Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Slogging Through 14 Miles

It's been a couple of days now since running 14 miles, my longest run ever, and I think I've finally recovered. Running 14 miles, I learned, is no joke. It's about as difficult as you could imagine, and then some.

The fun part is, I get to run one more than that on Sunday. Joy!

Anyway, before I start to really psyche myself up about that run, I wanted to recount my 14-mile tale.

Instead of the Lopers' usual meeting place in Loma Linda, we had our second all-club run as the Loma Linda chapter visited the Riverside chapter. So we had to deal with a new course, which was a bit interesting and worrisome at the same time. I get used to routine and am a bit of a creature of habit, so I was worried about a new course and what sort of effect it would have on me.

Once we set out on our run, I knew I'd be in for some different scenery. The Riverside club meets in a park, the California Citrus State Historical Park. I'd been there before and it is quite scenic, though we would run most of our course through residential neighborhoods. Now, unlike Loma Linda, these residential neighborhoods didn't feature sidewalks and houses close to each other. Instead, they were disguised as citrus groves.

We weaved through a few streets before we set out on one long road. It was a little uphill but it wasn't too bad. We circled around to another road - and none of these roads had sidewalks or many cars on them, so it was relaxing in that sense - and went downhill. That was nice. We repeated this pattern for the first five miles or so, then went down a long street, turned on another one and reached the turnaround. We were at seven miles, and our reward was a water station. There had actually been several along the way already but I took it as our seven-mile reward nonetheless. I grabbed Gatorade and some pretzels and went back to running the route.

I'd done well to hydrate myself before the race... and in fact had done too well. So somewhere in Mile 9, I decided to relieve myself. Since there were a lot of trees and few cars, it was easy to just slip in somewhere and be unnoticed. Still, I felt strange doing so but the upside was being able to run and concentrate on running and not my bladder.

Since we were backtracking our route, I was expecting some more uphill-downhill action. Still, when I saw the street we took for Mile 10, I was a bit taken aback. Now, it wasn't the oh-crap-what-is-that? reaction I got when I saw Slippery Hill at my first Mud Run but I was still a bit unsettled.

Now, the picture doesn't really do the street justice but you can tell that it's at an incline. The problem was that once you kept running, you saw that the incline went on and on and on. And I felt the incline, felt it all the way down to my heels. I actually did well to trudge along the street, though I could feel myself struggling somewhat. Not a whole lot, but I was slowing down. I passed by a pair of runners who had been chatting earlier but now were huffing and puffing up the incline. I was wondering how this prolonged incline would affect me at the end of the run and I didn't have to wait too long - about the 11.5-mile mark to be precise - to get that answer.

With about two-and-a-half miles to go, I hit the wall.

It was sort of gradual but I knew I hit it. I was starting to slog.

  /slÉ’g/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [slog] verb, slogged, slog⋅ging. noun
–verb (used without object)
3. to deal heavy blows; 4. to walk or plod heavily; 5. to toil.

Yeah, that was me. I was plodding heavily, toiling and I still had two miles to go.

I started to call in the reinforcements, namely words from myself.

"Come on man, you can do this."

"It's only two miles and then you'll be done."

"Just relax and focus, relax and focus."

I usually sprinkle such motivational/prodding sayings to myself throughout every run, whether it's three or 10 miles. Sometimes three-mile runs are tough because I'm not in the right frame of mind.

Anyway, this helped. A little. But any little help was welcomed.

After our final walk break, at about 13.1 miles, I tried to listen to myself and focused on the end of the run. I'd run 13 miles or more twice in my life before Sunday - the 13.28-mile run a week ago and my half marathon in April, in which I ran (according to The Garmin) 13.5 miles. So when I glanced at The Garmin on Sunday and saw it was 13.52 miles, I felt a jolt of excitement. It was a bit muffled by the screaming I'd heard from my body, particularly the bottoms of my feet, my right calf, my left wrist and my left nipple.

Also motivating, actually perhaps the most motivating of all, were my Lopers. I hadn't really talked a whole lot during the run (given my usual quiet demeanor, that wasn't exactly shocking) but it's great to be able to run in a group because everyone feeds off each other's energy and effort. It also helped when Lopers would run by us in the opposite direction and give us words of encouragement.

Our group, which had been rather large at the beginning (probably 25-30 runners) had whittled down to about 10. Not sure where we lost the rest of the runners, if they'd just slowed down or what, but right ahead of me was a group of six runners and a couple more had gone further up ahead to get their 14-mile runs over and done with.

I forced myself to keep up. I'd run hard then settle back into my pace only to realize that my pace was slower than everyone else's and then sped up to keep up. We turned down our final street and up ahead I saw the zero mile marker, which is where we first had started our journey.

I crossed it, completed the longest run of my life and threw up my arms. We all took turns congratulating each other and I told one of my Loma Linda Lopers that she helped me get through the run and that she'd done a great job herself. It was her first time running 14 miles too, but she looked like she had energy to burn unlike me.

It was a tough run for sure but such tough runs are necessary and important. Our pace leader told us last week that we had to get used to running long distances, to the beating such long distances can take on our bodies. This much is true. I feel these runs more than I feel a six or eight mile run. And I can run six or eight miles three or four times a week and not get the same benefit as I would running 2-3 miles twice a week and then running a long run once a week.

I feel good about having accomplished the run but I kept thinking during the last stretch of the run "I hope when I run my marathon I feel better at this point in the race then as I do now." Of course I had targeted for 14 miles so I felt the end was near and just wanted to get the run over with. Perhaps if I know that I'd still have 12 miles to go at the end of 14 miles, it won't be so tough.

But there will be many of these runs before that point. Hopefully, though, not as many walls.


Holly said...

You are such a good story teller. I can totally visualize (I'll skip the mile 9 part though). Congrats on doing this.

Angie Eats Peace said...

YAY!!! Congrats on this awesome accomplishment!

Raoulysgirl said...

Congratulations! I knew you could do it ;).

Willoughby said...

You sure have come a long way since you started running! Congrats, pat yourself on the back for a job well done!

tahoegirl said...

YAY! for the 14 miler...what an accomplishment. so happy for you. (now can you send some of that motivation my way?)