Over the past week, I have shown marked maturity as a runner: I took a day off before my long run because I was feeling tight and exhausted, I hid water along the route, and I toughed out the longest run I’ve ever attempted.
I’m notoriously hard-headed. Just ask my mom, or any man I’ve ever dated (or not dated, as it may be). It gets me places sometimes, but it is hard to deal with for a lot of people and can seriously cost my body when it comes to running. I have a history in my short career of running myself into the ground, just because I’ve always had the “Suck it up and do it” mentality. For example, I ran my first half marathon with ferritin levels of 4 – this is the most anemic my doctor had ever seen anyone that wasn’t in the hospital. Personally, I had no idea that anything was wrong at the time, but when I found out two days later I realized that it did make sense – that little ache in my chest when the incline got a bit steep, the fact that I had been really exhausted for a while. But hey, the half was a New Year’s resolution, I had to run it even if it DID take me a very long time (so I went back and won it this year – biggest surprise of my life).
So why is it that as many times as I run through a little knee twinge that turns into a persistent ache I fail to take note of the fact that I am actually INJURING myself? It’s no secret that running marathons isn’t actually a healthy thing to do, it’s a crazy thing to do. However, it can be done if you just listen to your body. I was supposed to have a 5-miler on Thursday before Friday’s 20, but I had gotten up to work a 6:45 AM shift, followed by meeting after meeting for things that are very important for the upcoming school year and thus very stressful, and my hips were really sore for some reason that I can’t quite pinpoint. Lack of stretching, perhaps. I was spent, mentally and physically, and the five miler would have put me at +18% overall mileage for that week, so I decided it was a stupid idea. Instead, I mapped out my route, bought 24 of those mini water bottles, and hid them around my route before going to bed at a decent hour.
The next morning, I woke up way earlier than expected, ate my oatmeal and drank my coffee while watching the Today show. I waited. Then I changed into my running clothes, strapped on Kari’s Spibelt and loaded it with Clif Shot Bloks that they gave us after the Mad Marathon Relay, body glided myself like my life depended on that (stay tuned for a post about that!), laced up my shoes, and took off.
It was gorgeous! I had a sunny day and a disposition to match, both of which were augmented by the fact that my route was absolutely GORGEOUS. If you’ve ever been by Delta Organic Farm in Amherst/Hadley, you’ll know what I’m talking about. So awesome. The preparation paid off: I ate one Shot Blok around mile 7, another two around mile 10, and one or two more around 16 miles. I made sure to drink water with them, and consciously made myself drink most of the water I had stashed. I didn’t get that weak feeling of having nothing left in me, or the mental confusion that sometimes accompanies fatigue. The last 3-4 miles were rough simply because my legs began to get tight, but I knew I wouldn’t stop before I got home. And that’s exactly what happened, although I felt like I was really dragging on those last few miles.
Much to my surprise, I didn’t feel too bad when I got back, just sore in the legs. I had my usual water and flavored chobani after for protein, carbs, and hydration. When I took a second to plug my time – 2:33:00 – into my mapmyrun account, I was FLOORED. Do you know what that pace is? 7:37s! That’s incredible! I had no idea I could sustain a pace like that for so long, and I credit it entirely to proper fueling and rest. There is really nothing like surprising yourself, especially with running – just you versus the clock. Needless to say, I was on cloud nine for the rest of the day, and couldn’t help but share my accomplishment with whoever would listen. Some may call that being a braggart, but to me it was just dealing with the disbelief. I’m still really proud! Now let’s see if I can keep the pace up for the whole 26.2!