Not 20 or 18. Not even 21.
So for the past month the miles I’ve run have all felt very draggy. Every time I’ve laced up my shoes and set out to run I’ve just felt like a flickering light bulb. Almost ready to burn out. In need of an extra hand to give it a turn to reconnect it. Not sure. It was one of the two. I didn’t know what, but I needed something.
Early February, I took a stab at a tough ultra. That resulted in over a week of recovery and I felt like I was losing more ground. On one hand I was kicking myself for not being prepared enough, fast enough, tough enough… to finish the 50k ultra. On the other hand I was upset with myself for trying it in the first place when I know and knew that my focus is the road marathon. But hashing it over in my head really does NOTHING.
Focusing forward, I recovered (finally) but was way off of my training schedule. Far under my weekly goal mileage and unable mentally or physically to attack anything harder than an easy run, I was back to beating myself up about poor decisions, poor planning, and piling way too much on my plate. My little filament of a flickering light was so dim it was barely there.
Barely there but tenacious (or just ignorant) enough to keep at it, I did. Three weeks after the ultra, I finally mustered up the strength to do an easy, steady 20-miler. It was way off of what I had on my schedule but it was something. That was last week. Since then, I did a couple of runs with some tempo and some miles at marathon pace. Also something. Getting somewhere? Maybe? But that light still flickered.
This weekend’s long run was to be 22 miles. Start with 2 miles easy, then 4 miles @ just under tempo/faster than marathon pace, 10 miles easy, another 4 miles @ just under tempo pace, followed by another 2 easy.
Yeah, right. I was SO not going to do that.
The night before, I resolved to just do something. Just run long. Maybe I’d spice it up with a few fartlek miles (a little faster than the rest). That was it. In the morning I got up. Nursed Babycakes. Downed some coffee and some quinoa. And I began to plot my run which I was planning to start in about an hour after breakfast. Maybe I could do 3 and 3 instead of 4 and 4 miles hard? Then it was, “maybe I’ll do 2 and then take a break and do 2 more”… breaking up the 4 and 4 harder miles. Scheming. Trying to think of anyway to make this run happen and not just run easy. Flickering. Still, flickering. Oh and I was only going to do 20 because I thought 22 was unnecessary. Right. Whiner.
I got going. Felt okay getting started. I put in three miles easy 7:50ish is my easy pace. 3 miles was an okay concession instead of 2 because of what came next.
I was still planning to do 2 hard and then take at least a half mile break. So I punched up the treadmill to 9.4 which is about a 6:27. After 2 miles, I thought, “no way are you taking a BREAK!” I didn’t need a break. I felt fine. I kept at it and knocked out the first set of 4 miles hard. Okay, we were getting somewhere. Since I did 3 to get going, I knocked the 10 down to 9. Those miles went so fast because I had another hard 4 looming. So I hit mile 16 and took off. Feeling the fire under my tail, I took a second Honey Stinger gel at mile 17 mostly for race practice. I do like those energy gels. They are super sweet but go down really easy. Since it’s honey, it sort of melts in your mouth faster than most traditional gels. I digress… Still feeling okay at mile 18 and running around a 6:25, I started getting cocky. I punched it up to a 6:20. Nearing mile 19.5 I thought, hey, I could do one more at this pace. Actually, I knew I could do more than one more hard. When doing a hard run or intervals, it is good to finish feeling like you could do one more. Or at least that is my motto. So I sucked it up an took on mile 20-21 and even quickened my speed to 6:15. Whew! That was tough. But I hit my last hard mile knowing that I could do more. I had and have more in me. And so I finished with an “easy” 22nd mile.
Spent but on fire for what is to come…
I got in a hard 22 miles but even more than that I finished clearly seeing the light at the end of this training tunnel.
Possibly the best part of this is that I woke up the next morning with very, very little soreness and no pain. Soreness is one thing, but aches and pains make me nervous because injury is always a possibility. Instead, the day after this run, I was up and at ’em feeling good. Chasing around this little one and trying to keep his coffee consumption down to a minimum.
We’re all ready for more.