My Legs Are Fine, After All, They Are Mine

I left a little early for City Stadium on Saturday morning — I had left my headphones attached to my work computer, so I stopped by the drug store to pick up a new set. It was raining and cold. Thirteen miles without music to disassociate to was just not going to happen. Little did I know…

Sitting in the parking lot at City Stadium, jamming out to the fun. album (God I hate trying to type their name; the proof reader in me freaks out every time), listening to “Stars” at excessive decibel levels, it was exactly 7:20 a.m. when the first gigantic snowflake fell across my line of sight; 10 minutes before go-time for the run. I sent a rare text to Byram announcing the changeover from rain to snow and decided I must be crazy.

We pulled out of the parking lot in what I would call a heavy snow squall; the flakes were enormous so I knew it wasn’t going to last forever, but it was impressive looking. It was about 35 degrees, so the snow wasn’t sticking to anything except my wet technical clothing. I was proud of myself for being clever enough to wear my baseball hat, keeping the snow and rain out of my eyes.

Around the 4 mile mark two things happened. First, it quit snowing and switched to occasional rain showers. Second, a lady I had been pacing quietly behind turned to me and said “We ought to run together” I guess since she and I were the only ones from the team in sight. I never run with a partner, but we had a similar pace going and she said she was only running 10 miles; I figured it would just be temporary, so I agreed, plucking my brand new ear buds out of my ears and looking forward to hearing my music again later.

When we got to the spot where the novice distance runners were going to split off from the 13 mile runners, she said “You know, I feel good and you are helping me so much, I think I will do 13 miles.” Like it or not, I had a partner for the next 2 hours. We talked a lot; we had some similarities in common aside from our pace and we made small talk. I told her about my gastric bypass and talked about my running history and such. She told me about her kids. We talked about her job and mine; we both work for the state. She knew someone who works for a division here at my office, which led us to talking about the delicate balance of state regulation and the free market. I love sharing those ideas and inherent difficulties.

Her company really helped make those dull middle miles between 5 and 10 go by with less boredom. By mile 10, we were both tired and between mile 11 and 12, we did a lot of walking. My hip was really bothering me, and she had something bothering her, but I don’t remember what now. My memories of the late miles in really long distances are never very solid. Byram and I have concluded it is due to the fact that all the oxygen in your body is going to your heart, lungs, and limbs, and less so to your brain, which is why late in any aerobic effort is a TERRIBLE time to try and learn technique or skill. In a run, it is the ideal time to zone out and ignore as much going on around you as you can and still stay safe.

The last couple of miles were slow and painful. We talked much less and I don’t recall many specifics; I know I talked about how much I hated what a slow runner I was. She offered some encouragement but shared similar sentiments. We acknowledged that we could still be in bed doing nothing; instead, we had accomplished something extraordinary.

If you consider running 13 miles extraordinary. Not everyone does.

We got back to McCloy Avenue, at the bottom of the stadium, a little less than a half mile from our parking lot, but no matter which way you go, it is straight uphill to the lot. I remember very little aside from telling her if she felt she could go faster not to feel like she had to wait on me. I also remember the moment her Garmin chirped that we had done exactly 13.1 miles. We were still only halfway up the hill.

There were 4 cars in the lot when we finally arrived; 2 people were just talking and hanging out. The other two belonged to us. We took the Red Lantern award – the last finishers. But we did finish, we did the full 13 miles not the Novice 10 that she had set out to do. And it was all over.

I got to the van feeling completely destroyed. Just like I felt after the Instant Classic last year. Just like I felt after the Richmond Half Marathon last year. My whole body was sort of a nexus of pain, but from the hips down, I felt like I had been beaten with a sack of oranges by a couple of angry gorillas. Just like both times I ran 13 miles last year.

Ten minutes later, I was grinning, singing along to “Carry On” at the top of my lungs, trying to keep from speeding south on Chippenham Parkway heading home. Adrenaline is an incredible restorative, yes?

Will there ever come a time when 13 miles isn’t agonizing? What would I have to do? Run longer distances and run 13 miles much more frequently, I suppose. Would I want to do that? Why? I certainly enjoy the post run adrenaline rush but is there ever a reason to go further, longer, harder? I really would like to finish 13 miles not feeling like I just described above.

13 is a lucky number for me. I have now run that distance 3 times and each of those three times was similar — painful but rewarding. Exciting and slightly terrifying.

When I got home, Byram greeted me at the door with a huge smile, and as wet and sweaty and gross as I was, I accepted his bear hug. I earned that hug. I skipped the ice bath as the snow and sleet had just done me in for cold; my lips were a bit blue between cold and probably all the oxygen in my body still being concentrated around my core. I stuck to the foam roller and The Stick to work on my hamstrings, IT band, glutes, and calves. That seemed to be sufficient since the next day, I was not as sore as I have been after the races I have run. I didn’t even need so much as a Tylenol. I will remember that for post-Instant Classic.

I am enjoying the feeling today that I ran 13 miles without all the post-race baggage I tend to come up with. After a race, I get those post-race blues; not so this week. This is what I believe is the most important aspect of that 13 mile training run. It did a lot for my body I sure, but it did the most for my brain. It is a good feeling.

Less than 4 weeks and counting now. We run 10 miles this weekend, then I anticipate another 12 miles on Saturday, March 3rd, and then a serious drop back the week of March 9th; probably 6-8 miles that Saturday when we begin tapering for March 16th. That means only 2 more double digit runs for me until the race. It’s getting real now. That’s good. I’m getting to where I finally feel ready for this.

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