On Sunday I set out to tackle my one 20 miler before race day in November. At the end of last week, training got disheveled after Kona had to make (another) trip to the vet. After a Summer of vigilance on the trails, Kona picked up two grass seeds in her ear from a plant in our yard. I felt terrible. Thankfully, removing foreign bodies from the ear is easier than from the snout.
After a couple days of short workouts while Kona got the vet nerves out, we started our long run early Sunday morning. The forecast called for temperatures in the upper 80's. Not ideal running weather, but the training clock ticks on.
For six miles, I ran with Kona on our ridge. My legs protested the hills, so I took it easy. I wanted to run ten miles at race space, letting myself relax for the other ten. There was no way I could run at street race speed on our trails, so I listened to my protesting body and slowed down.
After last week's eight ridge miles, six went by quickly. Kona had energy to spare and I felt badly as I loaded her back in the car, knowing I'd have to leave her at home to finish my run. Back at home, I quickly inhaled half an energy bar and gulped a bottle of Gatorade. Almost immediately, my body revolted against the onslot of processed carbs. Before tightening my hydration waist-belt, I ripped open a pack of Pepto-Bismol.
Back at it, I was surprised how fresh my legs felt on my first hill. Last week, the same hill left me shuffling. This time, I had a spring in my step. This was good. I reminded myself of my goal to keep my pace up for the next ten miles. My stride felt strong and relaxed.
My route took me over 3.5 miles of rolling hills, followed by 7 miles of flat trail. The hills passed quickly and I was glad to reach dirt again, pulling away from the hustle of Sunday morning travelers. The trail followed an arroyo, where water crawled in the heat of the sun.
Though it had been awhile since I had run there, I knew the trail well and check the landmarks off my mental list as I ran, keeping track of my progress. The smell of horse and hay came and went as I passed the stable, followed my the ammonia stench as I ran under the bridge where two men huddled in sleeping bags. A pick-up soccer game was in full swing on the field. I said my prayers and picked up my pace through the golf course, keenly aware that neither fence nor net separated my trail from the greens.
I reached my turn around point. A few yards down the trail I nearly jumped out of my skin when something strange walked into my peripheral vision. A chicken! Just as I started to warn the approaching walker and lab, the man beat me to it. "Is that the chicken?" We chatted for a minute and I got filled in on the chicken scoop.
Grateful for an excuse for a break, I felt fatigue set in as I continued. I wanted to keep my race pace. I spent much of Saturday watching the live feed of the Ironman World Championships in Kona. The physical and mental prioress of those athletes was inspirational. I kept the image of those triathletes in my mind as I focused on my stride. But, focus is hard when you're tired.
I finally made it off the trail, back to the streets on the last 3.5 miles. As I started up the first hill, a man in his 60's ran towards me. Dressed in tri shorts and a jersey, he was probably doing a brick workout--a bike ride, followed by a run. His legs showed the strength of a well-seasoned athlete. As he ran by, he hollered a quick, "good work!" my way. I'd never felt so grateful for the encouragement of a stranger. I collected my breath into a squeaky, "thank you."
The last 2.5 miles were hot. I cut through the park at my mile marker, bypassing the water fountain and ignoring my empty water bottle. I just wanted to get home. I remind myself of the Ironman commentators words as they reflected on the pain of running after 112 miles on the bike.
You've got to keep turning it over.
They meant one foot in front of the other. You just have to keep moving.
I kept moving, but as nausea set in, I wanted to stop. I knew I was over heating. I tried to pull the words of another friend to get me home. He wished me luck with my training, hoping that as my legs felt heavy that my heart would feel light, knowing that each step was to help strengthen and empower someone on a much harder journey.
I did my best to find my homestretch inspiration. All that drummed in my head was, "but is hurts, and I'm tired."
I finally made it home. After Kona kisses, a cold shower and more Gatorade, I started feeling better. After dinner in the evening and in an endorphins hangover, I thought back on how badly I felt at the end of my run. I had tried to muster strength and inspiration but I really didn't care. I thought of the cancer patients that this LIVESTRONG venture is about and suddenly found new inspiration. These are the folks who find strength to get back to work, get out of bed, smile for their children
even when it hurts
even when they're tired
and they don't get to stop in a mile.
I'll keep training. I'll keep running. And thank the sunshine for letting me stand tall today.