Saturday, October 29, 2011

Marathon 2 Training - 50K in the Rain

Today was, without a doubt, the best run of my life. It was also the most difficult, but that's what makes it so rewarding. I set out at 3:30 am to run 29 miles, my last long run before beginning a 4 week taper and countdown to my 2nd marathon (although by now I've completed or exceeded that distance a total of 3 times). When all was set and done, I had run/walked a total of 31.5 miles and been on my feet for over 7 hours. It's hard to put into words what transpired within myself during those long hours, but I'll give it a try.

It was already drizzling when we started and I could not believe we once again had to tackle a long run in the rain. I thought I had already paid those dues, but apparently I still had a remaining balance. Thankfully it was warm, so the rain felt mostly refreshing. It rained lightly on and off, and at points it felt like an annoyance. Whenever it was not raining, it was really humid so I struggled from the beginning with my breathing. My body got used to 2 weeks of nice cool weather and had already forgotten what it's like to run in the warmer temps.

Knowing this was the longest run ever for Kirsty and I, we took it easy and ran with 1:1 intervals the entire time. For the last 4 mile loop (which turned out to be 4.5), we switched to 2:1 intervals because it hurt more to walk, and were in awe we were still running strong. Yes we were hurting, but our speed was not suffering. For the last 2 mile stretch, we gave up the walk breaks all together and just brought it home at a steady easy pace. Every fiber of my being was screaming for me to stop. My entire body ached and every step was painful, but I knew nothing was broken and I just had to soldier on.

Those 2 miles were the most important in my entire 5 months of training. I had to dig SO deep to keep moving forward and not give up when my body just wanted to quit. There were times when I really could not believe my legs had not already collapse from under me because they sure felt they would any minute, but they didn't. My co-leader Kirsty could tell I was really struggling and kept my spirits up and would not let me quit -- not that I was going to let myself stop after coming this far. She started asking me what I was going to do when I finished, and had me describe in great detail my post-run meal. It was amazing! It really help distract me, forget the pain, and give me the strength to keep pushing. There is NO WAY I could have done this without her and Stephanie by my side, as well as the rest of the Sole Mates that joined us earlier.

When we got back to the school, we went for a cool down walk around the track, then I begin to do the math. My iPhone app and Garmin watch both had issues during the run, so I had tracked half on each device plus tried to keep track of the inconsistencies from the other's devices. When I realized we were close to 50K, I talked Kirsty into walking a few more laps at the track. I could not believe it! I had done a 50K! Sure there was no t-shirt or shiny medal at the end, but I don't need an entry fee to say that I am an ultra marathoner. I did it because I wanted to; because I could. And that is the greatest reward ever.

I cried all the way home because I could not believe what I had just accomplished and because it finally sunk in that I can do this. As soon as I saw Jason, I broke down in tears again. I was still doubting my math skills since my brain had stopped functioning, so when I got home I manually mapped the entire route and we ended up with 31.5 miles. This includes 1 mile or more of straight walking, very slowly, and even with that mile in the calculations our average pace was 13:30 min/mile. That is incredible! We probably ran 30.5 in something closer to 13:15.

Despite what felt like excruciating pain during those last 2 miles, most of it went away as soon as I stopped. Sure, I'm still a bit sore all over, but nothing unusual after running for 7 hours. When I got home, I did another first and sat in an ice bath for 20 minutes. It was not as bad as I expected, specially when I spent 5 minutes prior to adding the ice sitting in the bath tub letting it slowly fill with cold water. It felt great!

Today I transcended pain. During those 2 miles, as I struggled to keep moving forward and battle the roller coaster of emotions in my head, I knew I would finish. I accepted the pain as normal; it became background noise. I learned to suffer and that my body can handle a lot if I my mind lets it. Running this marathon in 4 weeks in under 5 hours will be tough, and a LOT of hard work, but I KNOW I can do it. I just have to believe that I can and be ready to work for it. I will hang on to that feeling I had when I pushed through what I thought was my limit because I came out the other side unscathed and a better person. And even if I come up short, it no longer matters because I KNOW that I've done my very best and that is all that counts.

Thanks again to my entire Galloway group for making this possible! I cannot wait to share Space Coast with all of you, whether you are there in person or in spirit, I will carry each and every one of you with me as I complete this amazing journey.

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