This is a special post from Grace from How I Complicated My Life Today. I found her blog a few months ago when searching for Freedom's Run. I was very excited to find someone else training for the same marathon, especially since it's a smaller one. She's a much more experienced (and speedy!) runner than I am. I love reading and learning from her (she also has lots of very entertaining stories too!). A few weeks ago, she approached me with the idea of swapping blog posts for our first 20-mile runs. I thought it was a great idea! I'm still a few weeks from my first 20-miler but she ran hers this week. Without further ado, her recap:
Hello, readers! I'm Grace from How I Complicated My Life Today, a blog about the silly things I do each day to make like just that much more difficult (It's an art form). I'm stopping by today to recap yesterday's twenty mile run: always a big milestone in marathon training. Abbi and I are actually training for the same marathon: Freedom's Run in October. Because our training is similar, I thought it would be fun to swap twenty-miler tales.
I wish this was an awe-inspiring report for all of the first-time marathoners out there, but it isn't. It was a pretty tough run. But sometimes a hard run is good for you; it trains you to persevere even through suboptimal conditions.
Yesterday my plan was to work from 7 am to 3 pm, then head out for my run in the afternoon. I'm a pharmacist, which means I am on my feet all day at work AND I probably won't get a chance to eat. Strikes one and two for a long run. By the time I got off work, my legs were tired and my tank was empty. But I still wanted to get the run in. You see, I'm a foolish optimist when it comes to running. So when I thought about the 20-miler, here's how it played in my brain - and the facts that hit later:
Optimistic fallacy #1: "Exciting new 20 mile route! All over the city! It goes around city park, so there will be fewer traffic stops! Running in the French Quarter will be fun!"
Fact: What the heck. I've never seen so many cars in my life. Where is everyone GOING?! Hey, there isn't a side walk here. Huh?! There isn't even a shoulder! Dude! Get in the other lane, you're running me over! Hm, Royal street is straight up walking. There are tourists on every square inch of sidewalk. Darn you, you camera-toting, umbrella stroller-pushing vacationers!
Optimistic fallacy #2: "So what if it rained so hard that I couldn't get down flooded streets this morning and my car took on a little water. And it's still raining. It will finally make for a cooler run!"
Fact: This is New Orleans. It can be hot and rainy at once. And dodging/landing in puddles every third step really makes for an uncomfortable run.
Optimistic fallacy #3: "I don't need a camel-back. Not exactly a fashion statement. I'll just carry this ginormous bottle of Gatorade".
Fact: My hand is not actually large enough to fit around the bottle, so I had to hold it football-style the entire time.
Optimistic fallacy #4: "It's ok to be hungry. I'll just eat a Gu!"
Fact: NOT OK TO BE HUNGRY.
Optimistic fallacy #5:"Prunes are a great snack before a 20 mile run!"
Fact: Prunes aren't a good snack anytime.
All bright-eyed and cheerful, I headed out into the rain. My run went down Carrollton avenue to start and bam, right away I stepped in a puddle. I learned there are two ways to run sidewalks in New Orleans during the rain: step in an ankle deep puddle, or avoid it and run into a low-hanging, soaking wet branch. I struggled to hold my huge gatorade bottle, realizing that it was totally throwing my gate off. I had to hold it in my right hand only, since it kept hitting my watch and ipod on the left. I reached City Park and my tummy started to feel off. I ate a Cliff Shot with gatorade and began the long loop around the park. One long side of the park is Marconi Drive. This is where I discovered, hey, there aren't any sidewalks! It was blessedly free from stop lights (one or two) but nerve wracking and very WET. The sky opened up on me and I just got drenched. I could feel friction in my shoes.
Marconi is supposed to end at Lakeshore drive, but it didn't. The road was closed, blocked by a huge red crane. I was not familiar with the area, so I didn't want to take any short cuts. Don't tell FEMA, but I scaled the muddy construction blockade, skipped past the crane, and made it to Lakeshore drive. This was a good part of the run, because it's pretty (on the lake) and stop-free. I picked up the pace and felt good. Then I felt bad. I realized that I was starving, but to take in any more calories I'd have to hydrate. I was worried about my fluid supply: the next place I knew I could get water was about 12 miles off still. I realized I'd been betting I could find water on the route - and I couldn't.
My next turn was onto Wisner, which parallels Marconi and takes you out of the park. But I missed my turn. That's because actually the cross street is Beauregard, which turns into Wisner. Incidentally, this is basically the only street sign in the whole area. Obviously New Orleanians do not think street signs are important. I got hopelessly lost in a cute residential neighborhood for over 25 minutes before stopping for directions.
Back on track, I was feeling rough. I was starving, cramping, and thirsty. My detour had set me back on time and fluids, and I was nearly out of Gatorade. When I saw that the road was blocked ahead by paramedics, I almost hopped into the back of the ambulance with the dude in the neck brace. It looked like a biking hit and run or a something - the injured man was talking and sitting up, but in a stabilizing brace. I gave up on sharing an ambulance since I figured I smelled so bad by now I'd knock the poor guy out, and kept running. And walking. I started taking walk breaks and praying for water. Just as I got to a steep bride I looked down and saw a water! A Dasani, scraped up, in the road...cap still sealed. I drank it. Do NOT tell my husband. It was that or die on the side of the road! I had another shot block and felt better, but it was too late for my stomach. I was cramping badly and I could tell I was playing catch-up with my glucose. I ran slowly down Esplanade (and threw out that stupid gigantic gatorade bottle in a public can). I was back in stop-light territory, and had to slow. By now I was so nauseated that I was just praying that I could hold off throwing up until I got to the French Quarter. I mean, everyone throws up on the streets in the French Quarter, right?
I hit the quarter, kept my dinner down, and ate another shot block. I took it with the last of my water. Once I was on Royal street I felt like it was almost the home stretch - which was good. My feet were so chaffed from wet shoes and socks that there was a ring of blood on my ankles! I shuffled through crowds on Royal street, no longer caring that it was killing my time. I found a PJ's coffee and did my scary crazy lady thing: go in all sweaty and repulsive and drenched in rain and mud and ask for water. I mean, who's going to say no?
I was feeling dehydrated, and drank most of the water before I got to the Rite Aid on Louisiana street. I like to stop here and fill my water up. It's about 4 miles from my house. After I filled up, I opened up a Gu and took half. I was instantly sorry - it upset my stomach terribly. Here is where I really went downhill. I staggered home, taking breaks to settle my stomach every 4 or 5 minutes. I actually had to stop two blocks from my house!
When I finally made it home, I was started to see stars from low blood sugar. But I knew what I needed: "Baked potato, " I croaked, and my husband frantically scrubbed a spud for me. I nibbled it with lot of salt and started to revive.
- Chaffed, lacerated, bleeding feet. Wet shoes and socks for 20 miles is painful!
- Stomachache. It probably didn't help that I followed the baked potato with a smoked salmon-caviar pizza, beer, and a pecan salad.
- Headache. Abrupt blood-sugar changes do that to me.
- Hypotension. I clearly did a poor job of hydrating; my blood pressure dropped and stayed down.
- Skin burns. The relentless rain stung my skin. It looks a little like a mottled sunburn and prickles a little.
But the good?
- I finished a 20 miler in bad conditions.
- My time wasn't the worst; subtracting the time I was lost it was 3:05:30; or a 9:16 pace. Not my best, but not terrible.
- No knee pain; I'm only a little sore this morning and in fact I did a one-hour cardio kickbox class this morning.
- You aren't superwoman. You need water and calories to crank out 20 miles!
- Check the route out first. I need sidewalks and fewer lights/traffic.
- Don't try new stuff on long runs (ie, bottles big enough to be aquariums).
- Not all runs are the best, but you have to give it your best.
So what's next for me? Another 20 miler. Next week I'm trying again, this time with better planning. This isn't my first marathon, but I am still learning long run lessons. If you have any tips to share, I'd be so appreciative!
See you guys at the next Marathon...who else is doing Freedom's Run?