The current state of my training for the NYC marathon:
I was heading out for a morning run and my teenager asked me how long it would be. “Eight miles,” I said. “Oh,” she said. “So not too far.”
This is where we are now. Eight miles is no big deal. Neither kids nor husband so much as blinked. Nor did I, really. Any run that is under two hours long is no big deal.
I can’t even wrap my head all the way around this and will, therefore, press on.
My official confirmation means that this particular excrement is about to hit the bladed, air-moving device. I’m freaking out a little, which I expected. But I’m also starting to feel like I’m ready to just do this already, which I didn’t expect. Some of that readiness is pure exhaustion, the same sort of feeling you have when you’re a billion weeks pregnant and welcome the tumult of labor because it will be a nice change. All of the running and planning and planning to run is making me weary. Mostly, though, I feel like this will be a very hard thing that I can totally do. Maybe not quickly, mind, and maybe not prettily. But I can do it.
I know. I’m shocked, too.
My 20 miler on Sunday helped move me from the “there’s no way I can do this” column into the “I think I can do this” one. Which isn’t to say that it was easy to cover 20 miles with nothing but my own feet, a few bottles of water and gu, a couple of tissues, and a baggie full of peanut butter pretzels. But I did it.
What helped, I think, was that I spent most of the previous day at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival in nearby Rhinebeck. Yes, there are such things. Yes, they are more popular than you’d imagine. Upwards of 10,000 people go to the festival, to say nothing of all of the vendors and llamas and farmers. Saturday was a giddy blur, which gave me no time to dwell on how far I was planning to run the very next day.
I woke up Sunday morning with a sore throat, a sniffle, and a stiff shoulder, which were all remnants of hanging out in barns for a day, then driving for a few hours through the Catskills. Still, the first ten miles of my run went surprisingly well. The hardest part was to not start too fast, which my tendency for any long run. I should have “you can’t bank time” tattoo’d somewhere on my body where I can see it. Yet some deep recess of my brain believes that you can bank time. It’s right next to my unfounded belief that freezing the leftovers from a dinner I didn’t like will somehow improve them. Pro tip: it doesn’t.
I did manage to run like a bat gently meandering out of hell for the first half of this run, though, so progress has been made. The next three miles were OK. Not great, mind, and I was starting to feel like I had sacks of flour tied around my ankles. I was maintaining forward progress but only just barely.
At mile 14, it got ugly. I was hungry, bored, sniffly, exhausted, and several more of the lesser known dwarves. I started to think about just how much longer I had to go and how I was really only just barely over the halfway point for a marathon. There was not a little bit of existential despair.
I broke open my baggie of pretzels — I decided to try a different mid-run snack that had more salt and protein than Rice Krispie Treats — and shoved them into my face while walking and feeling sorry for myself. I’d been listening to an audiobook for the first half because gentle voices in my ears help me keep my start slow but switched to music to see if it would help. Some combination of calories and tunes and a very small hallucination about singing with Chris Thile helped me get my feet moving again. The next three miles weren’t fast but I made it through.
At mile 17, I told myself that it would be totally cool if I just walked the last three because it’s all about time on your feet rather than speed, right? But after I walked for a quarter-mile or so and realized that it would take the better part of an hour to finish up at that pace, I just ran. Slowly. Persistently. While clutching my baggie of snacks, not because I wanted to eat anything but because it was easier than wrestling it back into my pocket.
Then I was done and spent the bulk of the rest of the day on the couch while forcing my children to fetch things for me.
Here’s what didn’t happen during the 20-miler: I never once thought about giving up and going home. And while at the end of those 4.5 hours of running I was pretty sure I didn’t have enough umph left to go another six, I am also pretty sure I can struggle through this last miles on November 6 if I start the race on fresh legs. That’s my theory, anyway.
To sum up: my biggest concerns now are the beginning and the end of running 26.2.
As for how I feel now, a few days after running that far, well, I’m grouchy and tired but not too sore or broken. My owie foot seems to have gotten over it and I suspect the solution was switching from my beloved Brooks Ghosts to some extra cushiony Saucony Guides. That’s my theory, anyway.
By the end of this Saturday’s long run — only 12! — I’ll be really tapering. Plan for crazies.
This week’s question: what has been your longest run ever? and what surprised you about going that far?