20 mile attempt and taper

I haven’t been consistent with writing about this training session because training has been erratic. Last year, I’d followed the plan exactly for 16 weeks. This year, I started training 20 weeks ahead of the race so I could ease back into long distance running. I hadn’t eased back into short distances. I have experienced more drawbacks and delays than I’d anticipated. I was so sure that I’d only miss 10-15% of my training. There have been physical problems, family issues requiring my attention, and I’ve felt discouraged on more than one occasion. I want to do it, but what if I can’t do it?

September 17th was supposed to be my 20 mile run. I’d done 16 miles the weekend before with no physical pain. My mind had turned on me, but my body was fine. I ran a race on the 16th and it didn’t really go well. My legs were tight the entire time and I had a slight pain in my right foot that I couldn’t pin point. I would describe it as just an “ow” sensation when I tried to pick up speed. I didn’t think much of it and I prepared for my 20 mile run the next day. I woke earlier than I do on weekdays, got my bathroom rituals done and had my water and a Stinger waffle (gluten free salted caramel is my flavor of choice) like I’ve had for every long run since some time last year.  I set out to meet up with a group to run with all of my race day items on – except anything related to chilly weather because it was hot and humid already.

We had three new runners with our usual group of three and the six of us started together. As it got hotter, I started to hang back and chat with someone who was also in the back of the group. Then, my foot pain started. I felt like something stabbed into the inside of my ankle and the posterior shin. It throbbed and stung as I moved. At 11.8 miles, I stopped my run. I couldn’t go without worrying that I’d have an injury on race day. I started messaging runner friends to reinforce what I already knew. I needed to stop the run. My friend Liz was the one to tell me to go home, get ice, and rest it. I went to my car, sat down and almost cried while I left my group to finish the other 8 miles that were left in the planned run for the day. It took me a long time to actually start the car and leave the parking lot. I took some time to stretch, got back in, and drove to the big name coffee shop drive thru because I didn’t want to see anyone I knew inside. I went home and iced my foot and took some ibuprofen. Then, I hashed out my running plan with a friend who has been helping me train after the injury I had halfway through this training.

No more running two days in a row until after race day. I would need to do workouts that combine running with other exercises to keep my body in motion for long periods of time without taxing my feet or legs through impact. One day, I did the elliptical for 30 minutes, ran outside for 3 miles, and got on the elliptical for another 30 minutes. That run in the middle was difficult enough that I stopped often to stretch my calves. My legs would not loosen up and refused to allow me to do much more than trot along at a 14-15 minute pace. I waited until Friday to run again and set out for 3-5 miles. I did 3 very slow, difficult, and painful miles. It wasn’t any of my previous injuries that came back. My legs felt like the calves would literally snap if I fully pointed or flexed either foot. I couldn’t move any faster, so I had to walk a lot and stay in forward motion. My miles were lurking dangerously close to 15 minutes. The pace is not a big deal unless I’m training for a race that has a time limit that happens to be an average of 15 minute miles. I obsessed over 15 minute miles. I want to finish my marathon the 2nd time I’ve trained for my first. I want to finish and get a medal, too.

I signed up for a “brick” workout [bike + run] for Sunday. The local Fleet Feet was having a Brick and Brunch event in cooperation with a bike shop, Bloomington Cycle and Fitness. My running buddies said we had 12 miles to run that day and they’d participate in the event as well. We ran 9 miles ahead of the event, got out our bikes and set out. I was the slowest person out there on the bike. I was just barely ahead of the person who was there to look out for the group from the back, or the sweeper. The two women I rode with in the back of the pack were really nice about my snail pace and had tips to offer and ways to help make my riding more comfortable. When finished, my running partners were waiting and we set out for a ridiculously hot and humid 3 mile run.

I have never wanted to quit a run in recent history more than this one and I would have if I wasn’t with Denise and Dianna. I was a hot mess. My legs felt like someone tied weights to them. Somehow I was actually running faster than I felt like I was (pace wise). The sun was in the position to beat down from above and the trail was not offering sufficient shade for cooling. We were all miserable. I kept stopping to walk and urging them to continue on and I’d just have to catch up with them later. They were also miserable and we probably evened out the walk breaks inside of the last mile. Except the last 1/4 mile where we ran simply to get back and have something cool to drink.

Oddly enough, I had a blast Sunday. Even that last little run. I was so happy that I ran without my legs protesting the entire time that I just kept saying how thankful I was for one good run. I totally am thankful. I got to hang out and kind of soak in the reasons I enjoy running.

I made myself some really cool sleeves for the marathon using transfer paper, my home printer, and an iron. It was a little challenging and I bought cheap sleeves just in case I messed up or melted the material. I’m used to my other ones with thumb holes, but I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy these for race day. I do see they’re imperfect and I’m aware that they’re both for the same arm, but I’ll still be able to read them and know what they say. I am excited about the marathon. I’m hopeful that I’ll finish. I’m thankful for the memorable training sessions and the time I get to spend focusing on little more than my cadence, breathing, and what’s immediately ahead.

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