Living in the Present and the Last 12 Miles

As I get older, I often wonder how my body can betray me. In some ways, it is good that long experience has taught me the skills I need to mentally keep going; but I often despair at ever improving my time and distance.

Yesterday my training schedule called for a 12 mile run. I felt ready for it. After all, I’ve been preparing for this for months. I’ve sweated in the sun, I’ve run hills, I’ve experimented with my nutrition pre-run and during to nail down exactly what and when for optimum performance. I even ran in a hurricane.

Yesterday’s weather was a deterrent for many. But I was out there, dressed for it, and prepared with my gels and hydration plan. It started out 46 degrees with rain and wind gusts up to 25 miles per hour. Other than the temps, this wasn’t much different from the hurricane run.

I felt strong for the first 4 miles, but a bit lost because I didn’t have my running buddy there and had no idea what my pace was. Miles 4-6 introduced some rolling hills through the park. I stopped at the port-o-let at mile 6, eating up about 5 minutes.

Mile four. Picture by Charles Schuessler.

After that quick stop, I was a bit behind the group I was following, but managed to keep them in sight for miles 6-8. My kick weakened a bit. Likely I had gone out too fast in the first 4 and lost momentum on the hills. I played mental games with myself and changed my mantra from “I can do this” to “I will do this”. At mile 8, I actually got a bit of a second wind and kicked a bit harder to mile 10, but still fell so far behind that I lost sight of my target runners.

When the volunteers at the next SAG (support & gear) station told me I was at mile 10, I was thrilled. I gelled, and though I was tired, felt there was enough gas in the tank to get me the final 2 miles. I drank some energy drink and grabbed another gel just in case. It was getting colder, and my slower speed, plus the stop at mile 10, meant that my body was cooling faster than I could handle. I felt my muscles begin to tighten up, and my hands were bright red with the cold.

Here in the home stretch, I was all alone, not the last of the pack, but definitely in the back. Referring to the directions in their little ziplock baggie often, I slowed at every intersection, peering up at street signs to navigate. At mile 11, I stepped off the curb at Grove Ave. and felt a stabbing pain in my right calf.

I limped across the street and walked half a block before trying to run again. No go. After a couple attempts at walking, then running, I was reduced to a slow limp. Tears and rain streaked down my face while I tried to swallow the fact that I have never had a successful run over 10 miles. Eight more teammates passed me.

Eventually, at about mile 11.5, one of the coaches came by and picked me up in her car. There was another runner in the front seat with a hamstring injury and I wondered how she could be in such high spirits while I couldn’t stop shivering and crying. How come this run was such a success for her, when I felt like a total failure?

Theoretically, I should be ready for the race in two weeks. There are no more gains that can be made in that time. All I can do is taper, and hope that all of this training has prepared me for 13.1 miles. I’ve run the entire course more than once. I’ve run through almost every weather condition that might occur on race day. All I can do is hope my calf injury heals in the next two weeks so I can run. Yet I feel like I’ve already blown this race. If I don’t PR, I will be devastated.

Driving home sucked. Even though I was able to change into a dry shirt, socks & shoes, my wet tights and underthings kept leaching water until I was completely soaked again. Despite having the seat heater turned on high and the heat in the car set to 80 degrees, I couldn’t stop shivering until I was home and had been in a hot shower for 20 minutes.

I am choosing to believe that the combination of near-freezing temps and cold rain (there was ice on my pants at the end), contributed to the bad run. I am hoping for 50 degree temps and clear skies on race day. At this point. It’s all I can do.

What I wouldn’t give to go back to my younger self and convince her to start running at age 18 instead of nearly starving herself to death. Teenagers are stupid. Apparently, middle aged people can be too. I set my course then. All I can do now is continue it to its inevitable conclusion.

“These are our few live seasons,” wrote Annie Dillard in

    Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

. “Let us live them as purely as we can, in the present.”

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