The Road to the Half: Twelve Miles
Each long run is an entry into uncharted territory for me, and I always wake up these mornings with a feeling of dread. I won’t be able to do it. It will be very hard. How will I manage such a long distance? All of these thoughts swirl in my head each time I embark on a long run.
I usually try to map out a course on roads mixed with our local trail system to get me to the allotted number. It’s boring running endless loops in our park, no matter how pretty it is. But today I didn’t really feel like dodging traffic and cars so I decided to carve out as much mileage as I could on our trails and just repeat it as many times as I needed to.
What I’ve been doing is parking my car somewhere that I will pass multiple times during the run so I can stop for hydration and fuel rather than carrying a water belt. I have one, but I drained it on my eight mile run a few weeks ago. I knew it wouldn’t be enough for these longer ones. So today I packed two big water bottles, a GU gel (first time to try this), and a towel to leave on the front seat and mop off with each time I stopped.
I started out in a flat area in the park. Even though it was chilly this morning (50 degrees), it took me less than half a mile to start sweating. Fortunately I had guessed this would happen and ditched my jacket in the car quickly. From there it was a four mile out and back on our trails before I got to my car for a water stop.
I was feeling pretty good, but still wondering how I would make it if I was only one third of the way done. I took just a few sips of water, and went for the loop around our lake. In exactly one mile, I was back at my car, but I bypassed it to add a little mileage before I stopped again. This put me at 5.6 miles, nearly halfway, when I stopped again for water and a GU gel.
I’ve never had the GUs before, although everyone says they are the best. I liked the caramel flavor I chose, and downed it with some water. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be any better than the M and Ms I used on my last long run, but I was willing to try.
At this point I needed to exactly repeat the route I’d done before and add a little extra at the end. And I honestly felt really strong until around mile 9. It was then I had to start doing the mental pep talks: Just make it to your car and then you can stop. I started doing the endless math in my head of how many miles would be left when I got there.
It was 10.24 miles in on my RunKeeper when I stopped for more water and to stretch. 1.76 miles to go.
They were, of course, the worst miles of the run. I don’t know what would have happened if I’d just kept going, instead of stopping at my car, but I just felt so much more tired afterwards. But I don’t think I would have made it without more water, so it’s kind of a moot point. I allowed myself a few very short walk breaks for the last loop around the lake and then did the final plod towards my car.
Literally plod. I felt so heavy for that last half mile, like I was just plodding and hitting the ground so hard with each step. My feet were killing me. I knew I was chafing in all sorts of places. But I was determined and I honestly felt better in this last mile than I did for my 11 mile run last week. It might have been the flatter course, the cooler temps, the GU gel or a combination of all three, I don’t know. Maybe it was because I was slower throughout the run, but I felt better today than the last time.
I heard the blessed beep indicating “Workout Complete” on my RunKeeper and slowly shuffled towards my car. I’m sore, and chafed, and blistered….but I did it.