Now, I tried to keep the countdown to things that happened earlier in the year, at least, in the first half of the year or so. But a recap of '09 just would not be complete with what I consider my greatest non-race run of my life.
It just wouldn't.
Originally published Nov. 23
Motivational Mondays (Nov. 23)
I normally set Mondays aside for a Motivational Monday post, and while today is not exactly identical to other such posts, I believe this post to be quite motivational. So instead of postponing this a day to include something that is solely to motivate, I'll let this serve that purpose. It's long but it was a long run after all...
Sunday morning was not like any other morning. For one, I was in Seattle on a business trip. Add in my restless sleep and it was a unique start to the day. I first saw the alarm clock at about 3:20 a.m. and after that, I barely slept.
18 miles. And it's cold.
It had been rather chilly upon my arrival in the Emerald City on Saturday. I wore a beanie and gloves most of the day and was still rather cold. But this morning, I would have to deal with the cold and the rain somehow. I first look outside my hotel window before 4 a.m. and noticed a lack of rain, though the parking lot was quite wet. But every time I looked outside afterward, there was a steady drizzle.
The weather forecast had called for temperatures in the low 40s, rain and wind.
Great. As if I need something else to deal with.
The thought of the wind jarred me out of bed sometime around 6:30. The wind was supposed to start blowing hard where I would run, the Cedar River Trail, sometime around 10 or 11 that morning, so I realized that the sooner I left, the more likely it would be to avoid that.
Time to get dressed.
Pushing thoughts of how drenched I would get aside, I got dressed. First, I taped the nips. Last thing I need is to have that rear its ugly head again. Then, I put on my skin-tight undershirt. On top of that, the moisture wicking shirt I picked up on Friday. Then, my brand-new jacket I got as a gift on Saturday at the stadium. I wore my running underwear, one of my better pairs of shorts, a new pair of socks that was supposed to keep my feet dry and my shoes. Got my gloves as well, a hat, Gu, The Garmin, fuel belt.
I walked outside and was surprised to feel that it wasn't the blast of cold ice I expected. Counting that as good fortune, I got in the car and zipped off to find the start point.
Now where is that place?
I was looking for a road that I ultimately must have passed up. Two freeways had spilled me onto the road I was on now, but there was no sign of the next street. But I spotted my destination, the Cedar River Trail, and remembered reading how there were parking spots all along the course, so an opening ahead adjacent to the trail was where I finally parked the car.
You ready for this?
It was around 7:20 or so by the time I parked. The rain had not let up but it was mostly a drizzle, nothing like Ray Bradbury's Hard Rain. I turned on The Garmin, got my Gu together, filled up the fuel belt bottles with Gatorade and stepped outside.
Aw, this ain't bad.
Initially, it wasn't. Yes, it was cold. Much colder than I'm used to during my Sunday morning runs. But I wasn't quite a ball of ice. I felt good. Prepared.
Let's do this.
After several steps along the trail, I took off. I didn't want to run fast but I guess I couldn't help it. My pace was under nine minutes when I looked at The Garmin the first time, so I slowed down. I suppose it was the anxiety and pent-up energy I was releasing.
The trail cut a path between the road I'd taken and a series of houses. Above, the sky was a gray canopy of moisture. Beyond that, there were unconfirmed reports of a sun but I never was able to verify the existence of said sun. The canopy couldn't hold all its moisture so we benefited from that underneath. Leaves covered the trail, but aside from a few puddles the trail was visually enticing.
Somewhere, my Lopers are running under sunny skies.
Of course, the Lopers were running their own 18-mile course, and while it was the same distance as I'd run, my run was not quite like theirs. Still, I felt strengthened knowing that they were out there tackling their own 18-run monster.
Oh my. Look at that.
There up ahead, loudly announcing its presence, was the Cedar River in all its glory. This wasn't the streams we have at home. This was a bona fide river, slicing a path between evergreen trees and other weathered vegetation. I felt humbled by the river. I wanted to salute or somehow acknowledge the mighty river, but just kept running. I wondered how many people had depended on this river, in this very spot, 400 years ago. 500 years ago.
Aw man, don't do this now.
Jarring my memories of some scantily-clad natives taking fish out of the river was silence. I'd had my iPod on but suddenly it ceased playing music. The iPod is almost four years old, and it's been through a lot so it goes out on me often. But this was not the time to be left alone. I ran about a half mile when I decided that it was worth the effort to take it off and try and reset it. Careful not to allow water on my shirt, I zipped open the jacket long enough to take the iPod out of the carrier and reset it. Once it got going again, I placed it inside the jacket pocket.
Up ahead, I saw a figure. I'd been alone on the trail the whole time and wondered if anyone else was out there somewhere, running towards or away from me. But this confirmed that indeed I was not alone. The figure ahead was moving quickly towards me, running at a much faster pace than me and we said hello to each other when we crossed paths. I smiled broadly.
I'm not the only crazy guy out here, I guess.
I was past the six-mile mark and had not been running an hour yet. Probably too fast of a pace but figured I'd start to take it easy. The trail now had snaked underneath a bridge and spilled me out on the other side when...
Hey, that lady looks familiar.
Coming to a halt off her own run was someone I'd seen pictures of just recently. Kerrie of mom vs. Marathon was smiling, saying hi and I smiled back, surprised to have seen her. She introduced me to her running partner, Zoe of Run Zoe Run, and we chatted briefly about the weather. It hadn't really rained on Saturday but of course now it was raining.
"It's okay, though. I might as well experience Washington and what it's all about. Bring it," I told the two local ladies.
We posed for a quick picture or four. Kerrie's phone couldn't quite get us all in frame but finally a sideways tilt of the phone worked wonders. She was gracious enough to share the picture with me.
We parted ways and I was once again on my own. I was not quite yet at seven miles but I felt energized, invigorated, enthralled by having ran across Kerrie. It's a moment I'll carry with me forever.
And she has no choice but to run in this crap.
Quite true. Kerrie and Zoe and the other Seattle bloggers I'd stumbled upon have no choice but to run in the rain. Next week in fact is a half-marathon that I believe they are all training for. Kerrie and Zoe had already ran about nine or 10 miles by the time I'd caught up to them. I'm lucky. And I felt guilty telling them that my marathon was going to be in Huntington Beach. The low that day is usually 48 degress, in other words, about eight degrees warmer than it was when I stepped out of the car this morning.
Okay, that really sucks.
The iPod had stopped once more. I tried to resuscitate it but no luck. The screen looked strange, and since it couldn't and wouldn't last even half the distance, I decided to scrap it and do the run myself. Quickly, I came upon a gazebo that was off the path a bit. I was at around 8.92 miles and figured I'd run to it, and when I got to 9.0 miles, I stopped to take a drink and gather myself.
Now you just have to run back to the car.
While it wasn't that easy, that's what I needed to do. The scenery had changed a bit. I was still near the river but I'd taken a path under a bridge so I was on the other side of the street from where I'd started. The rain was still a pleasant companion and had started to take its toll on me. My shoes had been fine up until that point. My feet were becoming increasingly cold and I don't know if it was water and cold or just the cold temperatures but they were certainly cold.
Soon, I had gone underneath the bridge once more and was back on the other side of the street. I wondered where Kerrie and Zoe had gone off to. I pictured a dry, warm setting with coffee and conversation... precisely the opposite of my own experience.
swish swish, swish swish, swish swish, swish swish
thud thud, thud thud, thud thud, thud thud
Who needed the iPod when I had my own jacket and shoes to make a unique brand of music? Okay, it was sound, not really music, but it was rhythmic.
I was slowing down. I was nearing Mile 12 and was at or close to two hours. By the time The Garmin read 12.0 miles, I was on the north side of 2 hours. My thought of finishing the run in under three hours was gone, and even though it wasn't much of a goal, I wondered how long I'd run.
You've never ran more than three straight hours before. You gonna make it?
My feet were increasingly colder. No longer did I have shoes and socks but rather a mass of cold. I tried to ignore it until, at around mile 14, I couldn't any more.
My feet hurt.
I admitted my pain but I didn't want to think about my feet. I didn't want to think about my legs or my back or my arms or anything. I tried to stay focused, tried to use the bill of my hat as a target, to keep my eyes directly underneath and pointing forward. No use in worrying about my feet. There would be time to worry about them afterward.
Three more miles. Come on man, you laugh at three miles.
While I don't think of three-mile runs as a joke, I do quite often run more than three miles. Actually, most every time out I cross the 3.0-mile mark. But this time, of course, I'd already had 15 miles under my belt. And then there was the rain. The relentless rain. It was mostly a drizzle to be honest. A drizzle that at times grew a bit stronger. And other times it even cleared up. But it would have taken a long time to fill a bucket with rainwater under this sort of drizzle.
But it was enough to drench you after it pelted you for nearly three hours. And drenched I was. I couldn't feel what part of my face was sweat and what part was rain. My hat had served its purpose, taking the brunt of the rain and keeping it out of my eyes. I never got a drop of rain that hit me in the eyes.
The river was now more audible than it was when I'd had my iPod but I couldn't hear it too much over the shouts from my body. The trees and vegetation that had greeted me on my way out were now encouraging me to finish despite the rain's attempt to slow me down.
Two more miles. That's nothing.
I had been stopping for short walk breaks every mile for the last few miles. It grew harder to do so, simply because I had to start running again, usually with an audible grunt. My cold feet were not responding well to the constant pounding and my pace was slow. But I had to power through that. I thought of my blog buddies, my loyal readers who are there to support me in all my running adventures. I thought of the new Seattle-area bloggers I found, how helpful and encouraging they'd been and how great it was to have met a pair of them. I thought of the Lopers, who were probably done at that point, celebrating their own conquest. And I thought of my family and how Yvie had wished me good luck on my run on Friday before I said bye to her.
There was absolutely no way I was going to let any of them down. Nope. Not a chance. I might have been in pain, might have been cold and wet and tired and achy but I was going to finish this run no matter what. That's one thing I've learned throughout my running. I don't do this just for myself. I feel it's an obligation of mine to see my runs through for my friends and family. I refuse to fail, to fall short and then have to explain myself to anybody. That's just not an option.
Like a carrot dangling in front of a horse, I saw my car up ahead. I knew I could do it. The Garmin had read 17.55 the last time I'd looked at it but I did not let my gaze wander down until I got to a bridge very close to where I'd started. I slogged to the bridge, feet aching.
Oh my God! I'm so close.
A few more painful steps later and The Garmin read 18.0.
Oh, I'm done. It's over.
I shut The Garmin off, panted audibly and groaned a few times as I tried to gather my footing.
You did it.