I look happy because, at last, I had reached my parents’ house!

I just finished up Week 7 of the Marathon: Own It plan from Train Like a Mother: How to Get Across Any Finish Line – and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity for an October 7 marathon, TBA. Somehow, in what seems like the blink of an eye, I’m now running up to 18 miles in one stint on the weekend, like I did on Saturday. Yet it was a 13-mile run two weeks ago that nearly did me in. Let me tell you about both long runs in an effort to share my lessons learned (which I’ll put in bold so ya don’t miss ’em).

I was in Connecticut, visiting my parents with my kids for our annual summer visit. The plan called for 13 miles, so off I went–despite it shaping up to be one of the hottest days of the year. I was still getting used to being three hours ahead of Oregon time, so I didn’t head out the door until about 7:30 or 8:00. (Head out early when forecast calls for hot temps.) I carried a single water bottle with me, laced with orange nuun; halfway through, I had some workmen refill it from a garden hose. (Carry more fluid, or stash bottles along the way.) In the shade, I felt decent; in direct sunlight, I was like a vampire, nearly bursting into flames. (Plan the shadiest route possible.) My willpower was flagging as quickly as my energy, and I did, for me, the unthinkable: I slowed to a walk several times. (When your body tells you to slow down or even walk, do it.) I scanned every yard and driveway, hoping for a sign of life so I could ask for more water. (Run at least part of your run past civilization or commerce.) By the time my mileage reached double-digits, I was getting concerned about heat exhaustion; if I’d had my iPhone instead of iPod, I would have called for a ride. (Carry your phone in iffy weather, if not all your runs.) There were no signs of human life…except for a half-full bottle of Poland Springs by the side of the road. Against my better judgment–but in desperation–I picked it up and poured a bit of the near-scorching water on my hand. It didn’t burn like acid, and it didn’t smell foul. So, yes, I did: I drink the found water. (Again, stash water bottles of your own along your planned route.) The fluid revived me, and allowed me to finish the 13 miles, but it was one of the ugliest runs I’ve ever done.

In contrast, Saturday’s 18-miler was a thing of beauty. We were visiting relatives on the Oregon coast for the weekend, and I set out before anyone else in the house was awake. The skies were overcast, and the temperature hung around 60 the entire three hours I was running. I was unfamiliar with the area, but my husband’s cousin had suggested I run south instead of north, thus avoiding monster climbs and more traffic. (Ask advice if you’re running in a new-for-you location.) I listened to several podcasts (including ours!) on my iPhone. I ran nine miles out, then turned around, fueling at miles 4, 8, 12, and 16 (figure out your fuel intake in advance–and stick to your plan). I drank nuun from my Amphipod belt, but when I spied a roadside cafe–and later a drive-up coffee cart–I stopped to drink more water. (Again, listen to your body and run by places where you can get assistance, if need be.) By Mile 13, instead of feeling like death warmed over as I had two weeks prior, I felt strong and in charge. There was no doubt in my mind I was going to finish this run in great shape; it was merely a matter of ticking off the miles.

When I finished, the phrase that kept running through my head was a line from a song my son made up at age 3 at a backyard party where a garage band was playing. “Rock star; princess. Rock star; princess.”

Whenever my hubby or I feel like a star, we sing John’s line, “Rock star; princess”