I was so nervous about the run that I had quite a bit of nervous energy on Saturday night. So I put it to good use and got all my running gear in the same place, filled up my fuel belt bottles with Gatorade and put them in the fridge, got everything set up so all I had to do was eat, get dressed and get out.
The alarm went off at 3:30 and I immediately got up and went into the kitchen. I had to force myself to eat both a bar and bagel, and had to toss a few bites of the bagel since I couldn't get it all down.
At about 3:50 I was all set and headed out the door and just before 4, I took off.
One of the worst parts about such a long run is the very beginning, because you can pysche yourself out if you are worried about the distance or let the enormity of it get to you. But I tried to push those thoughts aside and instead focused on keeping my pace slow. I wanted to finish in about four hours and didn't want to run many sub-10 minute miles. The first mile was at about 10:54 but I thought that might have been too slow. Unfortunately I started slipping into a mode of worrying about my time very early but I tried to combat it.
It was tough but I tried to just get into a groove and stick with it. Pretty soon the miles kept coming and before I knew it I was at mile 4. I took five packets of GU with me but the bagel and energy bar were still working their magic and I skipped the mile 4 GU.
I'd divided the run up in sections, and the first section was at around the 6-mile mark. I would run a long stretch on the same road from then until about mile 12 so happy to finally have reached six miles. I was still energetic, still excited and still feeling good.
The long and lonely road, though, was both good and bad. It was, after all, very early in the morning on a Sunday, but not just any Sunday. I don't think too many people were getting up early on the 4th of July unless it was for church or something.
Even though the lack of traffic was good, it also made for a lonely and long run. There's hardly any scenery on the path I took, so there was little aside from my music to keep me engaged.
The weather, though, was nice. It was after 5 at this point, between miles 6-12, but while it was considerably lighter - I could actually see the road in front of me - the sun was nowhere to be seen. I didn't want to count my good fortune quite yet but I was hoping the sun would not come out at all during my run.
I reached the 10-mile mark and with that turned around. This was the halfway point of my 20-miler two weeks ago. This time, though, I turned down a different street once I got to about 12 miles. It was a little after 6 and I was getting close to my parents' house. Technically I was really close but I had to run out and back for about four more miles before I got there. I'd wanted to run about five miles with him, the fewer the better, so I ran a bit farther than I intended to. At about mile 15, I called him to see if he was ready. He was, and sounded anxious to get out and run.
I was still feeling good, felt happy that I had under seven miles left. But somewhere around Mile 16, I started to hit the wall. I had been taking short breaks every 2-3 miles, the last one when I called my brother, and had wanted to make it to the house before stopping, but I was about a half-mile from there when I just stopped. My mood and my diminishing excitement had halted abruptly. The dreaded wall reared its ugly head early, but it was understandable. After all, my main target was getting to my parents house and having my brother join me. So somewhere in my head, it felt like I was getting close to the finish.
But that wall was about two feet high because after a short break I piced it right back up and soon I was coming up to get my brother. With 17.12 miles logged, I started the last portion of the run.
Now, my brother's presence gave me an instanteneous boost. I ran the first mile with him in front of me at 9:57, and I hadn't been logging many sub-10-minute miles throughout. Soon, though, that sort of wore off and my legs were heavy. Super heavy. I had to be careful coming down off and stepping onto curbs.
At Mile 19, I was really feeling the run and had to will myself to continue. At this point of really long runs it's easy to think "I only have three miles left" or "just 2.5 miles to go" but it's really no consolation. In fact, it could make it worse beacuse of the amount of energy you exert and the pain each step can cause. It can make you ask "I still have 2.5 miles left? I'm not sure if I can make it."
While Jesse's presence was great, we didn't exactly run side-by-side. He was always in front of me, a good 20 yards or so, and I tried to keep up. I knew that he wasn't going to run right next to me nor provide conversation, but I was fine with that. I figured I wanted to just keep up with him.
I got to Mile 20 and was happy that I only had two miles to go, but it certainly felt a lot longer than two miles to go.
Finally, as I approached the 20.5-mile mark, my phone rang. I'd been hoping and praying for a phone call throughout the run but thus far, nothing. But Mrs. LB called me and asked me how it went. I told her everything was going smoothly, that I was excited about the weather and lack of sun and that I was almost to Mile 21. She was surprised and said she'd see me soon.
That must have given me some spring to my step because I took off. I felt so strong, stronger there, at Mile 21, than I had at Mile 14 and 15. I think it was the phone call but also I finally did feel that I was close to finishing.
I passed Jesse up and pushed myself. I had been pushing myself all along, particularly the last few miles, but this time I had a bit of speed behind me. Unfortunately, a long traffic light ruined my momentum. Jesse caught up, waited with me and had a much more solid burst once the light turned green. I wasn't moving as fast as I had been, but still felt more energetic than I had been.
We were close to home, finally. I had also finally gotten back to my original course, the same road I'd run down at about 4:10 a.m. It was much brighter now, many more cars and people out but I was still running and had been running for the nearly four hours after I'd first ran down that then-desolate and dark road.
We waited at one more traffic light, crossed it and headed down the second-to-last street we'd have to run. I cracked the Mile 22 mark, finally, about four hours after I started the journey. I ran a little bit more until I stopped. I was done. Even though I still had maybe .3 miles left for home, I figured I'd walk it instead of run it. Sure, I had energy. I had renewed enthusiasm. But I wanted to save that for San Francisco. And I wanted some time to myself to celebrate.
Job well done, Luis.