Two Lives, One Lifestyle

18 Miles by Katie
April 19, 2010, 8:26 pm
Filed under: Katie, Motivation, Run

So far, marathon training has gone almost too well.   My pace is faster than I expected, I’ve experienced runner’s high- the first 6-9 miles seem to just fly by, my knees have barely felt a twinge of pain which is a miracle based on my past, and I’ve been endlessly optimistic.  Even when I found out I needed surgery a few weeks ago, I was ready to jump back into my training as soon I was cleared by my surgeon.

And as soon as I was cleared, I went out and ran.   My Team in Training coach (who’s great) encouraged me to try to jump back in on the long run (18 miles) this past Saturday, reassuring me that while speed is quickly lost, it takes 3-4 weeks for endurance to slip away.   As I kept up with the usual suspects for the first 9 miles out, at about a 9:20 average pace, I felt confident that all was well.  But after we turned around at 9 miles is when the real work started.

Around 12, I really needed water.  I forgot my CamelBack and there were only 2 “water stations” with Dixie cups set up by the Team in Training people.  There was a water stop around mile 13 and that’s where I lost the last 2 people I was keeping up with at a 9:40ish pace.   After that, I could not get back into the run.  I stopped and started, I started to dry heave from eating too many Sharkies at once, I told myself how stupid it was to run 2 weeks after surgery and how idiotic it was to not bring more fuel and water. Thoughts like “why did you think you can do this??” and “I’m NEVER running a marathon again” were going through my mind.  I wasn’t getting the sad kind of upset, I was getting angry with myself.

Finally, it occurred to me that this is what people mean when they say a marathon is as much mental as physical.  You can’t bash yourself mentally and expect your body to keep going.  The hours it takes to run a marathon is a long time to keep negative thoughts from creeping into your head, and with physical pain to boot.   I had to refocus and think of why I was doing this marathon- the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  For this little guy.  For people that would give anything to be stuck running 18 miles one day than with chemo for months.  It might sound cheesy but it made me stop bashing myself because I needed a walking break.  Once I stopped feeling so sorry for myself, I was able to convince myself to keep running even if it was at a pace minutes slower than usual.  And if I had to stop to take a walking break, I wasn’t a lazy loser.  I mean, seriously, who calls themselves lazy 16 miles into a run??!  It sounds really ridiculous now but I was thinking it at the time.

Though my mind was in a better place, my body would just not go at my usual pace, no matter how many motivational speeches I had going on in my head or how many time I played Eminem “Till I Collapse”.  I covered almost 13 miles in 2 hours and then took another 65 minutes to go 5 miles.  In retrospect, I did not have enough fuel or water which was probably a huge factor in the pace.  I don’t think it was until this run that I realized how huge of a mental task running can be.  Giving yourself a pep talk for 3 hours is hard.

I finished up and ate a blueberry muffin someone had brought and tried to stretch.   My voice was doing the wobbly thing it does when I’m near tears so I got out of there fast so I didn’t start crying with 10 people staring at me.  Since my legs felt more wobbly and achy than ever before, I called John to ask him to buy me a bag of ice… and I started crying.  I really don’t think it had anything to do with my physical pain, I’m pretty sure those tears were all from being mentally exhausted.  Instead of analyzing it, I just let myself have a good little cry and get those emotions out.  [On a side note, I don’t know for sure but that time of the month may have been a factor in my fatigue and emotional status… anyone concur?]

After my emotions were more stable, I went onto the next mental battle- convincing myself that lowering my body into a tub of ice was a great idea.  The first two minutes consisted of me yelling and swearing and hyperventilating but then the numbness kicked in and it was glorious.   After 15 minutes, John helped me out on my wobbly, numb legs and I waited about 45 minutes until I showered so that my legs could adjust.  I will absolutely do this again after all long runs.   The only place I was sore? The very middle of my quads.  And guess what? That was the only part of my leg not submerged in the ice water.  The rest of the day was spent napping, eating, and sitting on my butt!

Moral of the story:

  • Find a fuel that doesn’t make me gag and use it way more often
  • Carry water/Gatorade
  • Have motivating tunes
  • Take an ice bath

It takes a completely new level of motivation to get through hours of physical effort, and it’s definitely a new skill for me.  The thoughts I can motivate myself with to get through an hour gym workout or a regular run are totally different and have their time and place.   If you’ve trained for a big endurance event, how do you keep yourself focused and positive?  If you can’t stomach gels and goos and gummies, what do you use??

6 Comments so far
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I can’t even imagine. I really admire all of you marathon runners for your mental strength!

Comment by lisaou11

I admire the people that stay strong- I’ve gotta figure it out! I was a whiny mess and said a few times that I am NEVER doing this again…

Comment by Katie@ Two Lives, One Lifestyle

18 miles….woot woot…you totally rock!!

Comment by Kelly

Great run!! I love the runner’s high..evne the one that doesn’t hit until AFTER the run.. and the run is so hard.. but SO worth it!

Comment by abbynormally

haha yeah my immediate emotion is relief but then I usually feel pretty great about it 🙂

Comment by Katie@ Two Lives, One Lifestyle

[…] never felt better after a long run- I didn’t even nap yesterday!  The 18 mile run really broke me down.  But the last two weeks have helped build me back up and restore my […]

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