Sunday, August 31, 2008

16 Long, Slow Miles

Yup. That was me today. It's hard to believe that a week ago I felt ready to rock & roll at the Maine Coast Half-Marathon three weeks from now, and today I was slogging around the Arlington Airport with lead in my legs.

I shouldn't be too hard on myself, because I know I've been just as slow many times in the past, and really it's just since I got the Garmin that I've been more aware of my occasional* snail-like pace. And I was just as slow on my long run at Green Lake three weeks ago, even with the "iPod fartleks." Slow and steady might not win the race, but at least it gets you through the long runs.

I might have been better off if I'd started earlier in the morning. I meant to, really. But one show on the Food Network led to the next, and somewhere in there I fell asleep again, and then Meet the Press was on KONG (alternative NBC affiliate channel), and before you could say "get your lazy ass out of bed, you lazy ... um... lying-in-bed-person"—it was approaching noon.

People who are living in hot climates probably cannot imagine going for a run in mid-afternoon without expiring from the heat. But I had checked the weather forecast last night, and the high today was only supposed to be mid-60's, so I wasn't too worried about that.

It was warm enough that I decided to leave my jacket in the car and just use my waist pack for my phone and car key. There were a few times when the sun was actually glaring on me that I felt a little hot. But amazingly, there were other moments when it went behind a cloud and I felt a bit chilled. Obviously, I wasn't running hard enough to get overheated!

The running trail around Arlington Airport is actually a great place to run, even if it's not a fast route for me. I've been told it is 5½ miles around, but today when I measured I got more like 5¾ miles. Parts of the trail route have been changed to accommodate some road work or construction or something, so I don't know if that accounts for the difference.

I ran counterclockwise for my first two loops. Why that direction, I don't know. I do the same thing at Green Lake. The first mile or so parallels a busy road, then the trail turns into the airport. I described the route back in March when I ran up there for the first time. This time, however, I figured out that there was a gas station along the route where I could stop to use the bathroom without having to divert all the way back to Starbucks!

A lot of the trail is gravel, and I'm not crazy about running on gravel. Maybe that's why I was so slow. Yeah, that's the ticket.

While not horrible, this was not one of my more exhilarating runs. About a mile and a half in I was groaning to myself, not even two miles yet! Although that's pretty common—the first few miles always seem endless!

After the first lap, I stopped a quarter of a mile or so onward to use the bathroom at a gas station. When I stopped my timer, I was at 6.22 miles—just about the length of a 10K. The length of the Nike Human Race that many people are presumably running today. I actually signed up (for the "run where you are" version), but since I don't have the Nike+ stuff I don't know how I would actually record my time. More importantly, I would not want to claim those 6.2 miles, or any 6.2 miles from today's run, as a timed 10K. Too, too humiliating. Not to mention I have no intention of displacing the Run-a-Muk results with a crappy successor.

This 6.22 mile stop may have been the low point of my run. Especially when I looked in the bathroom mirror and saw rolls of flab sticking out from my waist pack. Usually the waist pack acts kind of girdle-like and makes my waist look very trim—but somehow today the fat had managed to escape. Well, at the very least, this certainly made me abandon any thoughts that maybe 6.2 miles was far enough for today!

So back out for loop number two. The second time around was easier, if not faster (and it wasn't), because I was thoroughly warmed up now and I was familiar with the route. Landmarks seemed to come more quickly.

After two full rotations and another bathroom stop (at which I preemptively sucked my stomach in before looking in the mirror), I was at 12½ miles with 3½ to go in order to meet my goal of 16 miles today.

This is where I cut a sweet deal with myself. My original plan had been three full rotations, but when I measured how far one time around was, I decided that three would just be too far. So after I did the two, I would turn around and go clockwise for half my remaining distance, then double back to finish.

Okay, I know that doesn't sound like there's any special deals or bargains in that proposition. It's really all psychological. By doing the last portion as an out and back, I "only" had to go 1¾ miles out, before turning around and coming back. Two teeny-tiny short little stretches in lieu of another very, very long loop around the outside.

I almost managed to convince myself that it really wasn't that far.

I would never have gotten through any of this without my iPod playing in my ear. I had already gone through a couple repeats of my power songs. In these last few miles I resorted to repeated playings of Ain't No Mountain High Enough, occasionally interspersed with You're the First, the Last, My Everything. Not your normal running songs, I know! Although, I must say that they both have quite a good beat to them and the Barry White song was a staple from my treadmill days. But really, to me they evoke my favorite movie, Bridget Jones's Diary**, and playing them puts me in England, a little bit.

In case you are not intimately familiar with Bridget Jones's Diary,*** Ain't No Mountain High Enough comes on when Bridget is driving with her parents to the Darcys' Ruby Wedding party. The scene is in the Cotswolds (although technically that is not the part of England where Bridget's parents lived, at least not in the book); it is just after Christmas, and it is quite snowy out (although technically, it really doesn't snow that much in England). Bridget, you see, had just realized that she likes Mark Darcy, very much (just as he is), and is heading off to the party to tell him so. Her father is driving too slowly for her taste (perhaps due to the snow on the ground), and she makes him move over (to the left side of the car, where passengers sit in England) so that she can drive chaotically over the hills (no doubt on a one-track road). Throughout this scene the song (Ain't No Mountain High Enough) is building up, and reaches its high point as Bridget surges over the hills and screeches to a halt in front of the Darcys' house. Mansion, really. (After which Bridget scurries inside and proceeds to thoroughly embarrass herself in front of a dumbfounded Mark Darcy.****)

So anyhow, reliving all of this (I mean in the movie-viewing sense, of course) did help to move the miles along a bit. I went over those snowy hills again, and again, and again! Actually, there was a bit of time where I was even singing along—"Ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no valley low enough..." etc. Under my breath, mind you! Even if I had the nerve to sing out loud in public (not that there was anyone around), I'm sure I did not have enough spare breath in my lungs to expend on singing.

Finally, I reached my turnaround point and headed back. Easy peasy from here on, right? That's what I kept telling myself. Shortly after I started my final mile, maybe a quarter of a mile in, I decided to find my sixteenth wind and kick it up a notch for the final stretch. Amazingly, I had something in me that clawed its way to the surface and I was able to finish in a burst of glory. The last mile was ten minutes, which obviously does not sound very fast, but keep in mind that I only sped up partway into it, and I had just run 15.25 miles beforehand!

But I did feel pretty cruddy after I stopped. I walked around the parking lot for a bit before I crawled into my car. At that moment, every bit of me hurt a little. Even sitting down was uncomfortable. Luckily, that feeling passed pretty quickly, although the achy legs remain (even hours later).

I was going to stop by my parents' house, but I didn't have a change of clothes with me. I had the brilliant (I say that facetiously) idea to stop at Target and pick up something quick and cheap to change into. About 40 minutes and $100 later (which included a dress that I will probably be wearing to work on Tuesday), I left Target with a change of clothes that I no longer probably needed because by that time my sweaty running clothes had pretty much dried. Oh well.

I bought a pair of shorts to change into because I thought I might want to try soaking my legs in an ice bath, or at least going down to the beach and walking in the water (which is pretty much the equivalent of an ice bath). I really liked the beach idea, but it was a little late in the afternoon, and everyone was eating by the time I got there, so I scrapped that idea. And as for the ice bath, I still haven't managed to work up the nerve.

I did manage to persuade my sister to try massaging my legs a little bit, since I don't have a personal physical therapist/masseuse. I wasn't a very good subject though, since every time she touched***** the back of my legs I shrieked. I think her technique needs a little work! (But she did throw in a few minutes on my back, arms, and feet, and she did a good job there. Maybe my calves and hamstrings were still over-sensitive.) I also laid on the floor with my legs up the wall for a few minutes and man, my hamstrings are tight.

In a few minutes I am going to throw myself into a hot bath laced with Epsom salts. I know that is the opposite of all recommendations. Perhaps I will be able to attempt an ice bath in the winter (bear with me here) when I actually have the heat on, and a cup of hot tea or hot cocoa by my side!

Tomorrow's a regular "short run" day. I expect it will be another very slow run. (Mondays always are, anyway.) But since it is a holiday, there is no need to go out at 6 a.m., so I can "enjoy" a leisurely 9 a.m. run and still have the rest of the day to play. I'm thinking I need a pair of shoes to go with that dress from Target....

*More than occasional.

**You're the First, the Last, My Everything is actually from Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. And that plays when Bridget... oh, go watch the movie!

***And if you are not, go watch it immediately! I would myself, if that would not require me to sit upright, rather than in a bath, which is my next destination.

****A look which Colin Firth does quite well. As we shall see....

*****And by touched, I mean jabbed, poked, squeezed, pounded!


Michelle J said...

Wow, my friend!!! You rock!!

I love Bridget Jones Diary!!! Great film!!


Kristin said...

You're so sweet, Michelle! (I hope you're getting my replies back in email.) I hope your legs are getting a well deserved rest, if you've finished your running streak!

Terri said...

Kristin, if it makes you feel any better, I was hurting too at the end of my 16 and 17 milers. The way I survive the ice bath is to put on running clothes, and my warmest bathrobe and then sit in the ice in my bathtub. Karen at, drinks hot tea while she's in there. It is amazing how much it helps your recovery afterward.

The important thing is you got through it. And I'm with you on the headphones. I think we can wear them in the Women's Only Maine Coast Marathon, right?

Kristin said...

My theory on that is if they really care whether you use headphones, they will make it VERY VERY clear. On the one race I ran where they were banned, and others I've read about, the ban warnings are posted very obviously in the race information. I don't go reading the fine print to look for a ban. I have done a couple runs where there were some fine print comments about headphones, and tons of people used them, and nobody had a problem with it. I like to take a "don't ask, don't tell" approach unless otherwise notified. And I have not SEEN any bans related to the Maine Coast Half Marathon! So I'm assuming it's okay. :) And thanks for your tips! Thankfully 16 miles is the longest I'm going to go prior to Maine!

Laura said...

I always procrastinate on the morning of my long runs too! I make a deal with myself that once I get out of bed, I HAVE to go for a run before I can do something else. The problem with that idea is that then I end up staying in bed and watching TV! :)