Last week's 17-mile Run was hard. As in what Miles 20-26.2 feel like during a marathon. It'd been 4ish months since I last ran this distance and I forgot how hard it is. With the pain and suffering fresh on my mind, I had so much anxiety leading up to this weekend's 18-miler.
With only 5 weeks left till New York, I knew I had to practice running over bridges and hills so I planned to run my usual route in the City but add in a jaunt across the Golden Gate Bridge.
On Friday, I laid out my clothes and fuel, and packed my gym bag with a change of dry clothes and other gear that I would need. This shows you how nervous I was - I don't even do this the night before a race!
I got a good night's sleep (8 1/2 hrs!) and was up at 6 am on Saturday. I left home at 7 am and was at the UCSF Fitness Center before it's doors opened at 7:30 am. I dropped my gear off in a locker and then warmed-up on the treadmill for 10-minutes.
My PT recommended doing these exercises to fire up the glutes before a run.
I walked for 2-min at 3.5, then walked for 3-min at 3.0 with a maximum of 15% incline, then lowered the speed to 2.0 and dragged one foot at a time on the TM belt - 2-min on each side. Then I finished off with 30-sec of high knees and 30-sec of butt kicks. I've had great runs every time I've done this, including this one.
As soon as I started running I felt comfortable and at-ease. All the anxiety magically disappeared.
I cruised by the ballpark, to the Ferry Building and past Fisherman's Wharf. Even the climb up the Fort Mason Hill didn't seem so bad. There was none of the usual countdown of how many miles to go. I felt relaxed and the miles seemed to fly by.
When I hit the 10K mark I decided it was time for fuel. Since I felt so depleted at the end of last weekend's run, my coach recommended trying Honey Stinger Chews. I've had some at home for a long time but could never figure out how to carry them on a run. This time I put them in mini zip lock bags and stuffed them in my sports bra. I ate one bag at the 10K mark then had a great climb up to and across the GGB.
I hadn't run the bridge since March and was pleasantly surprised to see how cleaned up it is now that all the construction has been completed. The run and bike paths are clearly marked and there's new signage everywhere. Bikes are no longer allowed on the east span (you hear that tourists!) making it so much easier to run across.
The climb seemed longer than I remembered, but it was cool and foggy which made me happy.
As usual, I ran my best miles on the bridge. So much love for the GGB!
After the descent off the bridge I stopped at Sports Basement to refill my water bottle and Nuun. I had a hard time starting up again, mostly because I think that stretch back towards the Marina Green was rather boring. I had my second and final pack of Honey Stinger Chews just before the climb back over the Fort Mason Hill.
I barely remember running back through Fisherman's Wharf (which means the tourists weren't too bad) but once I passed the Ferry Building I hit a wall. That second to the last mile was the toughest. My legs were tired and my hamstrings were screaming.
I found myself repeating, "Be grateful you can do this" over and over again.
Once I hit the final mile things didn't seem so tough anymore and before I knew it, I had reached 18.03 miles.
I stretched for a bit, then walked back into the gym, grabbed several towels and headed straight for the locker room. I did 15-min of Legs at the Wall, then changed into my swimsuit and swam a few laps in the pool for about 10-minutes. I think doing this really helped my legs because they felt so much better afterward. I sat on the steps in the pool and just let the cool water wash over my legs. Later I sat in the dry sauna for about 5-min.
After a quick shower I cleaned up and headed home. Some of my anxiety was also attributed to how my legs would feel on the drive home. They were so thrashed after the previous week's run that I was worried about cramping up while driving a clutch. Turns out it wasn't any issue at all. The drive home was fine and I ended up going out for sushi with my family. Perfect post-run meal!
It never fails to amaze me how much one can grow and progress in a short amount of time.
Just six weeks ago I struggled to run 9-miles. Four weeks ago I barely made it to 13-miles and could not imagine running one step further. And now, just one month later I was able to finish an 18-miler without feeling like death at the end. It is gratifying to see hard work pay off and yes, I am truly grateful to be able to do this.