Two Challenging Runs In More Ways Than One
Monday, December 21, 2009
I had two important runs this past week: Magic MIle and a 24-miler. Little did I know that else was waiting in store for me.
I was actually looking forward to the Magic Mile. The Galloway program that I'm using to train for my marathon uses this training tool to gauge with a good degree of accuracy how fast your marathon race pace could ideally be. With my marathon only 3 weeks away, I was excited to see where I stood so I'd have a confident plan for pacing during the race. My weekly runs and speedwork all indicate that I'm getting faster, so I was sure I'd show a good degree of improvement over my last time in August.
The goal is to run as fast as you can one mile around the track, but "not so hard that you feel like puking" (Jeff Galloway's words, not mine). My plan was to be in bed by 11 p.m. Wednesday night so I'd get about 5 hours of sleep in before the run. Five hours might not seem like a lot, but it's actually a good night's sleep before my training days since I have to get up at 4 a.m. I usually take a nap later in the day when I can.
Unfortunately things didn't happen according to my plan. Without going into detail, I had to deal with some very unsettling behavior by a member of my family. But it's not enough that it's hurtful to me, but it's also hurtful to other members of the family and that breaks my heart. Talk doesn't seem to do any good, so I'm seeking wisdom to know how to handle the situation.
Anyhow, because of that I ended up getting only an hour's worth of sleep before I had to get up and get ready to run. I mentally prepared myself to run well regardless, and when I got to the track I did about close to a mile warmup with a few accelerations towards the end so I'd be ready to run full out.
I felt more awake after the warm up, but I didn't feel physically like I was ready to shatter any records. My goal was to knock at least 10 seconds off my August time of 10:10. I didn't feel like it was unreasonable, taking into account the pace of my other recent runs. My plan was to start out a bit slower during the first couple of laps, with a goal of picking up speed through the last two. My first quarter mile split was 2:25, well under goal pace, but it didn't feel like I was pushing it too hard. Still, I decided to let off the pace just a bit on the second quarter, and when I heard the split was 2:34, I felt like I needed to pick it up. The third quarter felt tougher, and when I saw a 2:36 split, I realized I'd have to go full out to come close to my goal. I gave it everything I could on that particular day, even going to the edge of queasy, because I was bound and determined not to allow circumstances to give me an excuse to not give it my best. The last split was 2:30 for a Magic Mile time of 10:07 - a whopping 3 seconds improvement from August.
I realize that any improvement is a positive, but I was disappointed and somewhat angry. I acknowledge the fact that I didn't get enough sleep and I only had cataract surgery two days prior. But in my heart, I felt I could've done better, and I suppose I hoped that somehow a great time would make all the crap I dealt with the night before seem somehow less significant. I talked with our program director about it, and she told me that any improvement is a good thing, and I could do another Magic Mile whenever I wanted and she'd time me. That made me feel a teeny bit better. Then I did a couple of mile repeats with my pace group. vented to my friend Janice, which helped a bit more. We didn't go extremely fast with the repeats - just focused on pacing. My repeats were 12:15 and 12:17, so I can myself props for being relatively consistent.
Friday was a rest day before my 24-miler. I was a bit nervous about this run because it's the highest mileage I've ever done and also because it's the last really long run before Disney full in three weeks.
I made a Goodwill drop-off, faxed some medical claims to clean out the remaining balance in our flexible spending account, then went by the bike shop to get my Gu.
I wanted to eat a higher calorie dinner that night, but I really didn't have anything in the house to cook. When I came home to more family "stuff", I figured it would take too long to go to the store, then cook, so I decided to go ahead and order a pizza. I'd definitely get my carbs in that way, but I wasn't really crazy about the extra fat before a run. I don't normally eat high-calorie dinners except on long-run days, so it probably wasn't a good idea to experiment. By the time I finished my serving of pizza, I felt like someone put a brick in my stomach. I also ended up eating later than I planned, so going to bed at 10 p.m. came way too early. That time came and went, because there was more "stuff" that ended up keeping me up until 1 a.m. And of course I had to get up at 2 a.m. which left me with yet another one-hour night of sleep before my longest run ever - argh!!!
Another factor to add was a cold front that made its way into Central Florida. The temps were the coldest so far this season, and along with the wind chill, it was kind of tricky figuring out what to wear. I settled on a pair of capris, a long-sleeved running top, fingerless gloves and a headband that covered my ears.
I met with the rest of my pace group at 3 a.m. and after the first half mile, the cold didn't feel quite so intimidating. It's a good thing I didn't know that it would dip down into the mid-40s during the next few hours, lol.
After about the first mile is when I started to feel it. My right heel started to get that nagging pain from a flareup of plantar fasciitis I've been dealing with for about a month now. It happened as a result of being fitted for a new make/model of running shoes and continuing to run in them until I suffered severe calf strains. I took the shoes back and was re-fitted with my original shoe - the new model had JUST come in at the time I took them back. By then the damage was starting to snowball and I woke up in the morning with a painful right heel.
The foam roller and the Stick dealt with the calf strain issues. They're gone now, but the plantar fasciitis is an annoying flareup that seems to pop up unexpectedly in my runs. When it started to bug me at the beginning of my long run, I knew I was in for an interesting morning.
I kept with my pace group for about the first 7-8 miles, then started to slip a bit further back. The heel pain was there on and off, but nothing sharp or severe, so I didn't feel like I should turn back. I'm sure the lack of sleep didn't help either. so I resolved to take it slow and just complete the mileage the best I could for the circumstances.
I kept drifting further back, and a couple of the pace group leaders took turns to wait or run back to me to make sure I was ok. There was never a time I felt I couldn't complete the run, just knew it was going to take me longer than the others. At one point, the leader that was with me told me she was going to run ahead to give the other leader directions for the next part of the route so they'd know where they were going. I knew we were headed towards one of the parks that we normally hit for a water stop. I also thought she'd be back or I'd be close enough to see where they'd made a turn.
Unfortunately, that didn't happen as planned either. I ended up at a major road that went either left or right, and no one recognizable was in sight. Of course the day I decide not to bring my cell phone with me on a long run was the day I needed it. I turned right because some of the landmarks were familiar from previous runs. After about a mile down the road, I asked another runner where the park was and found out I was going in the wrong direction. So I turned back around and headed back the way I came. About a mile later, one of the pace group leaders from another group pulled up beside me and I told him about my navigational error. He offered to drive me to the park, but I politely refused. I was bound and determined to get in ALL of my mileage, no matter what. He told me he'd drive ahead and turn down the street I was supposed to turn on toward the park. I followed him and soon met up with the other pace group leader.
By that time, the rest of the group was coming back from the route she'd given them, and since I'd already put in close to two miles, we ran an additional mile while waiting for them to come back. We finally met up with them and they quickly pulled out ahead of me once again. By this time I didn't care how far ahead they were. I knew the route back to the school where we started, and I knew I was headed into the final stretch. Kay ran with me the rest of the way, and it was nice to have a bit of company for awhile.
We finally got back to the school, about 20 minutes after the others. I felt a bit embarrassed that I was so slow, yet glad to have completed the 24 miles. I felt so strongly that I HAD to complete this run, not only to be consistent with my training, but also as a way of proving to myself that I was not going to allow challenging circumstances to give me an excuse to quit.
I took it easy the rest of Saturday and Sunday, except for going to church. My legs felt a bit sore Saturday, but felt good by Sunday. The foot feels pretty good too. I iced it after the long run, then did stretching exercises throughout the day Saturday and a little on Sunday. I'm already thinking toward Tuesday's run and I'm excited that I'm heading into taper for the next couple of weeks before the marathon.
Training for this marathon is showing me just how much I'm willing to push through any difficulties that come my way and reach the goals set before me. This has truly been a faith assignment and, in spite of difficulties, I see how much I've grown physically, emotionally and spiritually. I'm also getting a bit better at dealing with unexpected challenges that come my way. It doesn't mean that I still don't get upset by them, but I don't allow them to derail me. My training keeps me focused on the positive changes that are taking place in my life, and I know that this marathon is only the beginning.