Two weeks ago, I competed in the Run for the Gold metric marathon, which goes from Meyersdale, Pa., to Frostburg, Md.
Last year when I ran it, it was running nirvana. The sky opened up, the world seemed more in focus and I felt like a giddy schoolgirl.
This year, not so much. It was the most difficult race I ever participated in during my brief two years as an adult runner.
I guess, I’ll start at the beginning.
There are times in life where you’re at the edge of the cliff of no return, where you’re left is shifting too fast downhill for you to keep up.
A few days before this was one of those times. In the span of a week, I grew stronger than I had before. I made some decisions no sane person should have to make. And then I dealt with the aftershocks. It was mentally painful and demoralizing. Physically, there were times when I had to stop and remind myself it was suppose to be a taper week.
As the race neared, I attempted to put things in order enough that I could race with a clear mind. My worries had to take a backseat as I ran this race.
Prerace jitters happen to everyone. It was bad for me that morning. I wore a purple outfit I had worn a few times in public but not during a 16-mile run. I packed what my husband, a more experienced runner, said was too much to carry. I had two collapsible water bottles and two SPIbelts full of stuff to snack on and a head lamp. And I wore my trail shoes, as my other running shoes where unusable for anything over a 5k.
The first half of the course, on the Great Allegheny Passage, is uphill until you hit the Eastern Continental Divide.
It was there that I meet up with Rachelle and Danielle from Pittsburgh. My slow run seemed more manageable with them keeping me company. They were using a 3 to 1 Galloway pace, which worked well for me until the last two miles or so. This was their first time running in the area, so I pointed out things as we went along.
My work from the week before made the run stressful as soon as the gun went off. I usually find my groove around mile three during my distance runs, but no such luck. Music just amplified the slow-as-molasses feeling I had.
The Galloway method kept me focused and moving forward. Near the end though, we all got separated. The final quarter mile is a set of switch-backs up a hill. I had already planned to walk them to conserve energy. When the bicyclists that helped monitor the race said, “You’re almost there,” I wanted to hurt him. Try running 15 miles and going up this hill and tell me how great being almost there feels.
I finished three minutes faster than last year’s time 3 hours, 27 minutes. I was among the last to finish, but I finished.
Mentally, throughout the race, I just couldn’t calm myself down and enjoy the run. I keep worrying about stuff at work that I hoped I put in good hands (it didn’t happen), things at home (whether kids has breakfast), etc.
And it just seemed to snowball after that.
Typically after a long run, you are supposed to let your body rest. You may feel OK a few hours after the race, but give yourself 48 hours and you’re body aches in places you didn’t think possible. I gave myself a day. And then I was back to the task of being an extreme worker bee. I had a heavy load at work too, so I was running on four to five hours of sleep and ended up helping dispose of 1.4 tons of trash.
My race was on a Sunday. That Friday, my body said, f*** you. I was running on caffeine fumes, my mind was fuzzy and my muscles shook as I moved.
So, I’ve been taking a break. On the days I run, I can tell right away that parts of my body still aren’t happy. But mentally, I feel better about getting that walk in with the kids. The run down the street as I chase my dog that wants to escape.
I’m trying to take it slowly. I’m aiming for either an obstacle course race in late September or a half marathon in November. I’m still aiming for doing three pull-ups by December. Let’s get to work.