Thursday, September 15, 2005

8 Weeks Almost Down, 7 Weeks to Go ...

September 15, 2005

Seven training weeks left to the New York City Marathon. I started training in the beginning of July. I chose a training program for first-timers who aren’t looking to break any personal records, but simply finish in one piece. The training schedule started at 22 miles/week and will peak at 40 miles/week.

Back in July, the training seemed like a piece of cake. I was thinking, will this be enough mileage for me? Should I add a few miles to each week? But here it is, major crunch time ahead for September and October. And you know what? This training schedule is just fine right now! I have no desire to add miles anymore.

Several weeks ago I ran my longest run ever – the 15 mile long run. I’ve run 13 miles many times both training for and running in half-marathons. So the 15-miler was a new challenge for me. I went to a popular running trail that stretches 13 miles and then added on the extra 2. I kept my pace close to 2.5 minutes/mile slower than my best half-marathon pace. The last two miles or so were pretty tough, but I made it.

About two weeks ago was the 18-miler. The day before I went through several emotions: panic, anxiety, doubt. I was worried about proper hydration along the way. The trail has no water fountains and my Fuel Belt only holds 28oz. of liquid. At the last minute I came up with a game plan. I packed a cooler with a water bottle for when I finish and a second water bottle that I could grab when my Fuel Belt ran out. I also threw some fruit, yogurt and a granola bar in the cooler – I wasn’t sure what, if anything, I’d want to eat immediately following the run.

I ran 13 miles with ease feeling pretty strong. My car was parked at the 13 mile point. While running in place I dumped my empty Fuel Belt in the trunk and grabbed a new water bottle. Then I ventured on to finish my last 5 miles.

I had to carry the water bottle in my right hand, which I found annoying. At this point I was getting tired and the weight of the water bottle caused my arm to fatigue. The path I run is marked every quarter-mile. Here’s where the head games start. I’m tired, running 18 miles on my own with only the company of my iPod mini playing everything from Lynyrd Skynyrd and Dave Matthews to Missy Elliot and Prodigy.

The quarter-mile markers begin to drive me insane. My legs are on fire and shuffling at this point. My pace has slowed remarkably. I finally decided to ditch the water bottle on the side of the path and pick it up on my way back. My vision blurred slightly and I’m still not sure if my contacts were out of focus or if I was about to pass out. I had to walk a few times in the last mile – one of the drawbacks to tackling long runs on your own: there’s no one there to tell you to keep going.

After all the turmoil of the last 5 miles, I made it. I won’t lie – I was hurting. My legs burned something fierce; I never felt a burn that intense in my 7 years of running. All I wanted to do was lie on the ground and take a nap, but I knew I had to keep walking around and cool down. I went to the cooler in my car and took a new, ice-cold water bottle, trying to pace my drinking. I stretched out a few times and then ate a plum as if I had not eaten anything in days.

I had to drive about 25 minutes to get home. I was physically exhausted. I felt as though I only had a couple hours of sleep the night before. Then my husband called my cell and asked how it went. I suddenly perked up and began a re-count of my 18 miles. By the time I reached home there was only one thing I felt: Proud.

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