Turns out I have a lot to say about marathon training today. This post is kind of an endurance event for your eyeballs.
We got our 18 miler in this morning and it was a total adventure.
We met at 7:30, all giggly and nervous and excited, and started out on our 7 mile run that would put us at the starting line of the Rabbit Run, a little 4-mile trail run (and by little, I mean not a lot of runners, and therefore a very speedy bunch). The first 7 miles went by swimmingly; it was a nice rolling route and we ran it at a comfortable pace.
We arrived 15 minutes before the start of the trail race, so we stopped the clock, drank water, stretched, ate some gu, and then with an "on your mark, get set, go," we started out on the next stage. The race went down a giant, slippery, grass hill, through many of the trails that I often run on, with a few new extras that I'd never run before. The City Forest is a stunning little plot of land with pine-needle covered ground and a beautiful rolling terrain through the pine forest. Filtered sunlight. Just lovely.
Here's a shot of Suzanne and Christine that was on the race website today:
The 3 things that happened of interest on the trail run:
1. I was running along with Jen and she indicated she needed to stop for a sec and told me to go on ahead. I thought she had to pee, so I did go ahead. After a few minutes, I could see no one in front of me, and no one behind me. It was eerily quiet and I started to think that I missed a turn. It messed with my head a bit, but I didn't want to stop running, figuring I'd come across someone or a trail marker just up ahead. The result of this silliness is that I worked myself up into a mild panic thinking that I had missed the turn, that my friends would all be standing there waiting for me, and that I'd have to back track big time, messing up the whole day. So, I spent about a mile of the trail section breathing really shallow, worried breaths until I, of course, popped out into a meadow and could see the ridiculous hill ahead of me with the finish line at the top.
2. Turns out, Jen didn't stop to pee, but stopped because she sliced her leg on a piece of barbed wire! I felt really bad that I had left her behind. She did some quick first aid at the finish line and waved it off as no big thing.
3. At the top of the hill where the finish line was, I was pleasantly surprised to hear my name and find my friend Nancy (of Tuesday's 5K) and 2 of her kids cheering for me! She had seen on the blog that I was running the race, and they came out for support. Loved it!
After we re-grouped, re-filled our camelbaks, and ate some bananas, we took off again for the 3rd leg, still wearing our bib numbers which caused lots of double-takes by passing drivers.
Breaking it up into these 3 chunks was really a great idea, and we cruised along for the next few miles without incident. It was GORGEOUS weather... big puffy white clouds, blue sky, sunshine, 60 degrees.
At about mile 16, I started to feel overwhelmed, a feeling I always get on really long runs at one point or another. You would think (or, I would) that I would have enough experience with longer runs to know not to let my head get the best of me anymore, but there it was. I can only explain it this way: my body is doing fine, my pace is fine, my legs feel fine, but I just get this sense of doom that comes over me that I'm never going to get to the end, that I can't do it, that I'm in over my head. It always comes, but at different points during any run longer than about 10 or 11 miles. And I know that it will pass, but while it is happening, it feels very dark. I don't mean to sound dramatic. I know that I'm just running, and that there is absolutely no pressure on me to run in any particular time frame. It's totally self-induced, and it is the hardest part about these training runs for me.
I'm working on some mantras and some calming techniques that would help me stay in the moment. As soon as my mind gets ahead of where I am (starts calculating how many more miles I need to run) I get into trouble. It just starts to feel too big for me. I am very comforted by having my friends nearby, even when we inevitably spread out by a few minutes toward the last stretch.
When I turned the final corner and headed down the hill to the park where our cars were, I felt great, of course, and although my legs did hurt, I finished strong. I stopped running, uttered some profanity, and sat myself down on the curb. I had the inevitable thought: "8 more miles. ugh!" but after less than 2 minutes, I felt restored and giggly again. We debriefed the run, and to my great comfort, everyone talked about their similar mental demons and their inevitable moments of panic. I can't emphasize how much I lean on these girls and how far we have all come together. If I look at this picture too hard, I'll cry.
My total running time was 3:10.59. Of course, I did stop my clock during the waiting-around time before and after the race, but this puts my pace at 10:37 for 18 miles of running, and I feel very, very good about that. I also felt great for the rest of the day. Nothing hurts at all! Now, I'll work on my peace of mind as we gear up for the final push in the next few weeks of training. 5 weeks until the big day.
Any marathoners or endurance athletes who can offer up some advice on battling the mental demons, I'm all ears.