On Cutback Weeks. I have this idea that a cutback week for the type of mileage I do (75-85ish range) would land me somewhere around 60 miles. However, due to some kind of perception-based mental witchcraft, 60 miles doesn’t seem like a cutback to me. I’m still running about the same number of times, and I’m still running usually over an hour every time. That’s… not much of a break for my brain.
I bring this up because I’m racing the Broad Street Run this May, and figured this past week would be a good opportunity to relax. As it happens, I’ve been getting raging headaches almost every afternoon starting about ten days ago, so it was easy to make good on my plan. I took two days off entirely and just ran about 45-50 minutes easy on every other day with the exception of today (which ended up involving a glut of mileage due to multiple race warmups and cooldowns since I was freezing and got to the race earlier than I needed to). I liked taking the days off and I liked running only six miles at a time this week, so if I take a purposeful cutback in the future, I’ll probably do something more like this — the mental “refresh” button of 30-40 feels so much better than 50-60 would have felt.
10K #1. To review: After the Philly Marathon, I ended up being a sloth for about six weeks this November and December. I hardly bothered with cross training while I was injured. I relaxed, slept in, rested, went for leisurely walks, and didn’t worry too much about taking an extended break. I was post-marathon PR and thick into the winter weather and the holidays — there was absolutely no better point during the year at which to be injured. I still can’t believe my luck at the timing.
Before my mini injury-induced hiatus, I imagined that I might PR at one of these 10Ks. However, I took it pretty easy coming back from the injury and, despite having about six weeks of training under my belt, simply didn’t feel hungry enough for a PR to do any meaningful speed work or 10K-specific training. As a result, my expectations weren’t particularly high for either race.
The first race was the Northeast Road Runners Winter 10K at the beginning of March. It’s flat and fast and I would have PRed here if I had been a bit more focused, but I came through the half at a pace slower than a PR, figured it was out the window, and got semi-lazy and complacent. Bearing down on the finish line clock, I realized I had a chance to squeak under 39:00, but my kick wasn’t enough and I crossed the line in about 39:03 to match my current PR. I stopped my watch a second or so across the line in 39:04. Unfortunately, the results were wrong on the website and I’m listed somewhere around 39:16, so I guess I’ll never know what my time was and it doesn’t really matter to me because it definitely didn’t start with a 38:xx.
PS. This race was excellent. It was small, old school, and reminded me of being back in Juneau. There were about 230 participants. Chip timing? Hahaha, no. You got a cotton race t-shirt and bananas and water at the finish line. No extras or marketing ploys or gimmicks. I appreciate that.
10K #2. The second 10K was a fundraiser for colon cancer research, and it took place this morning. The course seemed fairly fast except for one long downhill in the second mile and a giant uphill in the fifth mile. I came through 5K at about 19:15 (pretty quick for me) but knew the hill would slow me down. The race was a combination 5K and 10K, and we linked back up with the 5K in the last 3/4 mile. I did the old frogger-zigzag-dodge-sidewalk-leap dance for about 1/2 mile around the 5Kers and felt pretty good about it until I STREAMROLLED A CHILD who unexpectedly leaped to the side and began to walk. Nothing is more horrifying in the middle of a race than running over a kid. I honestly would rather have pooped my pants or had a wardrobe malfunction. I stopped to check on him and make sure he was okay. He was perhaps 11 or 12 and very polite, and he apologized profusely to me which made me feel even worse about it. There is no excuse for running over a kid at a FUNDRAISER RACE. Maybe if it were the Olympic 10K final this would have been understandable. In any case, I still feel like an idiot and wish my reaction time had been better.
Where were we? Right, almost done. So, I trundled my child-steamrolling self across the line in about 39:34, a fair ways off my PR, but my body felt good and I didn’t feel like I was redlining or working too hard, just regular hard. Aerobically, I’m in decent shape, but I have a lot of work to do in terms of gaining speed, increasing my turnover, and getting my legs to catch up with my lungs and heart.
The cool part is that I was the first female in both of these races, and even though the fields weren’t particularly large or competitive, wins are fun. In any case, on to training for Broad Street, I suppose. Today’s zig-zagging and sidewalk-leaping might have been a helpful tune-up for the field size at that race. I’m hoping to land somewhere in the 65:00 range (6:30 pace, maybe?), but I don’t know what the course is like, so I might have to adjust that goal.
Winter insomnia. It’s happened to me in varying degrees every year of my adult life, these Januaries and Februaries littered with sleepless nights. Perhaps it’s a merely coincidence that at this time of year, the most trivial of life’s puzzles see fit to mystify me in the middle of the night, or perhaps, as I suspect, this phenomenon is some manifestation of seasonal affect disorder. Either way, starting sometime in January the sleeplessness begins, and by February, the prospect of attempting to sleep fills me with a languid sort of dread.
It started this week, and it happens like this: I’ll finally drift in and out of sleep starting around 2 am, have a few fitful dreams about things that make no sense, and then it will be 3:44 am and that’s very nearly not an unreasonable time to be awake, so I give in, give up, get up.
An abandoned sleep plies me with the gift of an everlasting morning, so this occasional insomnia is no terrible thing.
I make myself a leisurely pot of tea, lounge about, read, and suddenly I don’t feel like reading and drinking tea anymore and it’s still only 4:30 which is as good a time as any for a run and finally, finally, finally — this morning (Tuesday), after several weeks of uninspired slogs with achy knees, finally, running feels normal again.
It’s me and the ice and the streets of Philadelphia and the river path and the wistful whispered wish of wind against my throat. I can tuck the entire run in under cover of darkness, and I revel in this breeze blowing bitterly down the Schuylkill, and I think about the afterward, how once I finish this run, I can take my sweet time stretching and showering and making breakfast before work, and the whole day is fat with potential and stretched out cold before me.
Later on, the sky will be that thin wintered blue and the cars will all be out and I’ll have work and reading and class and interactions with other humans, and some will be the obnoxious ones I envy so much, the confident people who underestimate me, the ones who think they run the world. But here at 4:30 in the morning, it’s me who runs the world, me and a few fellow spandex-clad breath-chasers appreciating the icy inky prelude to a 13*F sunrise, the ones who won the fight against The First Ten Seconds of Waking Up, the ten seconds of that washing, sloshing, headsickness as the pillow pleads desperately with your head not to leave it.
Today, at least, we’re out here. And ice and wind and dark be damned, once we’re out here, there’s nowhere else we’d rather be.
I’ve been hesitant to write this post due to the possibility of self-jinxing, but it’s time to happily admit that I’ve strung together several days of pain-free running. I lucked out with the timing of this injury, because I’ve been visiting family over the holidays and my aunt happens to be a chiropractor. Not only that, she’s a runner and understands the desire to run high mileage, so I’ve been fortunate to have both wise counsel and a number of chiropractic adjustments in the past ten days.
Here’s what she found:
1. Prior to adjustment, my left leg was functionally two centimeters longer than my right leg, and
2. My left piriformis was “in spasm.”
Fascinating! Well, maybe not to you, but this is my narcissistic corner of the internet, so it’s fascinating to me. And it’s leading me to think about a few things:
- My crumpling butt a few weeks prior to the Juneau Marathon. It happened exclusively on the left side.
- The tendinitis under my fifth metatarsal before and after the Louisiana Marathon: left side.
- The biceps femoris issue in the months leading up to Philly, more or less magically cured by falling down a riverbank and cracking my back: left side.
- The current knee issue, hopefully resolved by chiropractic: left side.
DETECTIVES, DO WE SENSE A PATTERN?! Might this all be related to the functional leg-length discrepancy I tend to slip into over time? I’ve known for years about my finicky hips and SI joints, but news of my continued functional discrepancy was illuminating. I’m aware that many people associate chiropractic with quackery, but I’ve had good experiences, and it’s difficult for me not to suspect that almost every overuse ache I’ve had in my adult running life has been related to some kind of temporary misalignment that ended up stressing some tendon/muscle or another. (Of course, there’s often more to it than that, and I’m no kind of doctor…)
I gave up on the NSAIDs a few days before I was supposed to be done with them. I’d finally gone for a tentative run after several days on the drugs to give them time to take down the inflammation, but my knee started hurting after thirty minutes (yeah, maybe I pushed it a little too far). Post-run, it hurt worse than ever, so my conclusion was “f you, naproxen” and the only way I will use this bottle of pills in the future is if I require an impromptu maraca.
I’ve been getting adjusted, doing trigger point therapy on my butt, foam rolling, and getting in lots of piriformis and hip flexor stretching, along with yoga (…yup, yeah). All the things I willfully neglect when I’m not injured. I have no evidence that the yoga is helping, but I don’t feel like turning this into a scientific research experiment so I’m going to assume that it is and keep it on for preventative measure.
I’ll head back to school in a few days and see how long I can make it without adjustments. That seems to be one common complaint runners have with chiropractic: the idea that it’s only a temporary fix because you have to keep getting adjusted. I’m going to call the hip/core-based yoga and stretching my physical therapy and hope that it helps me hold proper alignments so that my knee continues to play nice.
Something else I’ve noticed — and this was the case for both my knee pain and the biceps femoris pain — is that when an “overuse” ache pops up, it seems to be correlated with me not being able to get my lower back to crack during this stretch:
Having known for a while about my sticky SI joints, I’ve gotten into the habit over the past few years of doing this hip/glute stretch with the goal of feeling a few nice little pops in my lower back as I swing my leg over to the opposite side. If I get to a point soon where I can’t get things to pop, I’ll take it as a red flag that it may be time to see a chiropractor again.*
*I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT. But I’m going to file this away in my mental injury-prevention catalog anyway and use it as an indicator.
The actual running.
I’m slow and out of shape, but I’m grateful to be out there and my fitness will come back soon enough. There’s a 10K I have my eye on in March, and if I’m not in shape to run well by then, too bad.
Okay. Hitting publish on this and crossing my fingers that the universe won’t punish me for prematurely assuming I’m mostly healed.
So, the knee pain. It’s still here. And I’m still completely stymied by how quickly it emerged. This noise sneaked in out of nowhere over the course of a half-mile stretch on ONE run, after two weeks of time completely off and low-intensity running. I was innocuously jogging along doing nothing out of the ordinary. WTF, knee. I just don’t get you. WHY COULDN’T WE HAVE TALKED ABOUT THIS BEFORE THINGS GOT BEYOND REPAIR?!
I saw the campus sports medicine people a few days ago, and the doctor diagnosed this as some kind of quad strain along with pes anserine bursitis. I’m not too worried about the bursitis. The pain I feel is mostly that “quad”(?) pain at the insertion point alongside the medial kneecap.
I’ve become so used to my injuries magically evaporating overnight that I’m really, REALLY ready for this to go away now. I have essentially taken two full weeks off from any notable form of cardiovascular exercise since the day this pain popped up, and, if we get down to it, I haven’t been very active at all since the Philly marathon.
I do have a rowing machine and have used it a couple times, but, man, I forgot how mentally tough I have to be to make it through any kind of meaningful session on that thing. Lately, every time I thought about taking it down and slaving away inside on it I just… didn’t want to. So I didn’t.
This past month has seen my lowest physical activity since maybe high school. I don’t feel like too much of a slug yet because I usually walk around a lot, and because it was good timing for a rest anyway… but I’m kind of over this “feel-like-half-a-person” and “the-days-don’t-seem-as-wonderful” thing at this point. I want to get moving and sweating again, and I want it to be in the form of running (wouldn’t say no to XC skiing either). I don’t want to be inside. Any motivation I may once have had to tough it out through indoor cross training is entirely absent.
I’ve been doing some really low-intensity body circuits focusing on core work, but yeah, other than that and walking, zilch. I keep convincing myself I’ll be able to run soon, and therefore this is fine.
The doctor said that if I was still in pain after school break, I should come back and we’ll get started on some real physical therapy and maybe a cortisone shot. I mean, after school break? That’s not until January. I really have no plans to be injured until damn-ass January. Unfortunately, I’ve tried a few runs and they usually hurt too much by the ~20 minute mark to warrant continuing on. The thing is, the runs start out feeling completely fine and don’t start hurting until about 10-15 minutes in. Not really sure what that means. I suspect, as with any ache I’ve had in recent years, that this problem stems from some kind of weakness or misalignment in my hips.
I expected to be back to running by now and I’m getting frustrated by the apparent lack of improvement. I also wonder if maybe this pain isn’t as bad as I think it is — maybe I can run through it? If I were training for something, I know I would have pushed this a lot further than I am right now.
Anyway, I guess I just have stretches and exercises to do, and a week’s worth of Naproxen. I’ve never used NSAIDs for an injury before, but I’m already at the point where I’ll try anything so I’m dutifully popping them every 12 hours. To be honest, I wonder if this might do more harm than good — it’s treating a symptom instead of the cause; maybe it’s masking pain that I should be heeding. I was also a little turned off by the immediate suggestion of doing a cortisone shot. Seriously? Again, at the risk of showing off how uninformed I am, what the hell is that going to do to treat the root of the problem? I guess I just feel as if this entire pain was exposed by some combination of weaknesses, imbalances, and misalignments, and I’d be best served to make sure I’m addressing those. Anybody with cortisone shot experience, feel free to share your thoughts.
Yeah, not super thrilled about this. I mean, walking is nice too and I’m glad for the option… it’s just not running…
My post-marathon return to running encountered a bit of a curveball earlier this week.
I was trotting on flat ground past boathouse row, 3.5 miles into what I imagined would be perhaps a 7-8 mile run, when I felt a novel tightness creep into my medial knee area just alongside the knee cap. It got a little tighter and a little tighter. I decided to turn around and start heading back, but jogged on through it hoping it would shake out and subside. It didn’t. Half a mile later, I called the run quits and walk-limped the remaining three miles home.
Nothing preempted the pain, no acute incident. I was jogging easily on flat ground. I’ve never had this kind of knee pain before.
Figuring that marathon recovery month would be an asinine time to acquire an injury, I opted to walk home and take a few more days off. I have my erg (rowing machine) here with me so I did some erging on my off days. Erging doesn’t bother the knee, dancing doesn’t bother it, going upstairs doesn’t bother it, and even walking is mostly fine. The only thing that seems to hurt is the pull-back/pushoff motion during running.
I jogged easily today to see if it had subsided and gave up after 20 minutes. Running downhill (even on slight declines) seems to exacerbate the pain. Something about this just feels… unwise to run through.
I keep wondering if it’s a meniscus issue, but a lot of the letsrun people (hey, I’m not the first one to use letsrun as a diagnosis tool) say that squatting down should cause pain. It doesn’t. Nothing seems to cause pain except for running. It doesn’t feel super localized; sometimes I can’t tell if it’s moving around a little or what. Some kind of tendinitis/inflammation issue? Something with the pes anserine (which I had never heard of prior to letsrun…)?
If I have to be injured, three weeks post-PR-marathon at the beginning of winter is the perfect time for it, but… let’s hope it will ultimately be another case of me overreacting. In the meantime, I’ll keep up with the erging and try to address some of the weaknesses (glutes?) that might be instigating the pain. I’m pretty out of shape for rowing, so I really can’t be going at the volume I’m accustomed to, which essentially means I’m going to continue to take it easy with exercise.
Whenever I have a pain that lasts more than a few days, I do start questioning my entire running existence and wondering if I’m doing something bad to my body. Recent posts from Gracie and Roserunner on this matter really struck a chord with me in terms of whether distance running and high mileage are really… worth it in the long term. Should I go back to being a combination athlete? Maybe I should just become a person who is chill and walks and does yoga and stretching and some light casual jogging here and there. (UGH NO NO NONONONONONONO. Maybe when I’m 40 or if I have little kids or something, this approach will be fulfilling. But for right now, I still have the bug: the hunger, the desire to train, improve, compete.)
Anyway, yeah. That’s what’s going on. Otherwise, things are pretty low-key. I’m nearly done with all my work for the semester and of course it’s the ongoing saga of feeling like I generally don’t have my act together in life, but… day by day, right?
My race reports tend to be more on the “inside my head” side and skimpy on the actual details, so I figured, with a week off from running and a strong desire to procrastinate my homework, now is the perfect time to add in a few more of the banal details I never think to share. Also, I want to stretch this post-race happy feeling out for as long as possible.
What I Ate:
- Breakfast: Four pieces of cinnamon-raisin toast with jam at 4:30am, along with green tea.
- Two Clif Shot Bloks at the starting line.
- During the race: 4 raspberry Clif gels — 1 each at miles 5, 10, 15, and 20. It’s rare that I manage to take these with water, but I’ve never had problems taking them straight up. I also drank water at about every other stop. Had a few sips of Gatorade as well, but mostly water.
No more smiling probably means this is the last 10K and I’m spelunking in my inner-focus cave. I certainly don’t look like the kind of girl who has any business mixing it up with the 3-hour mark here, but… books and covers and whatever.
Shoes: Saucony ProGrid Ride. I got these back in July and they have at least 1000 miles on them. I noticed as I was eating my pre-race breakfast that the right shoe has a hole in the pinky toe area. My feet got really beat up and blistered during the race — a lot more so than they have in the past when I’ve raced in Brooks Ghosts. I don’t think I would try to stretch the Sauconys this thin again.
Spandex: Underarmour that I’ve been wearing since my sophomore year in college six years ago. I wore longs because I was concerned about my hamstring acting up, and I figured it would have a better chance of surviving if I didn’t start out with cold leg muscles. Who knows if this theory holds water. I didn’t feel overheated at all.
Shirt: Tech shirt from the 2011 SeaCoast Relay in Juneau! My team won the whole thing that year. I liked knowing I had a piece of Alaska with me along for the ride.
Armwarmers: Constructed from $1 pair of CVS men’s tube socks. (Thank you, Tracy, for this idea.)
Gloves: Also CVS.
Hat: This is my college rowing hat. I run in a brimmed cap in the rain to cut down on the precipitation getting into my face, and I run in a hat in the sun to cut down on the… sun. I guess the only time I don’t wear a hat is if I’m running after dark and it’s not raining.
Ear warmer: One of those REI buff things, I think. I got it as a gift! I hate having cold ears, and ended up wearing it the entire time.
Watch: Timex. I got it in Atlanta in 2009.
I figured I would shed the gloves and arm warmers a few miles in, but I completely forgot about them. I probably would have been fine without them, but I was also fine with them, so here I am looking absurdly overdressed.
**I just reread this “Attire” section and am drooling on the table with boredom. No daily fitness fashion page is forthcoming.
I do not race with a Garmin if there are going to be mile markers along the course. The 2nd & 3rd mile markers were a little off, so I must have averaged something around 6:49 for those miles. I also missed a few of the markers.
Total Time: 3:02:42
So, my last mile was my slowest, and my last 0.2 was at 7:25 pace. Positive split aside, I think I meted out my effort level appropriately and began semi-dying at the correct point. Someday I hope to have the maturity and experience to run a marathon with a much stronger finish and a negative split that still reflects my fitness gains, but when I took it out aggressively in those first couple miles, I knew that this would probably be a positive split race for me — I wanted an honest shot at finding out my current fitness level, and I feel like I achieved this.
My first week post-”peak race.”
I’m following my usual post-marathon recovery schedule: luxuriating in a week completely off from running (and well, anything remotely resembling exercise aside from walking to class/work/the Thanksgiving dinner table). Second week back, I might test things out with a few short easy jogs. It shakes out perfectly that this two-week break happens to coincide with holiday travel and the crush of end-of-semester projects and tests.
Based on my past few marathons, I imagine that by the third week, I’ll be feeling good enough to introduce more regular running into my routine, and by the fourth and fifth weeks, if no aches or pains crop up and if I want to, I’ll likely approach my “normal” volume of 70+ mpw.
I do think that the body can become accustomed to almost anything, so when I see others jumping right back into their typical volume after running marathons, I have to figure… maybe that works for them?
As for me, I don’t race very often, so the races I do sign up for are all important to me. Philly was a big peak marathon, I put in the highest volume and intensity of training I’ve ever done for running, and I’m satisfied with my performance. Those three factors considered, it is indubitably time for a rest.
In fact, I feel like I shouldn’t even think about my next goal races very much yet – I’d rather give myself a month to recover and swing back to normal before picking out any races.
I have been thinking about what event I want to focus on this spring. I liked my pattern last year of training for a goal marathon and then a goal 10K a few months later. I also like the idea of training for the 10K because the time and energy commitment of the 70-80 mpw range feels natural and manageable – whereas those 100+ marathon prep weeks, while also satisfying and enjoyable, are much more of a reach and a stretch for me and seem to require a lot more ancillary maintenance activity (consistent myrtl routine and attention to my hips/lower back/glutes/core). And yeah, I know I maybe don’t have to be running triple digits in order to have a great marathon, but those weeks gave me so much confidence. And let’s be honest, they probably WERE the main reason I had a great marathon.
On Monday, I briefly considered rashly signing up for something small and flat and (if windless) fast like Hyannis or Ocean Drive this spring. I could gun for 2:59 and maybe even win… but I have the feeling this would turn into a case of “too much, too soon.” Right now, as much as I’d like to take a stab at it, I don’t see myself shooting for another marathon PR until next fall. I like the idea of taking a long rebuilding “quiet period” and letting my legs continue to accumulate miles, hopefully with some faster training ( for 8-15K races) peppered in there to provide a different kind of stimulus before I build back into the more gluttonous range I’ve enjoyed chasing in my last two marathon build-ups.
I guess this all serves to underscore the fact that I should wait until after my break/rebuilding period to assess my racing aspirations for the next couple months (and years).
Official results say 3:02:42 for a 6:58/mile average. In anecdotal results, the offending hamstring did not bother me one bit.
On the one hand, I don’t know how I did it.
On the other hand, sure I do.
I flip-flopped between nervous and psyched in the days leading up to the race. I could have predicted a result like this before I got injured, but lately, I wasn’t sure if I’d go out and find it hard to pull 7:25s, or if I’d somehow be seeing sub-7 pace and maybe that would magically feel easy.
After waking up this morning, I realized that more than anything, I was excited to let the day unfold. Let it happen. The miles I ran in training would either come back to reward me or they wouldn’t, and either way, it was going to be an incredible day to run.
Before the start, I met up with one of my training buddies and we jogged down to our corral. I was surprised to almost literally run into the girl who won the small 4th of July road race I did this summer (I came in second). Somehow this serendipitous run-in helped me feel really loose and grounded about how my race would go. Our brief, nervous chat made me feel connected to the mileage foundation I’d built starting all the way back in July.
National anthem, loudspeaker chatter, and then the gun went off and there I was crossing the starting mat hoping idly that I’d done a sufficient job tying my shoes.
My first mile was a 6:42. Oh, man.
I saw that opening split on my watch and thought to myself, Well, I guess it’s gonna be that kind of day.
I had no delusions of holding this pace all through the race, but I wasn’t worried about having a quicker start. I anticipated that if my hamstring held up and allowed me to see where my fitness stood, I was going to positive split this race.
I managed to reign in my pace after an opening 5K that averaged somewhere in the 6:40s. We cruised along through Center City and I high-fived a few little kids and soaked in the (honestly) heartwarming crowd support of strangers who read my name off my bib. I came through the 10k in about 42:22 and said out loud to myself, “a bit ambitious.”
Then the tide of fellow 3:00 to 3:05 hopefuls carried me across the Schuylkill and we came to the sole hilly section of the race between miles ~7 and 10. Many runners screamed by me down the hills in these miles. As they did, I announced to the guy next to me: “Don’t go with them, we’re gonna save our quads.”
SWEATY KID, COURSE EXPERT, ZERO CREDENTIALS.
However, he emitted a noise that sounded like an agreement, and together we remained calm and let everybody fly by us. We later both reeled most of these people back in and passed them after things flattened out.
All too soon, there we were peeling back around the Art Museum and losing our half-marathon friends. My watch caught the half split at 1:3o:22. I felt I was at a similar effort level at the same point during the Louisiana Marathon, where I positive split by about two minutes in the second half. I decided I could hope for a similar result here, which might mean I could squeak under 3:05.
We swung out onto lovely, leafy Kelly Drive where the crowd support all but evaporated, but I was glad because this, this was going to be my stretch. My river. My path. My town. At about mile 14.5 or 15.5, however, I had a fleeting moment of doubt. I saw the mile 24 marker on the opposite side of the course, and experienced a mild, sudden paralysis of WTF ARE YOU DOING WHY DID YOU GO OUT SO FAST STUPID IDIOT YOU ARE GOING TO PERISH.
But it passed. A word popped into my head that I latched onto during those miles: “Nunatak.” It’s a Native Alaskan word for rock outcroppings that aren’t glaciated — they’re more or less the tippy tops of mountains that were (or are) too tall to have been covered in ice. I’m not sure if this is true, but somebody back in Juneau once told me that it means “lonely one,” or maybe that’s a name for one of these particular mountain tops. I had an Aldo Leopold moment and told myself these miles up until the turnaround point for the last 10K would be the nunatak miles. The lonely ones. I could think like a mountain and shoulder the loneliness and it didn’t have to be some big miserable end-of-the-world deal.
Aside from that, I don’t believe I had a single outside thought until about mile 20. It’s as if I shrank back into myself during these miles and fixated on the simple, manageable task of hitting the four minute mark on my watch into each mile split, and then the (sub)-seven minute mark. I plugged methodically onward through the markers and stayed smooth, relaxed.
Soon we were turning around in Manayunk and it was exactly as I envisioned it. Last 10K. The bridges, the St. Joe’s boathouse, the river path, the rowing statue and the grandstands. Sub-7:00s were harder to come by and a few ephemeral whispers of cramps seized my legs, but I kept doing the math in my head and knew I’d have to have a cataclysmic meltdown to be over 3:05. Even as my pace crept upward, it seemed as if the final miles went by far too quickly. I was uncomfortable, but not redlining. I had no desire for a heroic fast finish — probably could not have mustered one if I’d tried — and was mostly a little sad to see the race coming to an end. I took my time getting through the last mile and my reaction to passing the 26th flag was one of wistful disbelief.
I crossed the finish line and the rest of the world roared back into my ears, throngs of runners and spectators, heat sheets crinkling, medals winking in the sun, people talking loudly and limping.
The subsequent hour was spent kneading away charlie horses, drinking several blissful cups of chicken broth, and passing multiple eternities in the changing tent while undergoing basic challenges to my gross motor skills like removing my freezing sweaty sports bra without sending my muscles into painfully exhilarating cascades of cramps. I spent the rest of the day eating and drinking with family and friends, feeling satisfied, grateful, happy and, well… incredulous and sad that it was already over.
Well, we all know there is only one cure for that feeling.