28 September 2009

The Last Big Run

This weekend we had our last major run before the real deal.  We were told to treat this past Saturday as if it were race day, and I was always an obedient child. I ate carbs and stayed hydrated throughout the week. I ate a good amount 12 hours before the run and had toast and coffee Saturday morning. I wore almost exactly what I plan to wear race day, minus the Team in Training jersey and possibly new sneakers. I added my camera to my water belt for the first time, and strapped my iPod to my arm. I was as outfitted as I cared to be and even more than that, I felt ready. I wasn't sore or tense or worried. Even as I drove to the start, and saw the earlier runners already going, I never got nervous. I was ready. 

Danie at the start.

After check-in, we got our detailed directions and headed up a long, curving hill. If I had to guess, I'd say it went for at least a half mile. Sure it was along the Pacific, but it was too foggy to actually see the ocean. Sure there were people cheering us on, but they were already halfway up the hill and they didn't have any further to go did they? I also had my iPod on my forearm, staring at me with its stopwatch face. In hindsight, watching the clock watch me was a mistake.

My pace-mates and I stretched at what we thought was the top of the hill, and kept going. Unfortunately we were still heading "up." There's a mentality that comes with hills. There's the I think I can option, which is tilting the head down, shortening the strides, and plugging along. That's my default setting. But occasionally there is the inclination to glance upward. And once that's done - once one sees the top - it cannot be unseen. That triggers the next mind game., which I played Saturday morning.

It's further than I thought. Is it worth the effort? Will I get to come down this hill? Do I want to go down this hill? Those people are walking. You are not those people. I think I can do it. Of course  you can do it, but we're still in the first mile.We don't know what's still ahead. We don't even have a determined distance. Walk quickly to the top and recover on the flats. Fine.

The flats came, but didn't stay. We were quickly heading down. We went down further than we had gone up. We passed fancy houses and people walking pampered Puggles and still we descended. I was relieved at first, nervous as we went and worried by the time we hit the water stop at 3 miles. I ate three pretzel rods, took two sips of water and turned around. It had taken me 40 minutes to go three miles and in case you're paying attention, that's slower than I did in my first / last race. More importantly, it's slower than I want to go on race day. We were running parts of the actual course, so it was a verified simulation.

We were diverted halfway up and sent to run up a different street. We ended up back where we started, heading down hill #1 and back along the ocean. We dipped into Golden Gate Park and I took a break at mile 6.

Danie at mile 6. Sweaty.

I was getting to the point where I was going to have to decide my mileage for the day. I could have gone all the way to 22 if I had decided to lose my mind. I had decided against going the full 13, because that would steal all my race day thunder. I could have gone 12, and set a new bar, but 11 was familiar. And I had nothing to prove.  I actually thought to go ten, but I missed the turnaround and probably went close to twelve anyway.

The left side of my left shin started complaining sometime after mile six. It took a break and started screaming about a mile from the end. This shin and I have a history, and I was not in the mood to coddle. I kept going and I dared it to come up with a legitimate injury. My shoes are correct. My form is proper. My legs are strong. I talked to a physical therapist about the offending shin and she said it's probably the tissue is not adapting as quickly as the rest of my body. I will not be sidelined by a rogue batch of muscle. I didn't run hard, but I didn't stop either. I finished my run.

Danie at the finish. It was a sweaty, sweaty, affair. 

The running, slowing, and stopping took me 2:29. I'm okay with that. I ran more than half of the actual race course. And I've run the other half before. It seems only this half has the hills.  So I'm sure I'll make up a lot of that time.

And for the record, I rewarded my shin for not completely failing. I fashioned an ice pack before leaving training. I also iced it at home and again on Sunday. It feels fine today. To be safe, I will be doing more work on leg muscles leading up to the race. Just to keep all parts in tip top shape. 

Reminder: I'm running in the Nike Women's Marathon as a fundraiser to fight Leukemia & Lymphoma. Please support me by donating here. The donation deadline is October 1st.

Thank you!

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