Today I went for the longest run of my life. (So far.) The original plan was 20 miles, but weeks and weeks ago I had reduced it to anywhere from 18-20 because of my recent illness and lack of training. My super-secret, dream-it-anyway, overambitious goal, though, was 22 (1 warmup, 1 cooldown, 20 running). How did it turn out? Well, I'm going to start referring to this as the "Van Gogh" run. Because it was so perfectly surreal, not because I cut off an ear. Although, at some points I wanted to cut off something. Start here if you want the words; scroll to the end to see it by the numbers. (I know you numbers people. I know how you work.)
I figured it would take roughly 4-4.75 hours to complete 20 miles - about an 11-minute-mile pace with a 2-minute walk break each mile. I felt so good I abandoned my 5/2-10/2-5/2 plan and just went for 2-minute walks every mile. (Keep this part in mind, 'cause we'll come back to it later.) When I left home, it was drizzling. Believe it or not, I was pleased, because I knew it would be cooler - besides, I've already run 13.1 miles in mud and full-on rain, so at this point there ain't a whole lot that can phase me. (As Tea says, "tears do not compromise my strength." Amen, sista. Likewise rain, ankle-deep mud. Likewise poo and pee. Likewise vomit.) Anyway, I had my iPod loaded with my favorite songs and shuffled the order so that I'd get a nice "surprise" with each one. I'd just re-calibrated my distance tracker on my Nike+ kit, and I'd already confirmed my route with GMap Pedometer. I wore my contacts so I could use my awesome Smith sunglasses, and also because my contacts don't provide vision as sharp as my glasses do, so they help me "detach" a bit from my mind, which is important for a thinker like me on a long run. I was armed with 2 salt pills and 2 Gus in my little clip-on Gu pouch, extra ibuprofen, a house key, $20 cash, my i.d.,and a 24-ounce Polar bottle full of water. It seemed to take a little long for the voice to tell me, "One mile completed," but I shrugged. No use counting pennies when you have 21 miles to go.
21, I thought. Blackjack. Blackjack in the rain? I've done that before - and on marathon-crossover training week, too. It must be a sign. (Of course, that was on two wheels, but it was my body providing what my dad would call the "go-juice.") Well, if that wasn't enough of a sign, around mile 3, I glanced down at the sidewalk and saw that someone had lost a playing card - something you usually don't see unless you're in a big city. Three of diamonds, to be exact. Mile 3? 3 of diamonds? Coincidence? I think not! (We'll come back to this, too.)
I decided to add a mile or two to my route so I wouldn't have to do my planned "additional loop" at the end. (I'm one of those people who hates having to "tack on" a mile or two - I like to get close to home, do my little cool-down walk, and go straight inside. It's a mental thing, but still.) I decided around mile marker 5 to run through my parents' old neighboorhood. It looked a lot different - their once-beautiful yard was trashed, and some dude was working on his heavy-duty pickup in the driveway. Hood up and all, he started checking me out, even gave me a too-friendly "hello." I wanted to yell at him, "I grew up in that house, jackass!" But I didn't - I just kept on moving. Then I was chased up a hill by a scraggly-looking Pek that, from behind, was so unkempt I couldn't tell whether it was a cat or dog. Good news? On mile 5, I'd already "gotten out of my head."
I seemed to be going much faster than the 15-minute mile my tracker told me, and I had lost my second Gu. Nonetheless, I wasn't too worried, because the shopping center 1/2-mile away had a GNC. It was only when I had to stop for Gatorade because the shopping center no longer had a GNC that I knew something was REALLY wrong with my iPod tracker. By mile 13, my watch showed 3:38. My body is getting a little too detached from my mind, I thought. That's impossible. Even my slowest 14-mile time is 3 hours flat, and it was telling me I had taken almost 40 minutes more to go one mile less. But, at this point, there was nothing I could do.
Until I couldn't find a place that had water and I had to buy Gatorade for the SECOND time during the run.
Now, my GI system is VERY sensitive. I cannot handle a lot of sugar and HFCS. I don't even buy food if corn syrup or hydrogenated oils are listed anywhere on the labels. I use Clif shot and salt pills, and the ONLY gel that doesn't make me want to puke is Gu brand, especially Vanilla Bean - that's the best one for Meggan Ann's tummy. So I was desparate to call my husband and ask him to track my route and make sure I wasn't going too far, because I was starting to get rumblies in my tumbly. I couldn't find pay phones, though, and panic began to set in. How far had I gone? 14 miles? 18? I didn't really know. Because I had "added on," and because I don't have a GPS unit to carry on, I was clueless. Worse still, I grabbed a Powerbar with Gatorade #2, only to realize when I got outside that it was a "trail mix bar" put in the wrong box. Meaning more HFCS and sugar. I shuffled about a half a mile, dejected. To my chagrin, my 4.2-hour playlist had re-started. Even more to my chagrin, the sugar and HFCS had done their job.
ALERT! ALERT! ALL SYSTEMS CODE BROWN! REPEAT, ALL SYSTEMS CODE BROWN!
I have "stage fright" (hate to go #2 in public), but this was so bad that I couldn't make any fast movements, so I HAD to find a place to go. 7-11 behind me? - ain't goin' back. Next 7-11? 1.5 miles. Then I finally made it to 7-11 #2 and couldn't cross the road to get there because the light wouldn't work in my favor. So, I stayed on my side of the road and shuffled along to an Einstein's Bagels, thinking I'll get some coffee while I'm there to perk me up. When I got in the bathroom, my contacts were hurting my eyes and making me sick. To make matters worse, it was a one-staller. And - the piece de resistance - a huffy, impatient lady walked in and waited on me. Even though all I could do was a tiny tinkle, she walked out and stood outside of the entire restroom, waiting until I had peed, come out of the stall, washed my face, re-adjusted my bandana, and forgot to take out my contacts.
Shit! (No pun intended.) I ended up struggling for about THREE MILES with this problem. The 3 of diamonds now seemed more like a bad omen than a good sign.
I made it to 7-11 #3, where I didn't have enough change for the pay phone to call Mr. MAJ for assistance. The bathroom was blessedly available, with no other women in sight. But now, I couldn't go. So, I pulled out my contacts, threw them away, vowed to get a new prescription even if I had to pay for the second eye exam myself, and struggled through a run/walk for the next almost 2 miles, during which time a blister on the bottom - yes, the bottom - of my baby toe broke open. I made it home to discover that I had only gone 19.37 miles in just under 5 hours (and I still had a mystery chafe). Well, I'm going to have to do better than that in Philly, I thought. Breaking 5 hours is embarrasing, but 6 is just out of the question.
Lesson learned? NO HFCS or sugar!
Lesson learned? Don't deviate from strategy during the race.
Lesson learned? When undertrained: walk early, walk often!
Lesson learned? I am not sore and felt great until mile 15 or 16, which means I'm not as undertrained as I originally thought.
Lesson learned? Philly's gonna hurt, unless I can get my ass seriously together in the next 3 weeks.
And now for the numbers.
- Ounces of water consumed: 80+
- Gus consumed: 1
- Gus lost: 1
- Number of (successful) visits to 7-11: 2
- Number of visits to Albertson's: 1
- Number of times someone on the street yelled at me while driving by: 4
- Number of times I gave them the finger in response: 2
- Ounces of Gatorade consumed that then made me sick to my stomach: 64
- Number of times I wanted to puke: 8
- Number of miles that "code brown" prevented me from moving at anything faster than a turtle's pace: 3.5
- Number of place I stopped but was foiled from resolving the problem: 2
- Number of "mystery chafe"spots: 1
- Number of miles actually covered: 19.37
- Total time running: 4:59:47
- Total time away from home: 5 hrs 20 minutes