It's All Downhill From Here

Sony Walkman RunnersTime sure flies by.  I can't believe that I have less than three weeks till race day.  It seems like just yesterday that Sony Electronics was contacting me wanting to sponsor me in a fall marathon.  At that time I was still planning on running the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon like I did last year.  Little did I know that I would find it to be sold out by the time I went to register.

November 13th and the Soldier Marathon is just around the corner and I have run the last of my 20 milers.  It is all down hill from here.  It is amazing the journey that I have been on these past few months.  I have had ups and downs along the way.  Times when I thought I was going to be able to crush the 4 hour barrier and other times when I was wondering if I was going to even make the starting line.  It was only just a month ago when I injured my calf and was wondering if I would be able to recover in time to run the marathon, much less the half marathon in the 13.1 Marathon series when it came to Atlanta.

I started off marathon training following the Hal Higdon Advanced I Marathon Training Guide.  I modified it very little mainly to work with scheduling and to allow me to run with the Tuesday night running groups at Fleet Feet.  I had to abandon it completely when trying to recover from my calf injury for two weeks.  Slowly following the 13.1 Marathon I started to build back up the mileage, however this time I determined I would take two days off a week instead of only the one that was in the schedule.  I have tried to get back to the full schedule but have held back a little bit here and there as my calf issues started to move to my Achilles Tendon.

This past week has gone surprisingly well. I was not expecting to get my full mileage in because my Achilles was not feeling very good.  I kept icing and resting as much as possible and took that extra day off on Monday.  I took it easy on Tuesday's Fleet Feet run and ran conservatively in lieu of the Tempo run that everyone else was running.  This turned out to be a good move and my Achilles felt fairly good.

Wednesday's run was a nice rainy morning run and was a hugh confidence builder in that I didn't have any Achilles pain at all.  Of course that confidence didn't last long as I went out and got lost running  the very next morning and ended up running 11 miles instead of the 10 I set out to do.

Friday has been my rest day throughout this marathon training and this past Friday was no different.  I rested my body and prepared for the coming weekend.  Earlier in the week I knew that I had my last 20 miler on the schedule for the coming Sunday.  I was not feeling great with my calf/Achilles so I was not thinking that the 20 miler would happen.  I also knew that I had two 10 milers leading up to that 20 miler which could make it even more tough to achieve.

Saturday came and life scheduling once again forced my run off till the afternoon.  I set off for my 10 miles at marathon race pace shortly after 6:00 pm.  The sun was still up, but the temperatures were comfortably in the high 60's so I wasn't too concerned about the sun.  The run went really good although not very consistent.  The Achilles held up much better than expected giving me hope for Sunday and possibly getting my final 20 miler in.  I ran an average pace of 8:45 which is right at the low end of where I would like to keep the pace during the marathon.

Sunday morning came and my calf and Achilles were feeling good.  This 20 miler was going to be a go.  At the very least I would start the run planning to finish it.  I would listen to my body and if I must I would cut it short but all the lights were green for a go.  I wasn't going to run in the morning since I had just run my 10 miler the previous evening so I had all day to rest and relax to get ready for the big mileage.

Payton got home mid-afternoon from a High School Retreat and still needed to get her long run in.  She was planning on running 8 miles and asked if I would run with her.  This really wasn't part of my plan and so it concerned me a little bit.  I knew she ran her long runs at about an 8 min pace.  While I could probably keep up for 8 miles there is no way I would be able to run another 12 after keeping that pace for 8 miles.  I said I was happy to run with her, but she was going to have to take it easy for her old man.

We headed out the door at 5:30 pm.  I knew I couldn't wait any longer if I was going to get back home before too late.  I had everything set out and ready for the second part of my run, and planned for a quick turn around when dropping her off after 8 miles.

We started off and I tried to keep the pace right at 9 min pace.  The first mile came and Payton being the loving daughter that she is said "1 mile done, you only have 19 more to go - whooohooo!"  I can't say that I was all that amused by her attempt at humor.  We continued on and every once in a while I had to ask her to slow down.  Even though it was feeling good I knew I still had 12 more miles after I dropped her off at home.  We ended up running the 8 miles at a 9:19 pace overall as I started to slow near the end of the 8 even more than I anticipated.

I made a quick stop to refill the water and Gatorade and to take care of the extra hydration.  I grabbed my reflective vest, some music, and headed back out the door.  I really didn't have a plan as to where I would go, but I knew I needed to keep moving or I would want to quit.  I tried to chose my route wisely because it was already starting to get dark and I knew I would be out for another 2 hours.  I picked the roads that would let me stay on sidewalks as much as possible.

The run was going really good and I rounded the corner which put me just 4 miles from home, but with 6 miles left to go.  I had just had the slowest 4 miles of my entire run and I was starting to fade.  I was getting really tired and was starting to lack motivation.  I was at the point that I wanted to just be done with this run.  I was even contemplating heading that 4 miles home and calling it at 18 miles.  If you look at my splits you will see that things started to pick up for me a little bit at this point.  I ran another 1/2 mile and then decided that I would run another 1/2 mile to the 3 mile from home mark and then turn around and run back to the 4 mile from home mark.  I was too worried that if I went straight home and tried to make up 2 miles near the house that I would give in and finish at 18.

I made it back to the 4 mile mark and turned around.  I don't know what it is about that turn around to home, but it gives new life and new hope.  When I get to the point that I am headed back to the house and I know that when I get there I will be done I get a renewed spirit and drive.  I don't know really how to explain it or what it is, but I am sure part of it is because I know that I now have set myself up for the win.  I cannot give up and cut it short now.  The only way for me to get home is to finish that 20 miles.  The only battle left to overcome is to keep running and not allow the pace to slow to a walk.

I have run many times where I get lost in thought and forget part of the run.  I started praying that I would experience that same feeling over the last couple miles.  When I got to 3 miles from home I knew the end was near, but I also knew that I had a couple hills that are not easy on a normal run, much less at the end of 20 miles.  The 2 mile mark came and I wanted to walk so bad.  I wouldn't let myself walk knowing that I would be horribly mad at myself.

I was tired and my stomach was starting to hurt, I was now getting close to the 1 mile mark and I knew that I could finish this 20 miles running.  I was going to accomplish what I set out to do and I was also going to do it faster than any other 20 miler I had ever run before.  That didn't make that last mile easy, but it did make it doable.

I finished off the 20 miles faster than I set out to do.  I did slow it down in the last 12 miles as I knew I would, but I didn't slow it down as much as I thought I would.  I ended up with an overall pace of a 9:30 mile.

The run went much better than I had anticipated.  I took Shot Bloks with me.  I started with two at the start of the run and took 3 more at the 6 mile and 12 mile marks.  I then took the last 3 at the 17 mile mark because I seemed to be fading and wanted to test the timing.  I alternated between Gatorade and water throughout the run, using mostly Gatorade except for when I was taking the Shot Bloks when I opted for the water.

My calf started to get a little tight about 6 miles and the Achilles started to bother me a little bit around 10 miles.  Neither one caused pain near what it had been earlier in the week and after about 13 miles the pain all but disappeared.  I never once thought I was going to have to quit for leg issues.

After arriving back home I drank a lot of water, a little bit of Gatorade and some of the Endurance Amino Vital that was sent to me by the kind people over at America's Nutrition.  I soon after getting home jumped into an ice bath and started the healing process.  This bath was much colder than I have had it in the past and I started to get really cold and shiver uncontrollably.

Shortly after my ice bath I ate some dinner and jumped in bed.  I was still shivering quite a bit and had that feeling of getting sick and feverish.  I really didn't know what to think or had any clue what was going on.  I had never had that happen to me before.  Could it be that I really took that much out of me that my body was having trouble recovering?  Did I do something wrong in the time since I had been home?  I was confused and kinda scared.  I had one friend tell me it sounded like my body was going into shock, but as I read up I only see that I had one major symptom and that was the chills.  In every other way I felt fine.  Still very scary though.

I had a lot of trouble getting to sleep.  Between the chills and my body just still coming down from the mode it was in for over 3 hours I just wasn't able to settle down.  From what I experienced I can still say that there is no doubt that I am made to be a morning runner.

So now that I have that 20 miler out of the way it is all down hill from here.  The schedule starts to really cut back at this point which will be good for my calf and Achilles.  I can't believe this time is here already.