Not to sound complacent mind you. I know that finishing a marathon requires a lot of hard work maybe under other circumstances I might be more annoyed with failing to reach 100% today. And really there is no way to know exactly - if at all- how much today's effort will help or hinder the race on May 26th. The fact that I am really ok with it, however, gives me a better chance of success in the marathon than if I were to obsess for the next 4 weeks about it. Let me start at the beginning ...
My effort today actually started yesterday when I posted on FB asking for a little help from my friends. I was overwhelmed with the replies. So right now let me not forget to say thank you to my local running family Maggi, Julius, Mark and Jeannie, my sister Katie, virtual running buddy (she exists but we haven't met yet)Carolyn and Susan. Susan, I don't now if you'll ever see this, but you are amazing. I do not know who you are except that a little FB stalking indicates you are a friend of Carloyn. You don't know me but you supported me anyway. With all their comments (I'll share them soon) I was really looking forward to the run. I was not nervous or worries on Friday evening as I had been for the 20 miler two weeks ago.
The alarm went off at 4:30. I got up just fine, dressed, had a bagel and water (my usual) and off I went. The moon was full (or just coming off full I'm not sure) and the roads were quiet. I missed the exit from 202 to 422. WHAT? Seriously? I've been driving this route for 5+ years and never missed it before. I thought I could do this with my eyes closed. I probably can do that but not today. Suddenly I was looking at the traffic light for King of Prussia Mall. I made a legal U-turn and was back on track quickly. It was only about a half mile out of the way.
I arrived at the Collegeville Diner trailhead about 5:45. My plan was to start out at 6 so I had time to loosen up my joints. I'm not a fan of strenuos pre-run stretching but limbering up the joints - especially at my age - is always helpful. I did that started my watch and gymboss timer and off I went. For those who know the trail I started at the 5 1/2 mile marker (yes I touched it) and headed west to the light at the diner and then turned around to head east toward Valley Forge.
Full on sunrise was set for about 6:08 so there was plenty of civil twilight going to get me started. I began my run with Maggi and Mark in my head. "Shoulders back, chin up and run by feel". Great advice. For the first 2 or 3 miles, I listened to my feet hitting the gravel trail. This is one of my favorite running sounds. I watched the sun come up over the trail and the mist rising off the open spaces and the Perkiomen Creek. It was here too that I thought of Katie's comment "Remind yourself that you could be doing your 20 in Florida where it will be in the mid-80s with 90% humidity." I'll take her word for it since we all know (depending on how long you've known me) that when *I* run in FL it snows. The temps here were in the mid-40s, clear, and once the sun came up dry.
You'll have to take my word for it that it was gorgeous and very inspiring. I had my camera but it was tucked away in the pocket of my camelback. Photos today would have to happen only when I stopped. Two weeks ago and today I wanted to make sure I did not use any pockets that I likely will not have on race day. Memorial day weekend should be too warm to wear my rain shell so no extra pockets. I managed to rig a comfortable set up for my fig newtowns by taking an old Amphipod pouch that I saved after the belt wore out. I fished the chest strap for the camelback through it and was able to carry it that way without any issue. And it holds just enough FN's for a marathon :)
Speaking of Fig Newtons, one of Maggi's susggestion for things to think about was whether or not Fig Newtowns were named after the town or the scientist. She suggested I come up with arguments for both sides. However, all I could think of was the episode of "Big Bang Theory" where Sheldon attempts to teach Penny about Physics. I love "Big Bang Theory" so I chuckled for awhile thinking about the epsiode. (Thanks Maggi). Interesting trivia side note, it is becaue of running that I watch "Big Bang Theory". Mark D would talk about it ALL.THE.TIME. on our runs together. I kept saying I would watch and never got around to it. Finally he started sending me youtube clips and I was hooked. Now I watch the show and the endless reruns and laugh every single time. Here is a short clip of the Sheldon Teaches Penny Physics episode from the end of the show where she shows off what she has 'learned'. Priceless.
Susan's suggestion was to think about "The Little Engine That Could". This came in handy during the stretch of the run I call "No Man's Land". If you know the trails it's that part between mile 2 the Perkiomen Trail to mile 29.5 of the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT). For those that don't know the trail that's two different numbering systems - just in case that wasn't clear. I never do well on these two parts; separately or together. I swear they are longer than measured and I tend to really slog along this section. So Susan's "I think I can" was an appropriate mantra here. BTW, she also said "You can do this" which also helped push me along.
It was during this section (it's only about 5 miles but feels endless so I had time to work in lots of thoughts) where I thought about yet another Maggi suggestion. "For the first few miles, work out simple math problems in your head. For the last few miles, marvel at the fact that you started out with enough brain power to do math." I didn't do this in the first few miles. I was too caught up in the beauty of the trail to think about much else. So I though maybe now would be a good time to do something along these lines. There were two problems though. One, I can't do simple math problems at any time of the run. My mind tends to jump from one thing to the another without direction from me so it's hard to focus on something like that. The only difference between beginning and end of the run is that the mind jumps a little slower at the end. I thank you for the suggestion though Maggi as it made me think of the Wizard of Oz when the Scarecrow gets his diploma. "The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triange is equal to the square root of the remaining side". I understand that isn't true by the way but I was not going to try to work that out.
I realized as I ran that it's not really all that unusual for me to think about the Wizard of Oz at this point on the trail although usually it happend running in the other direction. As we come out of the tree shaded part into the open space I often think of the four travelers coming out of the woods and into the poppy field. "You're out of the woods..." The song goes and it is often in my head. But I never got to running in that direction today.
I was appoaching Betzwood trailhead now where, as Julius reminded me, "There will be a group of people at Betzwood looking forward to running with you on part of your trek". The group was planning to take off at 8 am. I arrived around 7:40. David wanted to know how I managed to time it so well. Pure luck I told him. I figure how long it should take me and add a cushion. David and I chatted while I stretched. Shortly, Julius, Mark (my Big Bang Theory guru), and Jennifer arrived. Jennifer is new to our group. She was the 100th person join Perkis People on FB. When we finally took off to run I managed to stay with her and Julius for the first mile so I could add her to my list of people I have run, walked or biked at least 1 mile with this year. I'm up to 14 since March 1st. Candy and Eileen were there too. They went in the opposite direction from us choosing to stay on the paved SRT while we went on the unpaved River Trail.
Note: I was not feeling quite as good physically as I was two weeks ago at this point. Mentally I was fine but my legs were more tired than after 8 miles two weeks ago. I guess that's not surprising. I've never tried two 20 milers this close together before. I wasn't wiped out though just feeling the run a little more.
I reminded the group that I was already 8 miles into my day and that I did not expect anyone to hold back with me. So after the first mile I lagged behind but I was fine with that bee bopping along to the voices in my head. Carolyn told me she was looking forward to hearing how I ignored the "voices in my head." Well Carolyn I was lucky today that none of them were negative today. Thanks in large part to you and everyone else who made all those great suggestions for things to think about. In fact, I'm very proud of not having any negativity today even when I realized I needed to stop. So Maggi, I didn't get to tell myself "how awesome you are" that I'm doing great or give myself bonus points for doing it when my brain starts going in a negative direction. Quite frankly that never happened. I didn't pout, didn't almost cry, didnt stomp my feet, or get mad that I had to stop. I'll give myself awesome points for that :)
And Jeannie? I never got as far as thinking about the things I was going to eat but havig my own words directed at me "Keep smiling and keep moving" was a huge boost. Thanks. :)
So why did I stop at 14? I'll tell you but you have to trust that I'm fine even though it kinda sounds scary. Promise? If you can't... stop reading. :)
I have this thing that happens with my heart. It does not happen frequently. Ive come to recognize it as my body's way of saying "you are going too fast too soon"; that I'm increasing my speed faster than my body can keep up. It's hard to describe the feeling. The best I can do is say it's like an extra beat (or maybe a missed beat I'm not sure.) Think about the "flight or fright" feeling you get when you are startled; the adrenaline rush that goes straight to your heart. Well it's like that except instead of a big rush that subsides slowly it's a blip that is noticeable and disconcerting but if I back off my pace it goes away. For example if I start a run with people faster than me (few aren't) and we get up to speed too fast it happens. I drop back and it goes away. It doesn't happen every time. Often if I control the pace when we start and slowly we get 'up to speed; I'm fine. It happens also at the end of a race if I suddenly start sprinting to the finish. But if I increase my speed slowly though over the final mile it doesn't happen.
Well today, it started early. I backed off and it would go away. But it kept coming back. Every mile or so. I was not pushing, my breathing and effort were good but my heart kept doing it's thing. I was not short of breath, I had no numbing or tingling anyhwere and no pain anywhere. I didn't feel dizzy or weak. (yes I was doing a heart attack check). It was just annoying. After the break at Betzwood it was fine for about a mile and then it came back. This time though it the frequency started picking up. By the time I made the turn around it was happening even on my walk breaks.
I got back to the bathrooms/parking lot at the trailhead and most of my buddies were still there so I stopped, stretched and chatted. I also tried to assess what was going on. Even standing there it was still happening. I felt tired but not dreadfully so and I had a snot river (sorry) going down the back of my throat since I started the run. I concluded that my body wasn't up to this today and that the frequency increase was my body's way of shouting that enough was enough. So I decided that 14 was going to be it for today. I told my friends that I decided to stop (but without the detail) and Eileen who lives not far from where my car was parked graciously offered me a ride back to it.
I've been home for about 5 hours now. Showered, fed, rested (a 1.5 hour nap) and I feel fine. I'm not going to be upset about this. As I said it would be counterproductive anyway but I really didin't have to talk myself into being ok with it. I had the best 20 miler I've ever had two weeks ago so I know I can do this. As Carolyn would say " I got this ". I'll keep moving and smiling for the next four weeks and assessing my condition and do my best on marathon day. That's all a person can do, right?
Additional good news, my knew feels good too. My left hip and along my IT band was barking at me when I first got home but it's fine now. I'll have to be diligent with stretching that area and doing the excercises the PT gave me last year (I've kind of slacked off) so hopefully that will be a non-issue on race day.