Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Thank God that's done.

I used to measure all bad runs by the 2009 Eastern States 20 miler I ran in a monsoon, nothing could be worse than that.....until this weekend's 20 miler.  I got up early Saturday and as I was getting ready I could hear thunder and saw a few flashes of lightning.  Hoped it would just be a passing storm and by the time I left it would be done.  It let up just as I was heading out the door.  Still cloudy and sprinkling a little, but not crazy hurricane rain or anything.

Well, I made it about half a mile down the road from my house and the skies opened up again and dumped giant quantities of water on me.  I thought about turning around and calling it quits, but forged ahead.  I was already out there and already completely soaked, it couldn't get worse right?  My shoes were making that awesome squishing noise with every step, but I figured the sun would come out and I would be dry in no time, plus on the bright side the rain cooled me off a little.

It wasn't really that hot out, but it was ridiculously humid.  I thought maybe the rain would have pulled some of the moisture out of the air and made it less oppressive, but it didn't.  I felt like I was running through wet cement.  The first 6 miles were ok.  I felt pretty good despite being totally soaked and a little sluggish.  Mile 7 is a long gradual climb and I felt like I was pulling a 50lb. sled behind me, but I gutted it out.  I still felt relatively good.  Legs were fine, lungs fine, not too hot, not too tired....yet.  Mile 8 was slow but sort of flat and I stopped to take a gel so I attributed the time lost to that. 

I turned up High Plain Rd. in Andover for miles 9-11 and I always forget how awful the hills are.  I think the word 'plain' makes me think flat, but I selectively forget to read the word 'HIGH' first.  This was the point in the run where I really started to feel like junk.  I was totally gassed on the hills and exhausted.  I tried as hard as I could to just keep running and push through, but the perceived exursion was off the damn charts.  I'd run a few strides and stop doubling over and heaving, totally spent.  Not good considering I still had 10 more miles to go.  I had a few options to cut the run short, but stubborn as I am I talked myself into suffering through the long run.

By the time I got to Haggett's Pond Rd. and was headed to the second section of my figure eight loop I had already started getting goosebumps, a sure sign of bad things to come.  I was still completely drenched but it was impossible to tell if it was from sweat or the rain.  I hadn't been drinking a lot in the first half of the run, so I made a conscious effort to take a few sips every mile, but when the spout of my water bottles touched my lips I couldn't limit it to a sip, I guzzled whatever liquid was left in them.  Obvious that my body was now a dry sponge trying to absorb anything available.

I made it to the bottom of Haggett's pond and thought because it was a long downhill I must have gotten a decent paced mile in there, but no still barely shuffling along.  Seven miles to go, I got this right?  Doing the math in my head trying to figure out how long it might take me to get home.  I pulled out a bottle from my fuel belt....EMPTY.  Checked the next one.....EMPTY.  All of them.....EMPTY!!!  I still had a long way to go and I was out of water.  I knew there was a fire station at the top of the next series of hills, but that was still 3-4 miles away.  I hoped I could make it there and I wouldn't need to be picked up by them passed out on the side of the road.

I slowed to a crawl, almost literally, I think I would have crawled if I thought it would be easier.  I turned my head to look at every car passing by praying for a police cruiser or emergency vehicle of some sort.  I usually see at least a few Tewksbury PD cruisers along this loop, but not this time.  Not a single one.  I made it to the Fire station and wanted to collapse on the ground in front of them.  My mouth was like paper, so parched I could barely articulate the need for assistance.  I explained my situation and asked them for water and possibly a ride home.  I still had 3 and a half miles to go and I didn't think I could make it.  I was dying.  They gave me water and sent me on my way.

Within a half mile from the fire station I had already consumed ALL of the water I got from them.  The voice of my friend Kim was in my head saying "anyone can run a 5K", only 3 miles to go, but it was the longest 3 miles EVER.  I felt a little better because I had replenished some of the fluids lost, but still struggled.  I had told my mom, visiting for the weekend, that I would be gone for about three and a half hours and if I wasn't back in four hours she should come looking for me.  My watch approached 4 hours and I was half hoping that she would show up driving down the road, but at the same time I was embarrassed and ashamed that this run had taken so long and taken so much out of me. 

I made it up the last hill and around the corner to my house and my watch beeped 20 miles - DONE!  It took me 4:16, the same amount of time it took me to run the Boston Marathon.  It was definitely the worst run ever.  I am not even sure I can call it a 'run' because for a good portion of the time I was barely moving at all.  I walked into my house and immediately downed a giant glass of water and then another one.  I wanted to take an ice bath, but didn't have the energy to even attempt driving to the store for ice.  I stripped my soggy clothes off and weighed myself before getting in the shower.  I had lost about 10lbs in fluids. 
My legs were trashed.  I cramped up so bad.  I can't remember the last time I hurt so much on a long run, not even in a full marathon.  I averaged a 12:48 pace, my heart rate averaged 150bpm and maxed out at 200bpm.  According to my Garmin I burned 2300 calories, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was more.  I spent the rest of the day helping my mom scrap and prime my front porch, but I was pretty much useless.  I drank several tall glasses of water and lemonade, but couldn't quench the ridiculous thirst no matter how much I drank.  And even after all the fluids I was replacing, nothing was going through my system, if you know what I mean, so my body just continued to soak up everything I put in it. 

Anyway, I think that 20 miler takes the cake and now replaces the Eastern States race as the worst run ever that I will forever measure all other runs by from now on.  But on the bright side, I survived it and I can now taper for Berlin and pray for cool, cloudy, not humid weather in 26 days.  If I can make it through a ridiculously tough training run like that and survive to run another day, race day should be a breeze.  Like I always say, the race is the reward for the training and this one is going to be one heck of a reward well earned. 

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