Let me begin with a very irreverent but completely necessary...Holy Fuck! I did it..I God damn did it...my body just ran 18 miles and I am still alive.
For the last several days, I've been dreading today's upcoming training run pretty much ever since I ran out of water last week on a 17-mile odyssey and nearly crawled home dehydrated and deflated.
So, in an attempt to stay among the living, I quickly ordered a new, sparkly purple 70 ounce Camelbak that absolutely did the trick.
Once I had enough agua, I needed to tweak my nutrition. The last five or six long runs have wreaked horrible war on my intestinal track and rendered me doubled over in pain which is no bueno. So, I experimented with different gus, eliminated sports beans, introduced real food like beef jerky and parted ways with caffeine.
After my nutrition was in check, I needed to get my play list in order. I've always run with music, but I needed a shift...a better combo between heart pounding tunes and those that slow me down a bit and focus on great lyrics.
And so it was, I woke up this morning with a cold which is always the name of the game with me, swallowed a ridiculous amount of ibuprofen, drank gallons of Emergency, ate a piping hot bowl of oatmeal and a fried egg....body glided the shit out of parts of me that shall not be named, dowsed myself in sunscreen, charged my Garmin, laced up my Brooks, grabbed my grandmother's medal for protection and headed out.
Along the way, this is what I learned...
At this point in the game, the first 13 miles are quick...relatively painless, redemptive, serotonin filled joy which is why I'm pretty sure that the Half Marathon is the sweet spot. And unless you're a masochistic fuck who has designs on delirium and disillusionment, you should never run a marathon when the Half is such a beautiful accomplishment.
That said, if you are training for a marathon...this deal is 150% mental. Do not get me wrong, by 16 miles, my left leg cramped so hard that I actually sang, "Eye of the Tiger," out loud in front of kids playing baseball at the park and didn't give a rats ass. I envisioned myself eating raw eggs, running up stairs in a grey hoodie shadow boxing to try to remove the fact that I was basically limping down the bike path until my leg got the memo and showed up for the end of the run.
Knowing that it's mental, you've got to know what you're going to tell yourself when it hurts...because it hurts. Your eyes sting from the salt, sweat, wind combo. Your knees and hips start to throb. Most of the time, you end up chaffing somewhere and it's not a pretty place. Your feet swell and hopefully, you don't get a blister or lose a toe nail, but you probably will. Your form gets contorted when you fatigue and you get really bitchy when the college, 20-something runs by you and you just want to have a label on your forehead that says, "Fuck you...I'm on mile 17." Or at least, I do.
And so, in the beginning, I thought I would tell myself things like, "You're stronger than you think you know. You're powerful. You're beautiful. You've got this. You're amazing." And from time to time, I do...but what really works for me is tough love. So, often I find myself saying, "Stop being such a pussy. You've done harder. You've come this far. You're not going back now. This day...this run...this experience is yours and this train is going 18 miles. Get your ass on board. Now."
And that's worked so far.
Mostly, what I've learned is that it's hard. It's really hard. But aside from giving birth, it's the best feeling at the end. It's a true...you showed up today, you kept going even when you literally knew you would die, and now you know what it really means to be alive. Heart pumping, legs crying out, soul believing...you earned your footprint today.
We'll see what 19 brings...and I guess more importantly, what 26.2 feels like. Here's to sunshine, tail winds, great support, and enough tough love to see me through to the end.