Stupid things I did last week – and some not-so-stupid things to counter them.

STUPID THING: This is old Olympics news, but I failed to watch the USA-Canada women’s soccer semifinal a week ago. I was… just puttering around after work, and didn’t think to watch it online or anything. I was following along with a friend who was liveblogging it, and that was exciting enough, but when I saw the replay of the winning goal later on, I wished I’d seen more of it.

NOT-SO-STUPID THING: I did watch the gold-medal game of USA-Japan, online, as it happened. I was very nearly late to a rehearsal because of it, but that game was no less nail-biting. I was pleased that my viewing had no cursing effect on our ladies’ play, because I’m still convinced that I’ve made several teams lose just by watching. (I know that’s silly. I don’t care.)

STUPID THING: This was Wednesday of last week: I came home in the early evening and noticed a wasp flitting around my mailbox. I opened said mailbox to get the mail out, and the wasp flitted dangerously close to my hand. Instead of grabbing the mail and walking away quickly, I swiped at the wasp to get it to go away. It didn’t. I turned tail and ran, and it chased me, and stung me. Only once, but as soon as it happened I knew that that was the exact wrong thing to do. I immediately went inside and put ice on it; I’ve since then kept an eye on the mailbox to see if more wasps have been around  it – one has been dancing around the underside, but I’ve left it alone, and as soon as I get a spare evening I’m going to go spray it and see if any wasps remain the next day – but I’ve by and large given the mailbox a wide berth. Our poor mailman; I feel like I need to leave him candy or beer or something. Speaking of beer, I decided right after the wasp sting that the only thing that could make the pain lessen was to go drink beer with some friends. Solid thinking, right?…. read on….

FOLLOW-UP STUPID THING: Wednesday morning I’d already run 6 miles, as per week 5 of my training program. Occasionally I run with the Hash House Harriers in town – a drinking club with a running problem – and Wednesday evening they posted an Olympics-themed run at a pub near my house. I figured I’d hang out with them for a bit since it was my first free Wednesday evening in quite some time – never mind my wake-up time of 2:45am the next day to go running with my old running buddy from the half-marathon, whom I’d run into on Tuesday night and made promise to go run with me on my Tuesday/Thursday short runs from that point forward. I had no idea that the Hashers had recently become much more of a running club than a drinking-and-ambling club, so when we ended up doing a hot, sweaty, under-hydrated 4.5 miles, I was a bit apprehensive. We finished around 9pm, which is already my bedtime, and I was hungry, so I stayed to have dinner and another beer at the starting pub. I got home at 10, in a considerable amount of post-I’ve-just-run-10.5-miles-and-now-have-to-run-another-3-in-7-hours panic, and thought long and hard about calling my running buddy and telling her that our meeting would have to wait until next week (which is now this week by this time). I didn’t, and went to sleep instead after downing a bunch of water. My alarm went off at 2:45 per usual, and I met running buddy at 4:45, and off we went for what was easily the slowest 3 miles I’ve run in a very long time. By the time I got home Thursday night, I was completely exhausted from not only that excessive running but also weight-lifting. I got a good 8 hours of sleep that night, which was totally necessary, and quite blissful.

NOT-SO-STUPID THING: I wore my new shoes on my 3-mile runs last week, and have, I think, broken them in enough to wear them on all of my runs (3, 6 at pace, 3, 9 long) this week and then probably from this point forward going on to the marathon. My old shoes had already been at just about the point of wearing out, but I wore them on my long 12-mile run on Saturday because I thought it would be better to do that than try to take the new shoes out on a long run too soon. My hips have been telling me to switch shoes already, so I hope they’ll be happy with the change and stop giving me twinges already. But, wearing the old shoes on Saturday could have been one thing that contributed to the next stupid thing, which was….

STUPID THING OF EPICNESS: So, yes, Saturday was supposed to be a 12-mile slow run. My roommate, who ran her first marathon last year – the exact same one I’m training for this year – agreed to come with me on this run; she’s faster than I am, which we both knew going in and were okay with, and the main reason we ran this thing together was because it was out of town on country roads near a peach orchard that was serving all-you-can-eat peach pancakes late Saturday morning. My logic was this: wake up early, go out for a 12-miler, refuel with pancakes, and go on with my day. Foolproof, right? Roommate mapped out a 12.5-mile loop that was agreeable to me, and off we went, having zero idea of the topographic layout of our run. (We suspected it would be “rolling hills” because of the location.)

Two things we didn’t count on: GIGANTIC rolling hills and one road being a private road that forced us to double back and add another half-mile or so to our total. So we ran 13.1, which, again, is not a problem per se since I’m comfortable with that distance, but throw in the extra 4.5 miles from Wednesday and that means I’ve now run 29 miles in a week in which I was only supposed to run 24, after a week in which I ran only 21. I don’t think you need to be a genius to know that that is bad. Add to that the facts that a) I didn’t walk before we started running like I always do; I didn’t want to hold roommate back, so I agreed to starting at a slow jog, which b) turned out to be a super-fast first 3 miles because the scenery was gorgeous and so was the weather, and most of it was downhill anyway, and c) when we stopped for water at mile 6, I didn’t drink nearly enough because I was afraid of cramping – take all that, and it’s no wonder that at mile 10, I got this horrid, dreadful feeling from the waist down.

Yup. I hit the wall, big time. My legs felt like they couldn’t go on any more, and my right leg went numb entirely after I ignored the cramping in my right calf. My hips were screaming at me to stop, and my angry tendon was joining in the chorus. At one point my roommate circled back to me – we agreed that it was okay for her to run ahead of me but circle back to make turns with me so we didn’t get lost – and I panted, “is this what it feels like to hit the wall? I want to be shot in the legs right now” – to which she responded, “oh yes, I’ve hit it too”. We still had, unbeknownst to us, three miles to go at that point, but we were out in the middle of the country with no way to get back to her car (and the peach pancakes) except to keep going.

So we did. It was pure and utter hell, but I willed myself to put one foot in front of the other. Mostly it was me thinking to myself, “so what if you hurt? You’ve been through worse. You’ll get through this. Also, PANCAKES.” Over and over and over. When we made our last turn for the last mile, which was mostly uphill with two large inclines, I got mad at the increase in elevation, telling myself I was just going to take this pain out on the pavement. And you know what? Somewhere around mile 12.5, the pain dissipated. My legs started working again. My steps became larger and more purposeful, and by the time I hit the last hill I knew I’d be okay. I came in actually smiling, striding hard and confident, and feeling actually pretty darn good. It was a slow 13.1 – 2:25 – but it felt great by the end. Not gonna lie, those peach pancakes were absolutely fantastic, especially when topped with peach frozen yogurt. YUM.

But, yeah – knowing I can hit the wall and still work through it and come out fine? HUGE. A huge thing to know now, rather than in mile 20 of the actual marathon. I know now what I did to cause it, and I know now how I need to react to get through it, and so much of a marathon is mental that I’m glad I had this experience to remind me of that very fact- when your legs fail you, sometimes all you’ve got left is your brain to get you to the end.

The promise of peach pancakes didn’t hurt, either. 🙂

Let’s see what this week brings, eh? Sigh…

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