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The Weekly Mile: Week 23 (The 20 Miler!)

Monday, September 17, 2012

You guys. I ran 20 miles. In a row. And I only took about 3/4 of a mile in accumulative walk breaks...

I feel like a Super Hero.

Except I also feel like I've been hit by a Mini Cooper. Preparedness, I'm sure, for the fact that after I run this Marathon, I'm going to feel like I've been hit by a Mac Truck. So for now, I'm good with the Mini Cooper.

This was my last official week of Marathon Training. Welcome to the Taper! The next 3 weeks are going to be about cutting back, and hopefully not freaking out about what's to come, but for now, here's the recap of this last week of long miles.

I have definitely managed to increase my speed with all of this running. It's nice to know that when I hit the pavement now, I actually have to make a concerted effort NOT to run faster than an 11:30 mile. The goal right now is not speed, but I've managed to ace a couple of my shorter runs and come up with amazing PRs which I did AGAIN this Friday, bringing my new 8K (5 mile) time to under 55 minutes. I'm chalking this up to have a lot to do with my massage therapy and the time he is spending on my hamstrings and calves - which before he got to me were increasingly tight and wound up. My bi-weekly therapy treatments are NOT pleasant (I'm like a fish jumping around on the massage table every time he hits a soft spot), but they are well worth the "good pain" to have stretched out major muscle groups that are responding by rebuilding faster and stronger and better than they were before. That's the name of the game here, and although I feel like my body physically looks the same as it did before I started training, I know that under the marshmallow, the walnuts are pretty firm. Aww yeah.

I ran 7 miles without socks. I don't recommend that. It results in small blisters on your baby toes. But the issue was this - I hate running anything longer than 5 miles around my house because a) I'm bored of it, and b) I usually run after dark and the neighbourhood roads making tripping all too real of an issue because they're badly lit - so I had brought (what I thought was) all of my running stuff with me to work so I could run on the trail, but half way through dressing discovered my lack of socks. Thinking my shoes were loose and comfy enough anyway, I laced 'em on and just went for it. Eww. I was fine until my feet really started to sweat at about mile 4.5. Then it just got gross. And sticky. And not that my shoes smelled like roses before this incident, but... you get the picture. I should have gone to CVS and bought a pair of socks. It was an afterthought. Gah.

I made up for it with my record breaking 5 miler on Thursday morning. Take THAT stinky shoes! (Maybe stinky shoes run faster? They're trying to outrun their own stench).

After 2 days of rest and more than long enough to build up any muscle weaknesses and a good case of nerves, the day of my official 20 Miler rolled around. I fueled the days before like it was the big race - after all, when else are you going to get to test out all the proper set-up procedures for race day if not now? So this is it - the last day to make sure that your marathon plans are in check and work the way you want them to.

I awoke at 5am and padded to the kitchen to prep my race-day breakfast of champions:

- Loaded Oatmeal (1/4 cup steal cut oats, 1/4 cup rolled oats, 1 tbsp flax seed, 1 cup vanilla or chocolate almond milk & cinnamon sugar put in the fridge overnight to soak)
- Add to the oatmeal 1 package of trail mix (whatever kind you like, right now I'm partial to the Emerald Breakfast to Go packs, but it should have nuts, chocolate and some other fun goodies in there)
- cut up a banana over top
- 1 light string cheese
- coconut water
- coffee or tea

I had purchased this new coconut water/espresso drink on Saturday that I was going to try, but I decided against it. Even though I always drink both coconut water and a caffeinated beverage for my race breakfast I didn't want to take the risk of something not agreeing with my stomach, so I'm going to try it for one of my shorter runs this week before using it before the marathon. I also picked up a new pair of underwear on Saturday (the MOST wedgie-proof according to the sales clerk), but again, you don't want to risk that on a 20 miler, so I'll try them out on my 8 mile this week.

I had my clothes laid out and my race bag packed the night before and had pre-ordered my cab to get me to the start line. Nikhil messaged me from France where he is currently on vacation to tell me to have a good race :) Sweet boy. I did my stretching routine and was half way through getting into my gear when the cab called. He was early! So thankfully since I had everything already packed, I threw on the rest of my stuff and was out the door. Best to not have to think too much the morning of. This kind of stuff will always happen!

It was a COLD morning, so I wore a running jacket over my tank to keep warm. As soon as I got to the start line location, I found the line for the porta potties and got in it - waiting to pee is always a great place to meet people :) I had a really nice conversation with 2 other girls - one also running her first marathon, and the other had just completed her sixth! So much fun to hear all the different perspectives. By the time I was out of that line, it was time to go get in line for gear check. I didn't want to shed my jacket too early, but I thought we were getting ready to queue up for our Wave # so I decided to hand it over. Oops. The chills set in and I felt like my body was expending additional energy just to keep warm, so I walked back over to the now shorter potty lines and went again. Just to make sure! Haha. Back over to the queue line to find out that our Wave didn't have a leader, so since we were the last wave to go anyway, we were grouped in with the wave before us. All was good except that the wave ended up being SO big, there was no way to keep with the pace leader. Looks like it was going to be my OWN run from the start, so that's exactly what it was.

I thought that this race was going to fairly closely mimic the feeling of the marathon which is a big reason I signed up. In terms of the distance and the aid stations, it absolutely did - but it was a really quiet run. Though people were running together, there was a very hushed seriousness over the pack, and conversations were short at best if they were even there at all. I struck up a brief conversation about Glee with a couple of runners, but they quickly passed me at the first aid station and that was that. I spent some time around mile 4 listening to a couple of older runners (he had just turned 65, she 55) talk about their previous marathon experiences. Wow - now that's inspiring. They didn't know each other, but were running the same pace and had struck up a conversation and I enjoyed eavesdropping on their talk, listening to why each one chose the marathon in the first place and why they continue to come back to the sport. I found a good pace buddy, and for about the first 6 miles we leap-frogged each other, running side by side for a lot of the time. But I lost him as well around mile 7 when we crossed through the narrows at Navy Pier and I was absolutely on my own for the rest of the race, running long stretches of the course where there was literally no one around me. So much for the moral support! I think I was also feeling lonely. This is the first race in which I knew no one else running, and no one was scheduled to meet me at the finish line. With Nikhil away in Europe, I even had to find my own way home. So I am very much looking forward to the marathon where there will be people there to cheer and support me, because though I am doing this race for myself, and am more than capable of getting myself through the mental tough spots completely on my own, it doesn't seem worth it without SOMEONE to celebrate with.

I managed to find a good rhythm, walking through all the aid stops which were about every 3 miles. I started to really tire at mile 15, but made a bargain with myself not to take an official walk break until mile 16 (my distance from last week's long run). At that point I agreed to walk up to a quarter of each mile left and run the remaining distance. This method seemed to work well, but by mile 17.5 I needed something more. Cue the music! Just in case, I had been traveling with my little stick of gum Shuffle in my pocket the entire race, loaded with inspirational songs for when I needed them. So for the last 2.5 miles, I broke out the tunes and low and behold, running got easier. I continued my walk/run mileage until just after I crossed the 19 mile mark and then just decided to go for it. All the way to 20. The finish line looked SO GOOD. I pumped my fist in the air and gave high fives to a bunch of people cheering on the finishers, completing my run in 4 hours, 8 minutes. Pretty much right on schedule factoring in about 1.5 minutes for each rest stop.

I grabbed water, apple slices and found my way to the Muscle Milk tent to get a quick recovery drink into me with a bunch of protein. I then found my gear - which they had bused "Boston Style" to the finish line for us since we started on the North Shore and ended on the South Shore. Yep - Lakefront Trail - finally - start to finish! I queued up for my souvenir t-shirt - a beautiful blue Merrill top, which I peeled off my sweaty tank and replaced with immediately for some dry comfort and a picture.

And then I spent some time relaxing on the grass and refueling a bit with more water. I finally remembered that I had pre-purchased a turkey burger, and there was a beer tent calling my name, so I headed over to check out the fixins. Biggest disappointment of the day - they were OUT of beer! NOOOO!!! Oh well, I got a card for a free Goose Island brew if I go into the brewpub - which I will. I picked up my chicken burger, took one bite and decided it was far too disgusting to ingest (not something I usually EVER say - so you know how bad it was), and ended up tossing it in the nearest garbage. Bummer. Word to the wise - don't pre-order post-race food. #1 - it's usually been sitting out far too long by the time you get there for it to be decent. #2 - there is so much FREE stuff at the race finish that your entry already helped pay for, why spend big bucks on anything else when you can eat for free and then go out to a nice restaurant and get quality food later? I would have been better off to just fuel up on the bananas, bagels, apples, cookies, coconut water, Muscle Milk, Clif Bars and other freebies. No shortage. Not to mention, I always pack emergency snacks in my race bag, just in case I need them. Lesson learned.

Since we were down by the Museum of Science and Industry on the south side of Chicago, one very cool feature was that they had buses waiting for us to be either dropped downtown or taken back to the start line. I chose to get off the bus downtown and walk to the nearest subway station to get home. I hobbled up Columbus Drive at Monroe where they already have the Marathon banners flying and felt my heart start to quicken. In 3 weeks, I'm going to running up that same drive, with those banners in full view, and the finish line in sight. Pitter pat, pitter pat.

Nothing to snap you back to reality though like 3 flights of stairs down to the subway. Burning. Quads. OMG.

Finally home, I soaked in an epsom salt bath for about an hour and spent the rest of the afternoon catching up on Breaking Bad from a horizontal position on my couch, and ordering in enough amazing Thai food to sink a small ship, which I proceeded to eat...all of. Oh yeah. It was damn good.

I'm fairing pretty well today all things considered. Like I said - Mini Cooper. The Mac Truck has yet to come. I feel like I have been through an incredible journey, and yet in some cases, I am only at the beginning. With all that said - Welcome to the Taper!

Week 23 Schedule (Completed):

Mon - 3 miles
Tue - 7 miles
Wed - Rest
Thu - 5 miles
Fri - Rest
Sat - Rest
Sun - 20 Miles!

Total Weekly Miles: 35
Total Weekly Calories Burned: 5164
Weekly Friday Weigh-In: 187

Week 24 Schedule:

Mon - Rest
Tue - Rest
Wed - 8 miles
Thu - 5 miles
Fri - Rest
Sat - 14 miles
Sun - Rest
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