22 Miles into 3 Races

Sometimes there are mornings where you feel like you shouldn't go out there; where you feel like you just weren't meant to run that day. Well, that was the first hour and a half of my Saturday... BEFORE I started to run my scheduled 22 miles.

I set the alarm for 5 a.m. with a 6 a.m. departure time and a 7 a.m. start time. Sounds right... gives me enough time to get ready, drive safely and have enough time for a pre-run stretch. Instead, I woke up at 5:45, departed at 6:35 and started at 7:20. That might not be bad if I was running solo, but I train with a group of friends. I got to our starting point in Golden Gate Park at 7:20. Knowing they run a 9-10 min pace and were about 2 miles in front of me, I figured I could catch them if I ran a little bit faster. (a really bad idea for the first 4 miles of a 22 mile run). I knew I would pay for it later by going so quickly out the gates without a proper stretch and warm up. (You know the saying: Listen to what I say, not what I do.)

I had my GPS watch so I rationalized that I could go out and get in as much as I could, even if it meant walking the last few miles. So I parked, grabbed my water bottle, went to turn on my watch... nothing. It wouldn't turn on! Dead battery? It's still asleep? Sending me a message that today is not my day? I scream out an expletive and for half-a-second ponder whether I should drive 45 mins. back home and get back in bed. I decide against it and proceed with my bad idea to catch my team rather than drive in front of them and run the last 18 at a smart pace. The allure getting in my 22 miles had stolen my rational thinking.

I logged the first 4 miles in 30 mins. and caught up to my team. Our course was laid out as two 11-mile routes that way if some of us wanted to run 11, (since we have different runners on different training schedules) they could stop or start at the halfway mark. The first 11 miles went OK, but this was my decision point. I could stop at 11 and call it a day, or go out and attempt to get in 22, knowing that I haven't been feeling my mojo all day. The way I was viewing it was that I could break my 22 miles into 3 races. My first race would be the 4 miles to catch my team, the second would be the remaining 7 miles and the third, the last 11 miles. Just 11 miles... sounds good, right? It's shorter than a half-marathon, but longer than a mid-week 5 miler. OK. Let's do it.

The second 11 miles went alright. We were all feeling the distance and were comfortable just getting in the mileage, since we weren't going to break any course records today. I was expecting to cramp around mile 18 because: a.) I was a moron and didn't warm up and stretch. b.) Was a bigger moron and ran my first 4 miles at a faster than normal pace for the total distance. And most of all c.) I hadn't ran all week due to sickness and was still feeling the aftermath. 

And as predicted, I felt my legs get a little tight about 3 hours in. I was hoping they wouldn't take the next step of cramping ruining my excellent morning (sarcasm inserted). My right calf did scream out once and attempt to cramp around mile 16, but I yelled at both of them and said NO! (I needed to yell at the left one too, in case it got any bright ideas of playing copy-cat) And for once in their lives, they listened. My legs and the bottoms of my feet were sore, but I kept chugging along one block at a time. We passed a Walgreen's a mile or so later and I told my team I was going to run in and get a RedBull. I figured if my legs are gonna quit, I can't afford to let my brain quit. While I was in there, I decided to grab a payday to replenish my salt loss. Guess what, the entire PayDay box was empty. Allow me to digress here: How the eff is a Walgreen's out of PayDay on a Saturday morning at 10am? Plus, the lady in front of me writes a check, adding on a few extra minutes to my in-and-out estimated time. Just long enough for me to finish my entire RedBull in line. (and yes, I handed the cashier the empty can to charge me.) OK. I'm done. Thank you for allowing me to do that.

So, I caught back up with my team (again) who were enjoying a stretch break and replenishing on food and water with some other friends who were out there on their bikes helping us out as road assistance, with water and pretzels. With less than 4 miles to go, it was just a matter of finishing what we started. 

And, as the case always is... I was glad I made the decision to run. Many times the toughest part is just getting out there. Whether it is breaking down 22 miles into 3 reasonable distances or waking up in the morning on a Tuesday to log some before-work miles. (and to steal a line from Scrubs) "At the end of the day," knowing that we have summoned up the strength and determination, we are thankful that we didn't let a little bit of adversity (even if self-inflicted) prevent us from finishing what we initially set out to accomplish.

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