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Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Big One

Oh my good Lord, that hurt.

And felt so good.

Yes, I did it. I managed to run the entire distance that was required of me, despite the world's conspiracy to keep me from it. What conspiracy, you say? Glad you asked.

As I mentioned the other day, I've been a little worried about this run for the last couple weeks. It was very important to me that I actually manage to cover the miles in a fashion that I felt denoted effort the entire way. With a solid week of training behind me, I wanted to feel extremely confident going into today.

In this vein, I laid out all of my running gear before I left for my show last night. I had all the clothes in a neat little pile. My pre-workout drink mix was in the cup I would use next to a bottle of water so that I didn't have to turn on the tap and wake up my wife or her mother, who is visiting. Though I only expected to use two, I had three energy gels, pre-cut, sitting in my SpiBelt. The CamelPak was filled to the brim, and I had already put some cash and a piece of paper with my running route into the pocket, and I'd put my keys in when I got home. Everything was prepared.

Then I got a text near the end of the show. The dog had struck. She'd found my SpiBelt and somehow had smelled the energy gels inside, at which point, she tore it apart and ate all three of them. Please imagine that. An already overactive puppy just found three caffeine-filled energy gels. I'm sure the next half hour was hilarious.

But it didn't change the fact that I was now under-prepared. I only had one gel left, and I'd have to make it work. Fortunately, there is a small pocket in the running shorts I'd saved for today, so the loss of the SpiBelt, though irritating, was not a major issue. I reset everything as best I could before bed, but now I was in a bad place mentally. I couldn't even get my internet to work, and I decided that my best course of action was just to go to bed, since I was planning on getting on the road at an impossible hour. I was having a dream about oversleeping when I heard a horrible noise. It was 2:30am, and the dog was about to throw up.

That's right, gels are not so much good for dogs. Luckily for me, I have the absolute best wife in the entire world who took care of the entire situation. I owe her big time. While I thankfully did not have to get up and clean and take the dog out, I did lose half an hour of sleep due to a sick dog, and since I was already going to get very little, I knew this would be a problem.

Still, that alarm went off, and I was out of bed. I'd moved all my things into the bathroom so as to use as little light as possible, and I suited myself up, hopefully waking as few of the sleepers in my house as possible. In the dark pseudo-cool of the morning, I started to run.

The first mile felt pretty good, as did the second. The third mile was mostly uphill, which made it a little more difficult, but I still had a great deal of confidence at this point. My four-mile marker seemed to take a long time to arrive, but five showed up right on time, so I was feeling pretty good a quarter of the way through my run. Then, the weather decided that it would have a say in how I felt today.

You see, I thought I could trick mother nature. By getting up incredibly early and hitting the road as soon as possible, I figured that I could actually get most of the run completed before it started heating up. Last time I tried this route, the sun did not actually break through the clouds until 9, and if my calculations were correct, I would be done with my run well before that. Your move, nature.

Well, nature, it turns out, is pretty good at this game, too. For the first time (that I've noticed) in a few weeks, there were absolutely no clouds in the sky at sunrise this morning, so instead of the sun coming out at 9, it was shining and happy at 6:45. Well played, nature. Well played.

Even before it had completely risen, I could see it starting its move, and this was the first real blow to my strength. I turned north after 7 miles and began what I expected to be the most difficult stretch of the workout, and I was right. Though I tried as best I could not to walk, I knew that I just had too many more miles to keep up my pace, and I let myself walk a couple blocks. As I hit my third rolling hill on Pleasant Valley, I felt the energy draining from my legs. This would have been the perfect time for an energy gel, but I had to save it for another half hour, in order to have it at the halfway point. So instead, I sat. I sat down for a couple minutes to catch my breath. Sweat was pouring off me, and I needed to rehydrate. When I no longer felt like I was going to collapse, I started again.

This would continue for a couple miles. I would run for a while, conquer some great challenge in the course, and then have to walk for a minute or two to recover. When I finally made my turn back West, seeing my shadow thrown across the sidewalk for the first time, I had mixed emotions. I was proud that I had kept moving up the hill, but disappointed by all the rest I needed to take in order to do it. The real saving grace was that I was about half a mile farther in my run than I thought I would be when it came time to take my gel. Very small victory, that, but there it was.

As shocking as this may be, it did not actually get easier. By twelve miles, I was getting worried, when suddenly, I passed a 7/11, and my brain actually did a little work. I stopped in, got some Gatorade (to replenish carbs and electrolytes) and let myself rest for a couple minutes. When I restarted, I still felt a little miserable, but less so, which is always nice. I had to stop again about a mile down the road and recover, at which point I made an official plan. I would run, nonstop to a certain point, and then walk for a little bit. At the end of that walk, I would be about four miles from the end of the run, and then I would not walk anymore. No problem.

Well, that walking bit bled over into a little bit of a rest at the end. I started once more with the intention of continuing nonstop, but almost immediately encountered a killer hill, and my will was almost gone. I was nearing the point when, two weeks ago, I'd given up on the rest of the run, and I simply could not allow myself to do that. What could I do? To whom could I turn?

Jeff Galloway, that's whom.

In a flash of brilliance, I decided to do a Galloway-esque routine of 3 minutes running, one minute walking for the rest of the way, and wouldn't you know, it got me home.

Today was slow, to be sure. It was the slowest run I've done all season. I took several rests that, on a better day, I might not have had to take. The run was poorly planned, even more poorly executed, and it is one of my proudest accomplishments in recent weeks.

Bring on Seattle.

Saturday's Run:
67-79 Degrees (Beginning-End) / Clear, Sunny
20.72 Miles
3 Hours, 6 Minutes, 56 Seconds

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