Monday, May 23, 2005

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

This is the best thing I have ever done, and don’t let me tell you anything different.

Driving home from Saturday’s TWENTY MILE RUN (ahem), my windows were down, my sunroof was open, the weather was glorious, and I was filled with endorphins and sugar (peanut butter M&Ms are, bar none, the perfect post-run snack).

I called my brother from my cell phone to congratulate him on his graduation from law school (which blessed event I missed in favor of running—yes, I am a bad sister). After he filled me in on the prep for the party I was missing and other things, he asked me how my run had gone.

“This is the best thing I’ve ever done,” I told him. “No matter what happens on marathon day.” (That part’s a total lie, but shhh.)

“Did you win?”



“Well, if by winning you mean setting a goal for yourself and surpassing it, then yes, I won.”

This, he tells me, is, word-for-word, a quote from the Simpsons, spoken by Principal Skinner in a moment of extreme nerdery. So yes, I’m a nerd. Don’t act surprised. But I’m a happy nerd.

The people that I’ve met, the trails I’ve explored, the Saturday morning in the sun (and, yes, sometimes the rain), the goals set and surpassed, it’s all been amazing. Starting in the winter, when there was ice on the ground and the world was brown and dormant, through the early spring, when the new leaves appeared, until now, with the hot sun burning my shoulders and the lush green surrounding us on all sides, this training process has been worth every whiny moment and achy knee.

My poor brother had to listen to me wax ecstatic as I drove home. And poor Lady Fab had it worse—she had to listen to me say the same crap in the midst of our twenty-mile run. If I didn’t already know that she was a better person than me, the fact that she refrained from kicking me in the shins around mile 17 confirms it.

So I drove home, planning my blog entry in my head, thinking about how I was going to tell you all about how very, very cool running is. Then I parked, turned off the car, and tried to get up.

Yes, tried.

I physically could not get out of my seat. My knees just wouldn’t do it. I finally managed it, with a fair amount of moaning and cursing, by leaning heavily on the steering wheel.

As I limped to my building, one guy asked me, amusedly, where I had fallen.

“Nope, didn’t fall. Ran 20 miles though.”

“That’s a lot,” he conceded.

“Yeah, it’s really a lot,” I grinned.

Then, an elderly lady sitting in the lobby asked me what had happened.

I grinned some more and said, “I ran a lot.”

Still worth it.


So the run itself (feel free to skip this part… this post is getting LONG).

Honestly, it could not have gone better. I had done some feverish calculations, and decided that we should aim to complete the 20 miles in 3:40. That would be slightly faster than our 18-mile pace (completed in 3:23) but with better weather and my newly confident racing self, I thought we could handle it.

As an added bonus, while the trail in Reston is paved, there is a parallel gravel trail, with a lot more rolling hills, which is what we’re being told to expect in Anchorage. The nice thing about Reston is that you can go back and forth between both trails, which we did. We started and ended on the gravel, and probably did about 8-10 miles of gravel over the course of the 20 miles. Again, this is comparable to Anchorage, which alternates between gravel trails and paved roads.

I have to say, while the extra hills can be tiring, I prefer that kind of trail. It’s more interesting, it allows you to use different muscles for different gradients, and there’s usually a downhill not too far away.

I also love having a stop watch and mile markers, so I can keep track of my pace. Knowing where I am and having a time goal gives me more energy, somehow. It’s my own brand of competitive. I don’t really care what other people are doing, but if I set myself a challenge, then I’m going to accomplish it, no matter what.

We ran the first three miles at about 11 min/mile, and then picked it up to about 10:30 or better for the next four. Then we stopped to use the bathroom, which took ages (6-7 minutes), because there was only one, and several people waiting.

We kept up the pace after the bathroom break, hitting the miles at about 10:30 or better for the next 9 miles, even including a few short walk breaks at water stops and in between. The sun was coming out and we wanted to make sure we had the energy to get through the last few miles.

Miles 16 and 17 were rough. I ran out of water and wouldn’t get to refill until the water stop at the end of mile 17. We were on a really sunny stretch of the trail, and we started to fade. Plus, I somehow thought we had an extra mile left, which would mean that we would probably not make our 3:40 goal, and that disheartened me.

But as we approached the water stop, I realized we only had three miles to go and almost 35 minutes to finish, and all of a sudden the endorphins kicked in, and I was raring to go.

We hit mile 18 at 3:18, five minutes faster than we’d done it a few weeks ago.

And we rolled in at the end at 3:39 exactly, having done the final mile in just under 10 minutes (who knew? Lady Fab and I both thought we’d slowed down at that point). And that includes the 6 minutes of bathroom break.

I knew my knees were going to hurt (I should have worn the new shoes…), and they did. As did a lot of the rest of me. And I’m not too thrilled about the speeding ticket I got later that day, or the sunburn on my shoulders. But… see above.

Best thing I’ve ever done.


Blogger Scooter said...

Yep, we're always 20 years old while we run (except the first mile or so) and then 60 after we finish. Your "couldn't get out of the car" fits me to a "t" some days. Anyway, congrats on the 20! You'll do fine at the marathon...just be cautious early.

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Frolicking filly said...

I am so imspired by your blog!!! Way to go on your "trial marathon" can hardly wait to hear about your real one!

2:54 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Awesome work! You're totally ready for Alaska! And maybe the Jens just need a a huge bowl of ice cream when the race is over??

4:19 PM  
Blogger Riona said...

An inspiring post!

You've done your 20-miler, you will rock Alaska.

5:39 PM  
Blogger susie said...

Hey, way to go! That's a run, for sure.

6:58 PM  
Blogger David said...

I was relating to your perceptions of the run in so many ways until you passed mile 14, a place I've never been. I'm working on it right now ... and that's without a goal race. I just want to compete with myself.
Good for you. I think you're on top of the world! (now just don't fall over the bow while you're standing up there with your arms spread out).

9:49 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Hooray! You go girl!

1:40 AM  
Anonymous ksledge said...

wow! I bragged to everyone this weekend that I ran 6 miles, but I know that's a piece of cake for you. :-)

What's the rest of your schedule like until the marathon? Was this your last big one or is there another one?

10:49 AM  
Blogger Flatman said...

Just so rock. I need to get out for twenty. I have a secret. I have never run more than 10 miles at a time. Think I can do it? Sure...

3:06 PM  
Blogger Irene said...

I wished I would have found your blog sooner! I'm running my first marathon in June, but at the San Diego Rock N Roll Marathon on June 5. You've described things that I've gone through! Best of luck to you!

4:38 PM  
Blogger Denise said...

As my "in training" tshirt from Las Vegas Marathon says - "it's the most fun you can have with your shoes on!" :-)

7:03 PM  
Anonymous BD said...

You are SO hardcore.

Other: No you didn't.
You: Yes I did.
Other: Nuh uh.
You: 20 miles. With hills.
Other: Okay. You win.

You rock!!! You are going to conquer Alaska!

The next big challenge is to taper properly. I'm not kidding. You are going to want to run. You are going to feel sluggish. You may even lose confidence. You'll want to push yourself but you shouldn't. These are all hallmarks of tapering properly. It'll make you crazy but your body will appreciate the recovery period.

12:27 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Just checking in on you! Hopefully your lack of updates means your off doing something *really* fun!

8:27 AM  
Blogger Noames said...

Thank you all for your kind comments and congratulations, and for putting up with my unnattractive gloating. I wish I could promise less of that in the future, but I do tend to get excited. :)

9:59 AM  

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