Yesterday, with 25 miles on my legs already for the week, I set out for 18 miles at a 9:20 pace, the farthest I’ve ever run.
Prep: I ate light but carb-y on Friday, drank lots of water, and went to bed by 9:30. I ate a large pasta meal for dinner Thursday, because I read somewhere it takes like 36 hours for your body to benefit from something like that anyways. Plus I’m more comfortable eating light the day before a long run because of my monstrously sensitive stomach these days. That morning, I only ate part of a package of Sport Beans. I think this maybe was a mistake.
I met up with Jennifer at 6:30, a local runner who I met through the running club. She said she could only go for about an hour, but I thought it would be nice to have company for at least part of the run, and meet someone new. It was still dark when we started so I wasn’t looking at my Garmin (and I’m no good at judging my pace) and I thought we were going a little fast when she told me she had just qualified for Boston. With a 3:29. I turned the light on my watch and sure enough, we had run the first half mile in under 4 minutes.
We slowed way down, and got the first mile in at 9:21. I didn’t find the pace again for a long time, but mostly because it was dark and I wasn’t looking at my watch. I tried to judge what 9:20s felt like here while I listed to Jennifer tell me about her training. I like it when my running partner is chatty. Then I get to be entertained but don’t have to waste a whole lot of air on conversation : )
Miles 2, 3, 4, and 5 came in at 9:36, 9:38, 9:38, and 9:28. Jennifer turned around shortly after this and then I was on my own. The sun was starting to come up (it was dreary, cold, and rainy) but I could just see my watch now, so I tried to pay attention since I saw my average pace was way up there past 9:20. 6 came in at 9:40. I just couldn’t speed up. 7 was 9:52. What the hell was going on here? 8 was 9:50.
Aaaaand, cue Jenn having a mental breakdown. As I saw my average pace climb towards the stratosphere, I just couldn’t get it together. I started thinking about how I was only at 7-8 miles and I felt like this–how the HELL did I expect to race Fargo next weekend? I’d never make it under two hours, let alone the 1:53 I really want. And how did I expect to run 20 miles in a couple weeks? And how would I EVER run a whole marathon? And why did I decide I needed to run a marathon anyway? This is dumb. So dumb. I’ll never be fast. This feels awful.
Oh, sorry, need a break from all the negativity? Because that’s what was going on in my head. (And I’m usually a pretty positive person-I’m totally a believer in attitude making a difference.) I don’t know how I got to this place, but man was it ugly. I was ready to quit.
Somewhere in those two slow miles I had to stop twice because my stomach was acting up BAD. I still don’t understand its deal. I don’t know if it’s something I’m eating, or what, but like I mentioned, I’ve taken to eating light and bland the day before a race/long run, and it usually seems to work, but it didn’t yesterday. So I guess that was dragging me down.
I knew I was doing this to myself, that I just had to shut it off. I tried my hardest to just NOT think, because every thought I had was self-destructive. I flipped on my shuffle to see if music would help.
And now, this is SO cheesy and lame, and you’re all going to roll your eyes at me when you read this, and I’m going to think about deleting this post for admitting this, but I think I have some ridiculous Miley Cyrus song to thank for making me snap the hell out of whatever was going on in my head.
Yeah. So, I have a couple ridiculous songs on my running playlist, and one of them is “The Climb.” Feel free to mock me endlessly.
Anyways, when I turned my shuffle on, that’s the song that came on. I was trying so so so hard not to think that I actually listened to the words. I don’t know if I’d ever really heard them before. Here’s some of the lyrics, and what was going on in my crazy head when I heard them:
I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there’s a voice inside my head saying
“You’ll never reach it”
Yes! Yes that’s me! I started thinking. Tell me moooore wisdom Hannah Montana!
Every step I’m taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking
Yes! Yes! I’m getting nowhere here! Dammit I’m barely moving! Tell me MORE!
The struggles I’m facing
The chances I’m taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I’m not breaking
Yes! Struggles! I’M struggling right now. Not quitting. Not quitting.
I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I’m gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going
Yes, keep going! You’ll remember how much this sucked later and that you didn’t quit! Keep going! Keep going!
And I, I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on
And then it breaks into the cheesy chorus. And then I popped off the next miles at 9:28, 9:05, and 9:17.
Whoa. And just like that, my head was back in the game.
I tried to slow the next one down a little and accidentally let it get to 9:34–this was an I-suck-at-pacing problem. Mile 13 was 9:18.
Interestingly enough, my half marathon time was better than what I ran in Sioux Falls. I had my average pace down to a 9:30.
Mile 14 was a 9:28–I was fading a little, but still feeling good, and trying to conserve a little for the end because I really wanted to make the last 2 faster. 15 was a 9:33. A little slower, but still hanging in there.
Mile 16 was a 9:44, and I knew I was fading hard, but still feeling good. Mile 17 ended up being my slowest at 10:01 (ahh it hurts to type that! I wanted so badly to stay away from 10s!) but my legs were feeling it here. Tired, tired, tired. I gave it everything I had left for the last mile, and got it in at 9:35. Not heroic or amazing, but faster than the previous two, at least. Final average pace was 9:34.
I went through 1 package of Sport Beans on the run, and I think I could have used more, looking back at how fast I faded at the end. I had another pack on me, but didn’t think I needed them. I generally take 2-3 every 25 minutes or so, and that seems to agree with me. I also had water and G2 with me, and alternated between water with the beans, and G2 when I was just thirsty.
I think I should have eaten more beforehand, but then I think about my crazy stomach and wonder if that would have only made things worse. I really don’t know. Luckily, I have two 20-milers left to hopefully figure it out.
This next week I dial my mileage down to 32 (this week was 43 again) in preparation for the Fargo Half Marathon (my long run next weekend was supposed to be 12, so I thought it would be fun to get in one last race). I’m going to try to run a 1:53 here, as I mentioned, which is a scary number for me. (My PR is 1:56). My friend who’s basically coaching me says he thinks I can do it though. And if someone else thinks I can do it, why shouldn’t I give myself the same benefit? I have a plan, and I’m going to try my hardest to race that plan.
So there’s maaaaybe one of the silliest accounts of an 18-miler you’ll ever see (I mean, Miley Cyrus? REALLY?) But it’s true. I just happened to hear the exact words I needed to hear at the exact moment I needed to hear them. I’d like to tell you something more dignified was playing when I finally snapped out of it, but sadly, that’s not the case.
But I finished.