Oct 31, 2006

18 miles

(I actually wrote this on October 24th)

I ran 18 miles in 4 hours today. it was the hardest run I have ever done. i ran through three hours of pain, and now I can barely walk. it was just a really hard run with a lot of pain and it took a ton of mental perseverance to get through it.

The problem, of course, is that I am a moron.

Life has been getting in the way a lot, lately - and I've actually not run a single step since the staten island half marathon nine days ago. I told myself that as long as I get in my long runs, I'll be fine. Well, that turns out not to be true.

Today, at mile 13.1, I felt much worse than at the end of the half-marathon, even though I was running 30 seconds/mile slower. But lets back up. I run at Rockland Lake - about 15 miles south of west point - which is a great place to train. A lap around the lake is three miles, is completely flat asphalt, no traffic, plenty of others out exercising, and I can park my car next to the trail and drink gatorade on each lap. I set out to run 20 miles, five miles longer than my previous long run - in fact, 5 miles longer than any run I had ever done in my life.

Laps one and two went ok, but were painfully slow. I started feeling physical pain late in the second lap. I don't remember when the pain came in each particular place, but I do know that I felt a distinct pain in just about every muscle in my legs during the run, usually lasting about ten minutes before it either subsided or I didn't notice it anymore.

By mile nine, I knew this run was going to be extremely hard. I dealt with a lot of psychological despair starting in miles seven and eight, because it seemed like I had run sooo far, yet I had 12 or 13 miles to go - and with no music (i can't find my ipod), boredom was really setting in. when I finally reached ten miles, the halfway point, I felt a little relief, but the next lap went so slowly that I had to consciously remind myself that building mental endurance is as important as building physical endurance. Still, I knew something was wrong when the end of the fourth lap felt just like the end of the fifth lap one my previous two 15-milers. I stopped at my car for about a minute, drank a whole pint of gatorade, and started running again - and I couldn't believe how painful it was just to start running again - at mile 12. I remember thinking that starting to run again at that point may have been the most physically painful thing that I had ever done on purpose. and I knew it would be worse at the next lap.

lap 5 was hard for all the reasons stated above, but worse. By now, it was encouraging to think that I only had 8.. 7.. miles to go, but the pain in my legs had slowed my pace even more and I noticed that I was taking a long time to catch up to walkers.

Starting lap 6 actually didn't seem as hard as lap 5 - but I didn't run a half-mile into lap 6 before I felt a new, overwhelming sense of exhaustion, which added to the increasing pain. I desperately wanted to start walking - so much so that at about mile 15.5 I decided to cut my run short to 18 miles - just so I could get through this lap without walking. When I hit mile 16, I told myself, "Just two miles to go", yet the mile before 17 was the longest, hardest mile of my life. I was breathing like I was running a much faster pace, my legs were throbbing in pain, and I just wanted to give up on the whole marathon idea. When I finally got to mile 17, the "1 mile to go" mentality took over and I knew I would make it - not that the pain improved, but the idea that I had less than 10 minutes left to endure it really helped.

I sat in a picnic table with a bottle of gatorade, a can of pure protein. After downing both of the drinks in 30 seconds, I stretched for about 15 minutes - which was also very painful because I was really tight. When I walked back to the car, the wind had chilled me to the bone and I noticed a tight pain in my calf, as though I pulled it.

I had to stop at the grocery store on the way home, which sucked because I was actually shivering in the parking lot between my car and the front door, yet I could go no faster than my limp would allow. The calf pain was really bad.

When I got home, I drew an ice bath and posted the above message while the tub was filling. After ten minutes in the tub, my legs felt much better but my left calf was still feeling tight (albeit much less). I was still limping, but not nearly as bad.

that's my story..

i'm very sleepy now. zzzzzzz....

-steve