Saturday, December 10, 2005

Quel désastre

It’s a good thing I just bought my plane ticket yesterday.

Because, today’s run?

Not so fun. (And, apparently, it has turned me into Dr. Seuss. The indignities just keep piling on.)

I wasn’t really up for a run, this morning, when I woke up at 7 to temperatures in the twenties (Fahrenheit). It looked to be a beautiful, sunny morning, but my bed seemed so much more inviting than an 18-mile run.

Still, I knew I needed to get my long run in, and that it wasn’t going to seem any more fun at 10 am, when I wouldn’t have a group to run with. Nine times out of ten, I can shake myself out of my funk just by getting dressed and getting on the road.

Of course, there’s always that pesky tenth time out of ten. Sigh.

A half-mile in: “I’m so not feeling this today,” I told Mr. BPD, who ran the first seven miles with me (and who, God help me, is starting to grow on me).

I deliberately stacked an eighteen-mile run the week after a sixteen-mile run, instead of inserting a shorter run between the two distances. Mostly it was a question of timing—by the time I started training, there were only a certain number of weeks left, and several holiday weekends to factor in. But I also thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea, conditioning-wise. I’ve heard that it takes about two weeks to recover from any given workout. I’ve also heard that it takes a day for every mile (this one is usually meant for races). Either way, I figured the effects of the sixteen miles would still be in my legs when I ran eighteen, and that running when already tired would help me be prepared for the last miles of the marathon.

So when I was making my schedule, I blithely put the two numbers on the calendar, and moved on. I wasn’t feeling so confident this morning, though. My legs were noticeably fatigued, and I had a long way to go.

And two snowstorms this week weren’t going to make things any easier.

Most of the trail is paved with asphalt, and most of the ice had already melted there. But there are a number of concrete and wooden bridges, and more than a few shady spots on the trail, where there was still plenty of ice. Lots of crunchy, refrozen snow, which isn’t so bad, and a few really slick spots. We kept our eyes on the ground ahead of us, ran slowly when we hit an icy patch (every couple of minutes, it felt like) and sometimes ran on the snow-covered grass alongside the trail.

Five or six miles in, it was clear that my sub-10 min/mile pace from the past few weeks wasn’t going to hold up over this run. We were probably averaging 10:30-40. Mr. BPD turned around at mile 7, and, thankfully, I had learned from last week, and brought my iPod with me for the remainder of the run.

For the next 7 miles, I fought myself to keep running, even at my snail-like pace, and I was winning. But soon after the mile marker that signified 4 miles to go, the cramp-like twinges in my left calf got annoyed at being ignored.

There were four miles between me and my car, and nothing to do but keep moving. I walked until the muscle relaxed, and then stretched lightly. I thought about trying to run again, but I was at a particularly icy spot, so I decided not to risk it. I walked on for another couple of minutes, and, when the ice cleared, I stopped to stretch again, this time a little more aggressively. Then, I started to run.

This wasn’t exactly the strategy I used when my calves cramped during the marathon. That time, I used a lot more panic, and also self-pity. I threw in some whining, whenever someone would listen. After the first cramps, I also didn’t give myself much time to recover. The moment the spasm passed, I tried to run again, without really letting the muscle relax, or trying to stretch.

So this strategy? The calm, walk-it-off-and-stretch strategy? Totally worked. I ran the whole rest of the way to my car. I felt a few more twinges, and my quads started burning when I still had about a mile and a half to go, but I kept running.

And I can’t deny that this kind of thing was, in a sick way, exactly what I was hoping would happen when I planned these last two long runs. Because, on any given training run or race, you can only do as well as you can, with what you have, on that day. And the thing they never tell you about race day is that you have a lot more control over your training runs than you do over the race. So I contrived to give myself a crappy run, to see if I could push through.

It sucked. I was tired the whole time, and I could NOT imagine running eight more miles after that. I *really* hope my run goes better in Miami. And, despite my efforts not to care how long today’s run took, I was totally disappointed. Part of me thinks that if I was running this slow, it shouldn’t have been so tiring. But I also think that the ice and snow contributed to my exhaustion—there was a lot more weaving than usual, and stepping so carefully over the icy patches seems like it must be more work than just running on clear ground.

I have two more chances to do better. I will run 20 miles in two weeks, and 22 miles two weeks after that. Plus, the actual race. Which is the run that counts. So… We’ll see.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for a return of the funny, as I contend with water-stop volunteerism, trying to eat right, and fighting my inner lazy.


Blogger Rae said...

Great run! Really, I mean it. The tough runs really get you prepared the most, and this cold weather is frustrating and exhausting. My face and lips are beyond chapped but I keep dreaming of nice, warm Miami and beautiful ocean views. We're flying in Friday night and leaving Tues afternoon, and we're staying at the Radisson.

9:07 AM  
Blogger christine said...

Way to tough it out!!!!
There's well earned lessons for the effort no doubt. BTW your still funny!

3:29 PM  
Blogger jeanne said...

wow. (I really need to come up with another ejaculatory comment.) But just ... wow. I guess you do learn from the mistakes of the first marathon. And the whole ice and snow thing, as picture-postcard perfect as it looks, is freakin' hard work running on.

So, basically, i'm in AWE. You purposely set up a hard run just to make yourself push through it. The mind boggles.

I'm pretty sure there's not a lot of ice and snow in miami. So my money is still on 4:30

And THANKS for the water stop volunteering!!! In the freezing cold!! Winter is fun! We love winter!

5:36 PM  
Blogger 21st Century Mom said...

Sounds like you did great to me! I just had a run where my legs were cold and it is a lot harder than not being cold. I wasn't even tired from a previous long run. I wore a HRM and I was definitely working just as hard but my pace was really slow.... so .... sloooooow.... very frustrating
I believe it is important to be positive with yourself and not engage in self flagellation over these things. You got out there, you ran on already fatigued legs, you were smart about dealing with cramps and you came in.


8:19 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

First off, I totally agree with Rae's comment, the tough runs really DO get you prepared the most. Also running on ice and snow requires more energy than normal running, so your exhaustion was not necessarily unexpected. I also know from years of experience of running on icy and/or snowy roads and paths that your leg muscles are worked much harder as you slip and slide as your body tries to maintain balance. This is one reason people are more prone to injury during this season. My best advice is to keep the pace down a little when the streets are slippery. Most experts seem to say you can run your long runs up to 2 minutes slower per mile and still maintain your marathon pace during the race. Relax, you'll be fine in Miami!

1:29 AM  
Blogger Dallen said...

An 18 mile run never really feels very good. Especially when done by yourself, in the ice and snow. You will feel much better when you race with lots of other people in better conditions. I'm sure the marathon will go great.

3:55 PM  
Blogger JustJunebug said...

i ran (no pun intended) across your blog on Blogs by Women..i just recently started running, had my first "race" last Sunday. And will start training for the Houston 1/2 marathon (2007) this coming October.

i found your blog to be great! and will be back to check in!! great inspiration for me!

4:30 PM  
Blogger susie said...

Of course ice and snow contributed. I'm about to dress up like a mummy to run this morning...and I'm sure it won't be fun. So congratulations on that long run. (And I think all runs count!)

5:51 AM  

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