17-Mile Run

To close out Week 11 of marathon training, I had a 17-mile long run scheduled for last Saturday. I had planned to do this run while on vacation in Scottsdale. I made a list of my running gear that I needed to pack and even mapped out a 17-mile route from my hotel. But as the week progressed, I learned that it was really warm in Arizona. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how unrealistic it was for me to expect to run 17 miles on vacation. So I decided to change things up and schedule the run for Sunday afternoon - after I got home from my trip. I had taken Monday off too for an appointment to see my sports massage therapist, so the schedule worked out perfectly.

After doing the past few long runs in my neighborhood, I knew I needed to a change of scenery. I have been wanting to check out the infamous Iron Horse Trail; since I have friends who live close to it, I decided to run this 17 miles there, then spend the night at their home since my Monday massage appointment was nearby.

I was a little worried about what time I would be able to start running. My flight back from Phoenix wasn't scheduled to leave until 9:55 am, arriving in San Francisco at 12:15 pm. Then I would have to rush home to unpack, repack and drive out to the East Bay (about 45 minutes). Well my cousin that I traveled with was on a different flight that was scheduled to leave Phoenix at 7:35 am. I got to the airport so early that I was able to get on the earlier flight that left at 7 am, arriving at SFO by 9 am - score!

I was home by 9:45 am, unpacked, and then made me some breakfast. The travel had thrown off my eating schedule and I was afraid that I wasn't fueled enough for this run. So I ate a banana and oatmeal, then rested for about an hour. Then just before I left, I ate 2 sandwich thins with peanut butter.

I got to my friend's home a little after 1 pm, dropped off my stuff, then headed out to the trail.

Armed with my new 4-bottle hydration belt I started running a little after 1:30 pm. While the temperature read 63 degrees, it felt a little warmer - luckily, I wore a hat. It was also windy and parts of the course was shaded, so the heat wasn't as much of a factor as I expected, though it did have an effect on me.

My goal was to stay at an 11:30 min/mile pace, which for the first 12 miles, I more or less did. The first few miles were okay. Since this was a new route for me, there was a lot to explore and observe. Within the first 4 miles I passed by 4 baseball fields. I also ran by a lot of beautiful homes, strip malls, under freeway passes and on some areas, country roads.

2010-03-23_17map
2010-03-23_17map

For the past few weeks, I had been breaking in my new Super Feet insoles. I thought they were to the point of being pretty comfortable so I wore them on this run. It wasn't such a good idea. Just a few miles into the run I started to feel it. While I loved the arch support it provided, it was still a little stiff. Nevertheless, I stuck with it, hoping it would soften up. And during some parts of the run, it felt like it.

When I finally reached the turnaround at 8 1/2 miles, I could really feel the heat, but felt a mini burst of energy for being half-way done. I always run the second half of a run much better than the first so I was expecting great things out of myself. I usually hit a wall at Mile 10, so I braced for it. But 10 miles came and went, and though I was getting tired, I still felt okay. That is until Mile 12 -- the wall came 2 miles later. I guess its a good thing that came later, but a wall is still a wall.

While the rest of my body felt sound (in much better shape than I expected), my feet were screaming. I was thirsty and the warm Grape Propel in my water bottles just wasn't cutting it. I was starving (GU wasn't enough either), and so I started to take 20-30 second walking breaks. But when it was time to start running again, my feet hurt even more. Somehow I managed to push through...until Mile 15.

I was depleted. Tired, sore, hungry, thirsty - so much so I started to cry. I cried because I felt miserable and cried envisioning how I'd feel when this (the whole marathon experience) was over. I swear, if my car had been nearby, I would have quit right then and there. But my car was at Mile 17 and my friends that I was visiting weren't home, so there was no one to call. From that point on, I ran/walked the last 2 miles. Sadly, I could barely even run half a mile before I had to walk again.

I played mind games with myself -- run until this song is over, run to that shaded spot, run to the next road crossing -- whatever it took to get me through. I think those last 2 miles took over a half hour. I have never wanted anything so badly as to be done with this run.

2010-03-23_17Splits
2010-03-23_17Splits

And when I finally was, it felt so good to be able to walk, sit and stretch. I ate another GU while I stretched and drank some water for about 30 minutes. Then I got in my car to drive back, only to feel like my left calf was about to cramp up - not good when you have to press a clutch. So I got out of the car and stretched for another 30 minutes. Finally I felt cooled down enough to drive.

I went straight to Safeway to get more water, bananas and a turkey sandwich. When I got back to Rob and Wendy's house, they weren't home yet, and I could only make it to the garage, so I sat there for 45 minutes eating my sandwich. By then it was past 6 pm and I was getting cold so I went inside and laid on the floor for a few more minutes, then somehow managed to crawl upstairs to shower and clean up.

Needless to say, I slept so well that night. My natural body alarm didn't even kick in until almost 8 am! That's like sleeping in for 3 hours for me!

While I wasn't super sore, I was still tender in some areas - like my feet! Heather, my sports massage therapist (who I call a miracle worker), flushed out my legs. Heather does trigger point massages. They are not for the faint-hearted; they hurt really bad but I always feel so good afterward. You can read my Yelp review on her here.

So another "longest run ever" is in the books, with yet another one scheduled for Saturday (19 miles). I have no idea how I will managed it. There was nothing easy about this run; each mile felt like a battle, and adding another 2 miles on top of it seems next to impossible. But my dear friend Alex sent me these inspiring words:

"It may seem distant or even impossible now, but you never know what one is capable of when we really want something. You've trained yourself physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. Now it's all about achievement and breaking your own boundaries and going past your own limits. Want it, seek it, own it"

So I'm spending the next few days contemplating how I can better prepare for this next long run, focusing mainly on nutrition leading up to Saturday and during the run itself, and getting more sleep. I also plan to start no later than 7 am so I don't have to deal with the heat! And of course the mental preparation, which I think is the key to it all -- "want it, seek it, own it!" -- my new mantra!