles wasn't going to happen. At this stage of the game I knew that I should not ignore and run through pain like I usually do. The race is three weeks away. There is no room for error, or, in my case, boneheaded stubbornness. Thus, as soon as I hit four miles, I stopped Garmy and turned around for a long walk home. It took well over an hour. At least the weather was nice. I talked to myself while I was out there (it's OK; I was in the country and no one heard me). Things like "Why did this have to happen now?" "What the fuck is going on?" "God dammit!" and my go-to all-purpose phrase of exasperation, "Oh, for fuck's sake!"
After babying my leg for the rest of Saturday and the procurement of a great therapeutic massage, I was ready! ready! to hit the Lakelands Trail in Hamburg Sunday morning for my last long run. My über-striver distance goal was 22 miles, but I would be content with 20. After the previous day's FAIL I wanted to rock the run and go out with a bang.
I was doomed from the start, though I didn't know it. I started shortly before 9:00. I should have been on the trail at 7:00. The air was still agreeably cool at 9:00 (about 60 degrees) and the sun was obscured behind clouds. I motored along at a nice easy 8:44-8:59 pace, listened to my iPod, and kept a few neurons trained on my left hamstring (some twinges, but not enough to make me frown). I saw the yellow warbler around mile 3 of the run and was very excited. The miles wore on; I ate a Gu at mile 7, and was optimistic about achieving my goal of 22 miles.
And then. At 9.88 miles, I came to Lake Erie across the trail. At least that's what it looked like: a huge sprawling endless puddle with no opportunity to bypass it. I stopped and contemplated it. My insides shifted. Oh no, not now...I took a couple of experimental steps into the water. Instant shoe soakage. Abort! Abort! Reverse direction NOW! Guts lurch again. Spasms. Look around in desperation. No one on trail as far as I could see. Squish, squish, squish over to a grassy spot by the side of the trail. Humiliation. Why? Ugh. I need to start carrying a little Ziploc bag with some TP in it. Still no one on trail. Stand up, adjust clothes, sigh. Look longingly at dry trail beyond the water hazard. Accept defeat 1.62 miles from planned turnaround point at 11.5 miles. Turn around to face east. What's this, now? Sun? Oh noes...
Yes, the sun had burned away the cloud cover and was now beating down mercilessly. I soldiered on, hugging whichever part of the trail offered the most shade, though shade was in short supply considering the leafless state of the trees (spring hasn't quite made its full appearance up here). The temperature was rising, rising, rising (the thermometer in my car said 82 when I was done). I sucked on my CamelBak, ate another Gu. I sweated. My shorts bunched up and I started to feel the sharp bite of chafage. I reached 12 miles and thought, "There is no way I can do another 10 miles." Instant downgrade to 20-mile goal. I reached 14 miles and thought, "If I make it to 20 I will be lucky." I reached 16 and thought, "No fucking way am I even going to do 20. Once I get back to the road to the parking lot I am so done." And so it was: a little more than a mile further I swung away from the main trail and headed back to the parking lot, hitting Garmy's stop button as soon as I reached 17.5 miles. I was exhausted. My inner thigh burned from being rubbed raw. I felt like I had rolled in salt. What was left of the Ultima in my CamelBak was lukewarm. My shoulders were pink. I was pissed. I felt like I had completely failed once again. I couldn't even push myself another 2.5 miles? Across the road, another 1.25 miles down and back? What kind of fucking WEAK-ASS LOSER RUNNER AM I? I seethed at myself, muttering, "The marathon is nine miles farther, do you think you can handle it? DO YOU? Because right now I don't think so! What if it's this warm in three weeks? You can't flame out at 17.5 miles. You WILL finish the marathon."
Grumble, grumble, grumble. GRUMBLE.
Ironically, when I felt the worst and was the most displeased I was running my fastest splits of the day. Beginning with mile 11, my splits went thusly: 8:39, 8:39, 8:38, 8:53, 8:33, 8:34, 8:40, and 0.5 miles at 8:34. I wasn't even looking at Garmy because I didn't want to know how much longer the hot sweaty torture was going to continue. I just ran. Maybe I wanted it to be over with sooner. (Final stats: 17.5 miles/2:33:43/8:47 average.)
Afterward I drove to the Running Fit Trail Marathon & Half Marathon, which was taking place in the Pinckney Rec Area. I was expecting to see some of my running peeps. While I was there I took the opportunity to wade into Silver Lake's frigid waters for an impromptu "ice bath." It felt amazing. I snagged a blueberry muffin and headed home to clean up before my Michigan Lady Food Bloggers gathering (I made pork liver paté; the theme was French cooking).
And so it ended, this, my last big week of training. Except it really wasn't. I didn't run at all last Wednesday, so there went 10 miles. I managed 5 on Tuesday and 6 on Thursday. 4 on Saturday, 17.5 on Sunday, a total of 32.5 for a week I should have hit 52. This week, with 5-8-5-4-12 on the schedule, I will be running more than last week, and I'm entering my taper...
Shut up, quit whining, I'm doing great, right? Hang in there for two and a half more weeks, it's taper time, enjoy it, I've come so far, I'm going to kick ass in Cleveland, BQ in the bag, babies, it was just one lousy run, the whole program didn't fall apart, I did two 20-mile runs, the third was just the icing on the cake, STOP BITCHING. STOP!
Hey, did y'all know I'm running a marathon in less than three weeks? Well, let me TELL YOU ABOUT IT...IN EXCRUCIATING DETAIL! EVEN WHEN THE EXISTING CONVERSATION HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH RUNNING! Don't worry, I'll find an opening somewhere!
So, yeah, I'm running the Cleveland Marathon on May 17...