I am a little more than half way there. Today I ran 18 miles, making week 8 my first week of training during which I broke the 30 mile barrier.
Today also sucked. Hard core sucked.
Up until this morning, I have been on the upswing with each week leaving me feeling more like myself. I'm not quite where I was last spring, which was what I would call the peak of my fitness to date. But I have been getting close to it.
There were a few things that came together to make this morning miserable. One: a pretty challenging route that included the Nickel Bridge and the steep uphill on the other side of it, as well as the hilly section of Riverside Drive (hills that I used to chew up and spit out, by the way) and the long slow include up 2nd Street. Not as bad as 5th Street or even 9th, but Belvidere would've been better.
Two: the weather. 59 degrees at the start and full sun. In February. What the hell. During the summer, this would have been a fantastic cool weather run. In the middle of "winter," it is a terrible hot run.
Last night I was having a complete crisis in confidence and was full on dreading the run. It is never a good feeling to show up to your training run wishing it was over before it even starts. Despite my lack of enthusiasm, things started out ok. For the first 10 miles - the hilliest part - I hung with Lauren and we averaged something around an 8:00/mile pace. This is, of course, faster than I need to be running on long runs and I full well know it. But I just can't help myself. It's so difficult for me to run slower than I naturally want to, even when I know that doing so will only result in pain and suffering later on.
Around mile 10, after we had made the seemingly endless run up 2nd Street, I knew I was toast and that the next 8 miles were not going to be pretty. Thankfully they were blessedly flat; if they had been anything other than flat I may not have made it back. The temperature was rising, the sun was beating down on us. Lauren and Eric, who we had picked up along the way, got ahead of me at Floyd and I let them go; I had to make a quick bathroom break (thanks, Robinson & Stuart Starbucks), which hardly ever happens to me; and when I got to the mile 12 SAG I took my good old time standing there and eating my whole Gu and drinking a few cups of water. I probably stood there for 5 minutes, trying to work myself up to get moving again.
But as I often say, when you're out there, the only way to get back is to keep running. So I did. Slowly. My pace dropped to barely keeping a 9:00. I stopped at GAWS and there were no cups left, so I put my face under the spout of the cooler and poured the water directly into my mouth. I took a wrong turn (nooooooooooo) and thought I missed the last SAG at 16. I was about to just stop and yell "Paaaaammmmm where arrrrreeeee you?????" when I caught a glimpse of the blessed big blue and orange coolers off to my left and made my way ever so slowly to them.
Three other runners from the group were also at the SAG. We exchanged whining about the terrible weather; two moved on and the third offered to run back with me. Thank goodness too; chatting with Mike about his experiences in Boston and trying to keep up with him is what got me to the end. I haven't been so glad to see the end of a run in a long while.
I found a shady spot of concrete back at the parking lot and sat down for a minute partially because it felt cool and partially because I did not want to move another step. I took the opportunity to capture my true feelings about this run.
I was so tired I don't even care that I was on the dirty ground.
That is exhaustion, folks.
The aftermath has not been pretty either. I'm hobbling around the house, my legs hurt and my feet hurt terribly. I used to run 18 miles and feel perfectly fine. Well, maybe not perfectly fine, but pretty decent. After a much-needed shower and replenishing my salt levels with some french fries, I slept on the couch for almost two hours. I'm still feeling pretty groggy and working tonight should be interesting.
In the back of my mind, I am trying to remember how much I missed this. How much time I spent crying last summer because I wasn't doing this. And to remind myself that one crappy run doesn't mean much - crappy runs happen. I have five more weeks of real training before my taper to get my act together and truly be ready to run 26.2 again. Here's to hoping next week is not so warm.