Have you ever conquered a fear and felt like a huge weight was lifted off of your shoulders? How about conquering a fear that you didn’t realize beforehand was a huge fear, but once you moved past something, it seemed as if all the planets & stars were aligned? That happened to me yesterday.
I haven’t written a whole lot this year about my marathon training. I began training for The Flying Pig Marathon in December 2010 and am coming to the end of my training program in the next few weeks. I joined a local running group called “MIT” (Marathoners in Training) at the recommendation of my sports doctor to try to ensure that I was training smartly and not putting myself at increased risk for injury. After suffering from plantar fasciitis and a stress fracture last year after running in the Cleveland Marathon, I had no desire to travel down that path again. I have really enjoyed getting to know the other runners in my pace group and truly appreciate the selfless dedication that our amazing pace coaches show week after week.
The beginner plan spans 19 weeks and gradually takes the runner from a long run of 7 miles to 22 miles. While I always get somewhat nervous about longer runs (usually over 12 miles), I was really nervous this time around as our long runs increased in distance. We had a really tough day we ran our 16 miler – it was pouring down rain and the trails were partially flooded. This was probably the worst run of my life and I seriously considered dropping down to the half marathon distance for the race. I reasoned with myself that making decisions while miserable was not wise, so I pushed on.
Yesterday was one of our longest runs on the schedule – 20 miles. Last year I developed plantar fasciitis after running my 20 miler (which I now know I ran way too fast) and I fell apart during my marathon right around the 20 mile point. So, needless to say, I had some anxiety about the 20 miler. I didn’t realize how much anxiety I had about this particular distance until after I ran it yesterday. All week long I had prepared by eating & hydrating properly and evaluating how my legs & feet felt. I was so worried and didn’t even realize it. I slept horribly on Friday night, waking every hour. I thought that the run may have been the cause, but I didn’t wake thinking about it, so I brushed it off. I was clearly wrong.
I got up at 5 AM and followed my pre-long run ritual of eating a bowl of Kix cereal (gluten-free, low in sugar, not too high in fiber, doesn’t mess with my GI system) and drinking some water. I got dressed for the weather, which was way too cold for the end of March in Ohio, but I was just thankful it was not raining. 22 degrees and sunny out? I’ll take it. I met up with 2 of the MIT pace coaches and a couple of other girls and we started our run at 6:30 AM. It is so surreal running on the trails in the dark. Yes, one of the coaches had a light, but it almost seems as if it really isn’t happening at the time ! LOL! Nothing like knocking 6 miles out before the “official” starting time for MIT. I think breaking the longer runs into pieces like this really helps my mentality. Now I only had 14 miles left to run.
We used the potty, ate GU and met with our fellow MITer’s and began our run. These are the only runs that I run without music. I use my ipod on all of my other runs, so it is nice to chat with other runners or just zone out and listen to the sounds of our feet striking the trail. We ran out the same way we had gone for our first 6 miles, but since it was now light out, it was as if we hadn’t been that way yet! We continued on to a monster hill that we hadn’t run previously in our training. I was not looking forward to this at all, as I had run hills earlier in the week at my sister’s house. I prayed that my IT band/knees/feet would make it through okay. We took the hill slowly. It was a long gradual climb, but we did it. I think going down a couple of miles later was worse than going up. The grade of that hill was really steep. Check out this image below…while it is hard to read the specifics, the green graph in the middle shows the elevation and you can see that massive hill!
I took GU for energy at miles 6, 13 or so and 17.5. In addition to my legs & feet carrying me through 20 miles, I need to perfect the fueling part of the run. I had many issues with this during the marathon in Cleveland, so it is imperative that I get this figured out and not stray from the plan during the race. The GU is gluten-free and contains caffeine, which is an added little boost of energy. I drink only water when I run. Gatorade is gluten-free, but Powerade is not. The Flying Pig has powerade on the course and I am not interested in carrying my own Gatorade for 26.2 miles, plus it doesn’t always agree with my stomach.
Before I knew it, we only had a couple of miles left. Susanne, Beth & I were on our own at this point. Not all of the runners in MIT run the same distance every week; the distance you run depends on what race you are training for. Additionally, some of the runners opted for more sleep and didn’t start their 20 miles until 8 AM. If I wasn’t crazy, I would have opted to sleep in as well. We arrived back at the school and still had about a half of a mile to hit 20, so we went for a lap around the school grounds. I was not going to stop until my Garmin said 20 miles! LOL! The rush of relief I felt when I finished is indescribable! While I didn’t want to go and run another 6.2 miles right then, I felt that I could. That is the key – still having something left in the tank at the end. We walked around and stretched for a while so that our muscles didn’t immediately stiffen up. After hugging & thanking Susanne, I headed home to stuff my face.
Lots of foam rolling and stretching took place and then I assessed how I felt. Yes, I could tell I ran a lot, but I didn’t feel injured. After getting roughly 12 hours of sleep last night – yes, I was in bed before 8 PM and had several glasses of wine before that – I actually feel pretty good today. “Normal” soreness, but nothing that is screaming out “injury” at this point. I now have 2 rest days in a row to help with recovery.
Now that I can check the 20 miler off of my schedule, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. I had made myself terrified that something was going to happen and I wouldn’t be able to run anymore. I know now that sounds ridiculous and completely irrational, but that is how my mind works. Now I have one more long run of 22 miles in 2 weeks, but I am not nearly as worried about it. Yes, I still need to prepare mentally and physically, but I know that I can do it.