Today was my last long training run until NYC. 25.75 miles! Went out to do 25, but once again, my stellar math skills failed me. Gary says it's the Garmins' fault, so let's go with that.
If I had to sum up today's run in one word it would be this: amazing. After ten months of training, to get to this point and be able to finish almost 26 miles and be upright and smiling is nothing short of miraculous. Now, don't get me wrong. It was hard, but I'll get to that later.
The morning started really early at 4:15 am. I actually got up before the alarm went off. I had been dreaming about running. I decided to quit dreaming and just get it done. I was a little anxious about this one, the last long run I did was supposed to be 23, but ended at 21 due to a very painful right knee. But, I've been babying it and taking it easy the last couple of weeks, so it was time to put it to the test. It has a race to run in three weeks.
I have to pause here and mention my man. He also rolled out at 4:15, put on his clothes, loaded up his bike, and met me at the start. If you have ever run Longleaf Trace in the wee hours, you know how dark it is at 5:15 am. He knew I was a little nervous about running Jackson Road to the Gateway in the dark by myself, so he rode along beside me and lit the path with his headlight. He stayed with me the first eight miles, loading back up when dawn lit the horizon. He forgot his gloves, so his hands froze the entire way. Lord, I love that man. None of this would have been possible without him. He gets uncomfortable when I brag about him, so I'll stop at that.
The first 8 miles were in the dark, so I didn't use my Ipod. The only sounds we heard were the hum of Gary's bike tires, the steady plop, plop of my feet, and the water swishing around in my camelback. Time for prayer and thanksgiving. Pure heaven.
After Gary left, I popped my earbud in and started listening to an audiobook. I'm afraid my inner nerd is showing, but I love to listen to books when I run. Over the last ten months, Harry Potter and his gang have run with me in seven deliciously long books, as well as all the maids in "The Help". Jay Gasby, Daisy Buchanan, and Nick Carraway ran at the beach with me, and Andy Stanley and the late Adrian Rogers have spoken the Word in my ear on too many runs to count. Today, though, I just wasn't into it. So, after a few miles, I switched to my music playlist.
I'm a very emotional person, and momentous occasions usually bring me to tears. Happy tears, but tears none the less. I won't share all the thoughts and prayers I had on this run, but I don't mind admitting that on more than one occasion tears ran down my face and my hands were lifted to Heaven. If you were one of the many cyclists who passed the strange woman in a zebra print skirt, zebra arm warmers and white knee socks with her hands lifted high, I'm sorry if I wigged you out.
I used this run as a race warm-up, wearing the clothes and gear I intend to wear race-day, with a few exceptions. I'm glad I did, I was able to see the adjustments I need to make. I walked a 5 minute warm-up, then ran/walked :30/:30's. That is my race plan, and I think it's going to work.
At mile 18, my legs started gently reminding me that they are fifty, after all, and I seem to be asking a lot of them lately. I ignored and pressed on. By mile 20, they were screaming obscenities at me and threatening to drown out the uplifting voices of Jonah 33 and Jeremy Riddle, but I dug deep and pressed on. By mile 21, they were calling me truly awful things, so I walked the last four miles. They quietened down, but still grumbled among themselves. They are much happier after an ice bath, two Advil, and a bag of frozen blueberries on my right knee. Still grouchy, but they seem to be forgiving me somewhat.
In an earlier post, I mentioned some of the lessons this training has taught me and I knew I would be adding to it. Here are a few more:
...I've learned how to eat while running, a skill I thought I would NEVER master. The trick: Jelly Bellies and gummies. I ingest approximately 100 calories every 30 minutes. Still a little queasy at the end, but much, much better.
...Tape up the toes that blister easily so you won't lose your toenails. I know... duh, right?
...I'm finally okay with being slow. Okay, that's a lie, but I'm working on it.
...It's impossible to train for a marathon without a support crew. I'm humbly thankful for mine.