Wednesday, May 28, 2014

all bark and no bite: the 20-miler

Only a few days are so special you remember them always as happy days. Today is my half birthday, which I used to celebrate more than my real one since real ones were so bad for me. Today just happened to be the day we had scheduled my 20 mile run.

I still think of that day in December 2012 when I ran around the block and got to half a mile before I felt like I was going t die. I remember the 5K the week or so before where I hacked all day. I was trying to be a runner again but it was hard. So to think I could then become someone who could run 20 miles in a row without stopping was a figment of my fantasy life. Until today.

Today was one of the best days ever. A friend who has run marathons and she knew before I did that I would need help on these long runs. If you have ever tried to run for 4 hours by yourself, you know that it’s hard. Doable, but hard. She offered months ago to come along with me. Today was our longest run—and next week we get a piddly 12-14 miles. And yes, I said piddly. After doing 16, 18, and 20, 12-14 sounds like a cakewalk. Today was reason to eat cake. 

Some random outtakes from today:


It is already hot here, but today it was not. After a rainy weekend, today the sky cleared up and gave way to low 60s. To have low 60s with only a breeze, not serious winds, in southwest OK when it’s almost June is not very likely. We set this date maybe 2 months ago, and it was perfect. Probably the best day yet. 


So we set off on this amazing day, blissfully gliding down a country road, and we met with dogs. The first ones were no big deal, but we still acted like girls. We were almost to the place we were going to turn and head back a different way when two very angry and mean dogs started running at us. She had the pepper spray ready but neither of us wanted to deal with it. She ordered me to turn and keep going. We went fast enough that they didn’t pursue us. We were pretty annoyed too.

Dogs part deux

And boy did I want to say that to the second people. Those dogs were terrifying—and got very close to us. You have never heard me pray so fervently. Again, Cindy sent me in front of her so she could fend them off with pepper spray. We both got way too close of a look at Mean Dog #1, with #2 in tow. I actually braced myself to be bitten they were so close.  PSA #2. Did I mention what a selfish jerk you are if you decide you own the roads too?

We were trapped and had to run miles around some subdivisions, but we were spooked. Barking was everywhere and it got to where if I saw a dog I made us go down another road. Yesterday a pit bull chased me in my own neighborhood. I found that owner and said pit bull has already had the pound called on her three times, so I was the last straw, thankfully.  But it surely has been an adventurous running week. Last week my friend and I ran from a skunk in Wichita Falls. We definitely are having adventures!

Apart from the evil mangy creatures trying to eat us, the run was uneventful. It was not too hard until about mile 12-13. I really tried to not even think about the miles until after 10. When you start out to run 20, you don’t even ponder the first few. I could not let my mind go there. Fortunately I had good company, well, when she wasn’t talking to the cows. Those cows played right into her and mooed so loudly that she announced that she obviously speaking their language. 

We turned back at 7 miles because of evil dog #1, and then we tried a side road where evil dog #2 came, so we headed back and at mile 13 or so headed into the subdivisions, which I have now probably memorized. We found out way to the creek in Pebble Creek, and even found a trail. Something funny happened there when my friend had to pee in the bushes and almost got caught!

We kept running. She handed me water, and I poured it into my Vapur bottle and kept going. Between us we went through probably a gallon of water. She carried a lot in her backpack but we also planted some for our way back. We finished it, save a couple ounces or so.

We veered to a major road for a while around 14, but it gets hilly and I was not feeling like that big of a challenge! So we went back to the subdivision. Again. Round and round we went, drinking water, eating GUs, and panicking at any bark. 

We started from my house but I live about a half mile from a store where I get my DCIAFCs. So I decided I wanted to stop before that store. 

When my GPS turned to 20 miles, I was crazy happy.

That could be my reward and we could walk home. You’re supposed to keep walking after a long run, and the idea of going home and then walking more was far less appealing than walking with a DCIAFC in my hand! 

We walked a shortcut back, and there were more barking dogs. Besides our fear after our encounters, I just feel sorry for the neighbors of these people who have to live with it day and night.

We got back to my house and Pink Magic came off. 20 miles. I ran 20 full miles. I didn’t walk or stop, not even for the evil dogs. I had run 20 miles. My friend and I were hanging out talking after and I would randomly interrupt our conversation with “I RAN TWENTY MILES.” To her credit she just got excited with me. I think she was on her own endorphin high.  It was a perfect day with a great friend.

Oh yeah, and I got a tan. Um, compression sleeves don't quite go to the top of my socks.

The 20-miler is the run in marathon training. It’s ill-advised to go into a marathon without a 20-miler, for psychological reasons as well as physical. The human body has glycogen stores of about 2000 calories, and we burn about 100 calories a mile running, so the body is made for running 2000 calories away. The marathon is what pushes the limits of human endurance because it exceeds that. Now we know to fuel early to prevent hitting the wall, but it’s still pushing the mind and body past the normal. I can’t say I can yet imagine adding 6.2 miles to what I did today, but the mysterious “they” say that the crowd and the rush of race day pushes you that last 6.2 just as it did the last 3.1 in the first half. Indeed, I trained 10 and ran 13.1 easily. Now I don’t even have to do 10 because I can stay trained for a half, but the marathon is a whole new world. I hope I’ll be joining it in just over 3 weeks because I have reached a milestone with the 20-miler. Now I get to taper. People complain about tapering, but I am excited. It means basically I can run for fun again (minus our last long, but only 12-14 mile, next weekend). Marathon training cramps my free-spirited style, so in some ways I am looking forward to June 22 when I can make my own running rules again. But today I passed the test. The 20-miler is mine. I own it. I did it. And I had a lot of help from my dear friend who maybe missed her calling as a cheerleader and a coach.

I feel pretty good tonight. We will see what tomorrow brings. But I had less aches and pains on this run, and I guess my body has just adapted to the fact we’re going to be running a lot of miles and it’s time to suck it up.

I won’t set any time records in Duluth, but I never set out to prove I could. I set out to prove I could do what 99.5% of Americans have not done. That day isn’t here yet, but I have done the hard work to prepare. 

Duluth, here I come.

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