On Saturday I ran the big 20 miles in San Francisco. In truth, I really didn't think I would make it. I've been having some minor problems with my knees, legs, feet and shoes... okay, maybe all those things were just fine and my real issue was the fear of failing to conquer the big 20 miles...
...but I did it. I completed the 20 mile run in about six and a half hours. It's a long time to be running and I'm realizing that completing the marathon is going to take much longer than I had anticipated. But right now, none of that matters because I only care about finishing the actual race and living to tell about it:)
I didn't realize that completing the 20 mile run was going to have an impact on me, but it has. Again, I really didn't think I was going to make it. At mile 6 I could feel blisters begin to from on the soles of my feet. I take back the thing about sand in my shoes in an earlier post. Those blisters from two weeks ago were from my shoes being too narrow. I found out the hard way what the consequences of too narrow shoes are. I could also feel a little irritation on my knee, but that went away by mile 8 (or maybe the pain killers just kicked in. who knows?). Regardless of what I was feeling, something inside kept telling me to keep going. So. I. did.
Don't get me wrong. I didn't run 20 miles alone. I have a great runningmate named Tzel who keeps me company in our two-person strong team "Bullet X" and makes great conversation to help the time go by fast. The city of San Francisco provides a great landscape to run in. The Runbutan coaches are also phenomenal because they keep us hydrated, fed and motivated to make the distance. With that, I would like to take a moment to thank them because they really help through some really tough times in the run. I also have a supportive family and fantastic friends who are willing to see me in my post-long run pain. Finally, I do my best to maintain my strength, nurse my injuries, and be fairly healthy. After all the technical support, it's really you and what you think you're capable of doing that determines whether you're going to finish the long runs or not.
I'm noticing a pattern when we go on these long runs. The first 6-8 miles of running for me is always the hardest because that's when all my concerns are running through my head and when I think I feel like my body is ready to give out. Once that's over, I reach a state of delirium where I think anything is possible and turning back would be tragic, so I just keep going. The last leg of the run gets hard again because I don't have any sense of where the finish is, so I tend to show down a bit and loose all sense of time and speed. It's also the time when I feel "the wall" creep up on me, so to avoid meeting "the wall," I slow down, ask fate to give me a little bit of strength, and hope I make it to the finish. So that's my state of mind when I'm running those long distances.
Reaching the finish line was AMAZING! Our group is big (35-40 people), which is why it's hard to bond with everyone. But at that moment, I could see that although we don't really know each other, we really are in this together. Hearing the cheers was the sweetest sound I've ever heard. Unfortunately, it's the aftermath that's most painful. My legs were sore and stiff. It took me FOREVER to walk back to my car and put on my slippers. When I got home, I found that my left foot had a blister the size of a sliver dollar, and my right foot had a blister over twice that size. I never thought I'd enjoy taking ice baths, but marathon training makes a person delirious, so even the craziest things seem pleasurable. This ice bath lasted 20 minutes. I know. I'm crazy. But pain makes you do crazy things. By the end of the night, my legs were ultra-sore and the soles of my feet were raw. I could barely walk and fell asleep through the two films my best friend, housemate and I watched.
I know what you're thinking... With all the post-run pain, is the training really worth it? It's an evil question, but one that I ask myself every day. In truth, the answer changes for me depending on my mood:)
On the drive home from SF I began to cry. I'm not sure why. Tears just randomly started streaming down my face and I just let out a good and probably much-needed cry. In reflecting back on the drive home, I cried because I was in total disbelief that I made it this far. I didn't think I was going to make it past 10 miles of training. But like my running pattern, I just reach a point of delirium and figure it would be tragic to go back. I cried because I realized that it's official, that I am running and going to complete this marathon. I'm actually going to do something not only for myself, but something that is beyond myself. I don't think I've ever stepped this far out of my own comfort zone. I cried because I did something great, but still don't know if what I'm doing is good enough. I cried because these mixed feelings are so bittersweet and I don't know how to feel about all this. In fact, I'm still processing things.
For now, I'm still recovering from 20 miles. I'll tell you how it goes.