They're gonna hafta remove me. Cause I ain't goin' nowhere.

There's a reason why most running coaches and experts suggest that you shouldn't run any distances close to marathon distance unless you're running an actual race, and it has nothing to do with science, medicine, or even superstition. It's because nobody actually wants to run that goddamn far unless there's a medal, free beer and a cheering crowd waiting for them at the end.

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

2 tidbits of wizdom:

Duane said...

You never cease to crack me up!

1HappyAthlete said...

Fitness gained? Immeasurable...

:)

I think you'll find (if you haven't already) that you benefit the most from the really really tough training days, both physically and mentally.

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