Sunday, March 17, 2013

Accidental Marathon

My "A-race" this spring is Brew to Brew on April 6th, a 44.4 mile ultra marathon from Kansas City, MO to Lawrence, KS.  A few of our friends from Champaign/Urbana are coming down to do it too, so it should be a good time.  

This past week was my peak mileage week.  I planned on putting in at least 50 miles, including a weekend long run of 22-24.  There were only a few problems with that plan.  First of all, the weather forecast wasn't great for the weekend (rain starting Saturday afternoon/evening, turning to sleet and "wintery mix" all day Sunday).  Secondly, Rob and I both had to do long runs-- and we cannot do them at the same time, because one of us has to take care of Will.  

A real conundrum.  Who gets the one "sweet spot" of the weekend (i.e., Saturday morning), the only time when it is not supposed to be raining?

As much as I did not relish the thought of yet another long run in rain/sleet (it seems like I have done many like that this winter), it made the most sense for Rob to run on Saturday morning.  He is training for a 50 mile trail race and needs to start getting some experience on the trail.  Which is 2 hours from here.  And would take him 5 hours to run.  And would not be safe or remotely pleasant in rain, sleet, and "wintery mix."

So in an heroic compromise, he got up at some god-awful hour like 4am on Saturday and left for the trail.  If everything went well, he hoped to be back by around 2 or 3pm so that he could take over child care and I could leave for my 20+ miler before the rain began.

Unfortunately, I couldn't go back to sleep after Rob got up.  I tossed and turned for a while, feeling kind of hungry and strung out from the already 30-miles I had logged during the week.  Not knowing what else to do, I lay in bed and watched Unbreakable, a documentary about the 2010 Western States 100-miler.  It was very inspiring, but I'll get to that part later.

Will got up around 7am and we cuddled for a while.  We went about our day-- eating breakfast, getting groceries, even going to a Pow Wow on campus and meeting up with Will's BFF-- but I was a bit antsy.  When would Rob get back and what kind of condition would he be in?  Would he really feel like taking care of Will after such a strenuous day?  Would I have the mental toughness to start a 20+ mile run at 3 in the afternoon?  Was it even wise to run that distance, considering that I felt more than a little worn down from a very difficult week?  And when was this rain going to start?  

Rob got home around 2:30, looking chipper, and told me to go run.  I floundered around the house for a while, trying to figure out what to wear (45 and possibly misting, with the temperature likely to drop throughout the run) and how much food to bring.  I am so automated at running in the mornings that I become completely bewildered when I don't start until late in the day.

About 2:45, I took off.  I was a bit too warm, and my waist pack (containing a Clif Bar and some shot blocks) wouldn't stay put (damn these crooked hips).  I was very uncomfortable for the first 7 miles-- a loop in residential areas.  So uncomfortable, in fact, that I decided to swing back past our house, drop the waist pack in the driveway, and stuff my Clif Bar and Shot Blocks into a small pocket on the back of my pants.

That helped a lot.  I ate 2 of the shot blocks and headed on to Forest Park.  I felt even better after I made it to the park-- no more stopping at red lights or traffic on the road.  Just me, on the gravel path, with nothing in my way.

I was using the Map My Run app on my phone to keep tabs of my mileage.  Every mile, a cheerful woman's voice would notify me of how far I'd gone.  

"Nine miles," the Map My Run lady said.  I tried not to calculate how many miles were still left (that would have been too daunting).  It seemed like only a few minutes later, she told me: "Ten miles."  Okay, now we're getting somewhere, I thought.  Double digits at least.  Not quite halfway there, but we're making progress.

I kept moving.  "Eleven miles," she said.

At that point, I decided to name the Map My Run lady Libby.

I was hungry but couldn't eat any more of the Shot Blocks because they were too sweet.  I took small bites of my Clif Bar, which was also too sweet, but somehow more palatable, and I wondered if that would be enough (240 calories) to get me to the end of the run.  "Twelve miles," Libby told me.

By the time I made it to 14, I was beginning my second lap around the park.  It was starting to rain in earnest, but my pace was getting faster, and I felt good.  Peculiarly good.

I did mile 16 in 8:30-- about a minute and a half faster than I should be running for a long training run of this sort.  I only slowed down a little bit during mile 17, when I hit a few hills by the Science Center.  The gnawing hunger I'd felt at mile 12 was gone.  This was becoming effortless.  I was… unbreakable.

I started doing some math.  All along I'd been saying that I would go "22 or 24," depending on how I felt, and now I was certain that I would go 24.  Yet at this moment, it occurred to me that 24 was awfully close to 26.  If I was going to go to all the effort to run 24 miles, why not just add a couple extra and make it an even 26?  A full marathon.

"Eighteen miles," Libby said.  I cruised up and down the hills by the zoo, soon to leave Forest Park behind.  It was around 5:30pm-- I had almost 2 full hours of daylight left.  Plenty of time to run another 8 miles in the rain.

I got slowed down waiting at a stoplight as I exited the park, but soon enough Libby told me, "Nineteen miles."

It is not good to make grandiose plans before hitting mile 20, because there have been many times when I have reached that point during a marathon and immediately been slammed right up against a brick wall of hunger and exhaustion.  But this time there was none of that.  "Twenty miles," Libby said, and I practically skipped with glee.

My only physical ailment at this point was my right pinky toe, which was starting to feel a bit worn.  In my state of discombobulation when I'd left for the run, I had forgotten to change into Injinjis-- the only fail-safe, blisterless sock.  And now there might be a price to pay.  I had a moment of panic, when I began to wonder if I would even make it to my original goal of 22-24.  But I calmed myself down.  A blister on my pinky toe was not going to stop this.

"Twenty-one miles."

Forget about the toe and just keep running.

"Twenty-two miles."  I was now on a section of my running route that I often do in the mornings before work.  It has been months since I've seen it in the daylight.

"Twenty-three miles."  

Just before I hit 24, there was a point where I could have turned off and gone back home.  I didn't even turn my head as I went past-- I knew I wasn't going to stop.  Libby and I had a good thing going.

It was shortly after 6:30pm, and it occurred to me that if Rob was in distress after his epic trail run this morning, maybe I would actually need to backtrack so that I could help him take care of Will.  Without missing a step, I had Siri call him for me.  Rob sounded just as chipper as when I'd left nearly 4 hours ago, and he assured me that everything was fine.

"I'll be home in 20 minutes," I told him.

Home.  Home would be nice.  I would see Rob and Will and eat some BBQ Fritos and maybe have a beer.

"Twenty-five miles," Libby said.  I was running up a hill, but it felt like nothing.

I rounded the loop back towards our house, adding an extra block in our neighborhood to make the mileage come out right.  I got to my driveway  4 hours, 16 minutes, and 38 seconds after I left.  I had gone 26.22 miles, in a time that was at least a minute faster than the first marathon I ever ran.

"Thanks, Libby," I said as I shut off my GPS and went inside.

"Mama!" Will came running towards me.  I hugged him and then drank some water as Rob got me some food.

Running this accidental marathon may have been one of the stupidest things I've ever done-- I wasn't dressed properly and I was dangerously low on calories and hydration.  Not to mention the risk of getting injured from this type of effort (although I will point out that my toe is fine and doesn't even appear to be blistered).  But there was just something so amazing, so rare, to do a run like this and feel, in some small way, unbreakable.  I'm definitely going to watch that movie again on the night before my ultra.

Thanks for reading.

Libby's stats on my accidental marathon:

Accidental marathon



And my total for the week:

Weekly total

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

WOW~~~~~~~ WOW~~~~~~~ WOW~~~~~ that grit and determination must come from grampy george~~~:) may LIBBY run along with you in kansas and keep you on the right course~ you'll burn it up!!! proud of you , can you 'rest' this week????? sigh!! luv you~ mama