The apprehension that I was feeling towards my long run was directed externally, when it should have been internally focused. I was wrong about the trail’s ability to hold four TNT teams. There was more than enough room. It would appear that the trail of the day was essentially reserved for us to take over. There was plenty of room to get around as the teams moved in either direction.
On this HOT day, I was luck enough to be granted permission to begin running earlier than my wave’s scheduled time – thanks to Coach Tim! My friend, Cindy, joined me for the first 8 miles. We were joined up by Simone, the team manager, for a bit of it. Riding along side of us on her bike, we chatted the early miles away. After a bit, she rode on ahead to check on the other participants.
After Cindy left me, I was alone for the better part of the time. I began trying to calculate how many more miles until I hit the 18 mile turn-around. We had started our morning run by running out and back 3 miles in the opposite direction. This complicated the math problem a bit, but not enough to ease my mind when I could not figure it out with total certainty. I was essentially alone on a sun-beaten trail, and unable to complete simple addition in my head. When I finally hit the turn around, I sipped my gatorade, ate a M&J power snack, and a GU packet.
On my way back, there were more of my team mates around me, most were heading in the opposite direction. I met up with Erin at the aid station around mile 12. Fighting her way back from IT band issues, Erin is amazing. She faithfully adheres to the recovery plan, making the best of each and every step. She leads her wave at the track workout by a huge margin, and obediently stops when she has hit her prescribed limits on mileage or time. We hooked up and began running together, but right away I could feel the difference in pace as I tried to fight back the fatigue and keep pace with Erin. A mile later, I admitted that her pace was too fast for me to keep. I bid her goodbye and let her slip away. I did not lay eyes on Erin again until she had hit her limit on running time and began walking the final 3 miles.
I could feel my fatigue in a big way but I did not know that it was so visible until Coach Kris asked me if I was okay when I hit the aid station. The day was already hitting record highs, and I was feeling the effects. I was not totally defeated though. I was determined to somehow cover the 20 miles I’d set out to run. Kris reminded me that the final miles were more shaded than not. It was encouraging. I drank down my water, and plodded onward.
Even though most Nike participants will not run 20 miles until closer to race day, it is ever important to me to have a 2nd 20-mile run under my belt. I’ve been noticing the lack of miles on my running log this training season. I don’t think that I have ever been so mileage deficient going into a race. It is difficult not to feel ill prepared to toe the line.
I cannot blame it on TNT. The organization has done all that it promises its participants running wise. I have no doubt that I will be able to finish my marathon come October 19th. I, however, had bigger hopes for this marathon. I wanted to work my way back towards my previous level of fitness. I am saddened to realize that the physical aspect of this marathon will likely be a struggle more than a triumph.
Too a large extent, I am the one to blame. For whatever reason (and I have many), I was not as diligent in my cross-training as I should have been. Additionally, my OYO runs were often the shorter of the given distance range. While I sit back in awe of Erin, I realize that I did not do as she did. I have not been fighting my way back as hard as I need to. In order to get to where I want to be in my running, I need to give my training a lot more dedication. The question is: Do I want it bad enough?
The act of running 20 miles twice in a training season gives me a little reassurance that I can somehow suffer through the 26.2 marathon miles. That was what fueled me to run past the final aid station (where everyone was celebrating being finished), to cover an additional 2 miles. Hopefully, those final miles are not a sign of what I am in for come race day. They sucked. If they are, I know that I can push through.
I have 6 weeks until race day. I can use this time to buckle down and make the best of what time remains in my training season, or I can toe the line knowing that I realized my short comings and did nothing about it.