Monday, September 13, 2010

So, the 20 miler...

Thanks for your supportive comments, guys.  I read them just before my run Saturday morning, and it made me feel better.  And I headed out there scared but feeling positive.

Started the run around 6:45 am.  It was a nice cool morning.  The first 5 miles felt really long... I kept the music off during this part of the run because early morning is my favorite time to run and it was nice and quiet.  As the run progressed, though, there were mobs of MIT runners out (like literally mobs... I don't think I've ever seen so many runners out at once when it wasn't a race).  Everyone around here must have their training peaking for the marathon.

I tried really hard to make it a negative-split run, but I just couldn't do it.  What seemed to happen is that during the last part (like miles 15-20) I was cooking along at a pretty good pace for me (9:45ish...and I was going at about an 11-11:30 min pace during the first part of the run) but I'm looking at my watch the whole time and then as soon as it's the start of a new mile, I stop to walk for a bit because everything on me hurts.  Then I resume running.  And this is destroying my splits because I don't get "credit" for running a 9:45 mile if I then walk and agonize for a full minute, which reduces my average pace.  It was like I could mentally force myself along for a mile increment and then I would have to crumple mentally for a second before resuming.  I'm going to try to work on that for the next 20 miler.

I felt pretty good from miles 5-15ish, and then the hurting started.  My legs were just aching.  My knees, my hips, the bottoms of my feet, everything hurt.  It wasn't unmanageable though, and once I hit mile 18 it was sort of like... meh, this hurts, but it's not that bad... like I was at the point where the pain wasn't bugging me that much.  The last 2 miles were mostly ok.  Not pleasant, but mostly ok, and I ran them.  I definitely had several moments of thinking "Wait a minute... I do this for *FUN*??"  The killer was that I got back to the entrance to my apartment complex at 19.5 miles so I had to pass it (agh! I could see my car, even!) and then run .25 and come back.  Talk about taking willpower.

I did my usual post-long-run routine (come in, make massive portion of steel cut oats with protein powder, bananas, blueberries, and soy yogurt, get in cool bath, eat and soak while watching some awful reality tv on hulu, then shower) and then I crashed into bed, wet hair and all, and napped for an hour or so.  I felt ok for the rest of the day... tired legs, not so good on stairs, but for running 20 miles I was in pretty decent shape I'd say.  I was still fully functional, went to the store.  And I think I only threw one pity party for myself and it was right after the whole ordeal and pre-bath... my legs were aching so much, I can only think to compare it to how I feel when I have the flu or something, and I just wanted to call my mommy and have someone taking care of me and getting my food and treating me like a little kid.  It was kind of a ridiculous meltdown.  But I was fine once I got some food.

So as far as running far by myself goes.  I know I can do it now, which is good.  And somehow I ran for 4 hours and it didn't feel as long as that sounds, which is also good.  In fact, my memory of it is kind of blurred because I think there were parts of the run where I just kinda mentally checked out.  I know I spent a lot of time thinking about how much further it was until I could have a gel (I was so hungry! in spite of my pre-run banana), and about various problems in my dissertation I was trying to solve, and about things I wanted to eat later, and about things I wanted to do later, and about how it's kind of starting to feel like fall, and about how I might feel at mile x of the marathon, and about how much i hate OSU football culture (game day--lots of jerks out).  And I put some new music and some old on my ipod, along with the 2 Flight of the Conchords albums; I've been watching those shows lately and some of the songs made me smile while running when I thought about the episodes they were from, which was really goofy.  But it helped, a LOT. haha.

But this run made me realize something really important:  I think i have a habit of, when something feels overwhelming, becoming completely paralyzed with fear, feeling that it's hopeless to even start, feeling like it's larger than life and completely insurmountable.  The first few miles of this 20 miler were so tough for that reason.  It was just like... omg this isn't even a SCRATCH in the surface of how far I have to run.  And whenever I perceive that I'm working hard and not getting far relative to the overall overwhelming thing I'm trying to do, it really makes me want to give up.  So, why is this so important, you might ask?  This is exactly what happens to me with my dissertation work.  It was weird around mile 10 or so to realize that this is EXACTLY the problem I've been fighting against for the past 6 months.  Little steps don't feel like progress to me when the whole overall thing I have to do is so daunting, and it makes me get scared into not wanting to do anything.  But I started that 20 miler and it may have taken me 4 hours but I finished the damn thing, one step at a time.  I need to remember that every day when I'm facing work.

Marathon Training:  always more lessons to be had. Haha.


  1. Woo! I'm glad the 20 miler worked out, even if there were some glitches along the way. But you did it, and you'll also get your dissertation written. Great job! Give yourself a huge pat on the back for making it through your first 20 miler. :)

    I got your e-mail; Weds. sounds good to me! I'll drop you a line tomorrow morning.

  2. Debbie: Haha, yes, thanks :D Your encouragement really helped.

    And Jess: I'll talk to you soon :)

  3. I love reading your posts. They reflect so much of what I have gone through with this whole darn process. Including the realisation that I can draw parallels with the thesis writing. And that in both cases, what's holding me back isn't training or talent, it's a lack of mental strength. When I start out of a long run I often have exactly the same internal tantrum that I have when I sit down to write in the morning. It's getting past that that's turning out the biggest barrier for me! Shame I can't organise a crowd of 1,000s to come cheer me on through the writing-up process!

    As for the run itself, it sounds like you did a really good job. With your first 20-miler, and your first LSR on your own, the main thing is to get it done. Doesn't matter how long it takes, or whether you have the odd walking break. Tbh I think it was the 20 miler that finally stopped me stressing about pace. I realised how freakin hard it is to run that far *at all*, and that I should just be pleased that I'd managed it, pace be damned!

    I also know exactly what you mean about the pain! I've been trying to describe it to people, and I can't. 20 miles was the first time I felt that - on stopping it felt like every tiny muscle was cramping, except it didn't feel like regular cramp. Well, I don't need to describe it to you..

    Anyway, good job man. This was a tough run for you, and you did stellar. Be proud of that :)

    ps - are you running in Boston? MIT..

  4. Ohh... MIT is "Marathon In Training"--this really big popular group we have locally. I don't know if it's a national thing and we just have a huge chapter of it, or if it's just local, but people pay like $100 or $150 and get a coach and pace groups to train with. They do their runs on Saturday mornings on the trail where I run.
    Ha, I didn't even think to say what it meant. Sorry.