Saturday, August 01, 2009

Humble pie

For my first few marathons the 20 mile runs in my schedule were the big, big mountains in my training. They were the runs I dreaded, the ones I felt I had to get right in order to feel confident about my training and upcoming race. Then, last training cycle I ran both of my 20 milers as races. This both improved my times (considerably) and made them more fun and less of a big deal. Also, the Pfitzinger program has so many relatively long runs and big training weeks. For whatever reason, I was feeling quite seasoned and I no longer felt any fear about doing my first 20 miler of this cycle while on holiday in Greece.

But this long run proved a fickle mistress.. I had gone to bed early the night before, leaving the rest of my family to have their night out and instead staying in to eat pasta and drink water. I got up at 530 am to beat the heat, but found, upon being outside, that it was still dark. Greek drivers have to be seen to be believed, so I dared not venture out before daylight. So I headed to the treadmill for my first 2 miles. By then it was light enough (and I was fed up enough) to head out. Strike one - for the first time ever my Garmin acted up. 1 minute into my run the autolap feature told me I'd run a mile. Dang! I started panicking - how was I going to measure out a 20 miler in a new territory without the Garmin? However, I managed somehow to restart the thing and off I went. I had run 12 earlier in the week so the first 6 miles were not too hard, though I felt no pace in my legs. I could feel I had the (still mild) wind in my back and, all in all, it was not going too badly. And then, very suddenly, I ran out of road. The track which follows the coastline, simply stopped. So I waded across the sand and ran the next 2 miles along the beach, right along the shoreline. Although this was the best (most packed) surface, the camber was very steep and, of course, I mistimed my steps and managed to wet both feet. I was getting thoroughly fed up by this stage. I decided 2 miles out along the beach was enough (was, by this stage, getting 12:30 minute miles) and so turned around. 2 miles back was worse as the wind was now picking up (the kitesurfers were already setting up at 7am so that tells you something) and I now got sand in my face as well. Great. Back on the track things improved a bit - at least the surface underfoot was better) but the wind was now getting very strong. I sucked down an espresso Hammergel and headed out on a 1 mile out and back up and down a hill road to add the extra 2 miles I had missed by only heading out 8 miles to begin with) and then started on the way back. What can I say? It was horrible. It was really hot, really windy and just a constant struggle. In my 20 milers for London I had run great races and now I felt like I was just back to square one - struggling to get under 10 minute miles. I didn't. My overall time for the run was 3:26.

I don't think it's my fitness. All my runs for the past few weeks have gone very well and I've not struggled at all with any of the set paces. I think it was purely the very unpleasant circumstances of the environment. But nonetheless it was humbling. I thought I would just slip this long run in. And I didn't. It took every ounce of mental strength I possessed to just carry on and drag myself through this run. Probably a good thing to just regain a little respect for the distance and the effort. Not to mention for all those pals of mine who train in the heat all the time.

Finally - here is a photo I took along the way. It convey nothing of the unpleasantness and makes it all look rather lovely. Maybe it's my attitude that needs changing and nothing else..

9 comments:

lizzie lee said...

Dear, firstable, of course a 20-miler is a respectable distance, whether we have been successful before.. So is a marathon. Remember that every day is different from the other day.

Second, to handle a 20-miler in unknown territory adds to the equation. I did once in Washington DC, and traced a route to make sure I was not going to be running back and forth. Results? I did run around bad parts of time. People asked me why did I do that? Well, I didn't know until I got there.

Third, the trail is over, then sand, then beach, then wind, then sand in the face.

Fourth, it was hot!!!!

Please, give you all the credit that you deserve for still doing it, for getting up and start in the treadmill instead of going back to bed, for enjoying a beautiful run in a paradisiacal place. Life is short, think positively on what you did and not negatively on what you didn't.

sincere-lee
lizzie lee

aron said...

20 miles is a lonnng way! personally i think its good to have these humbling runs during training just because :) get them out of the way so marathon day isnt one of them! you still did AMAZING and finished up 20 miles on vacation!!!

lawyer_lady_london said...

You know what - I can honestly say that my worst runs are often more memorable than my best ones. Sounds like this one will stay with you for a while. By the way, this is a great blog - you write extremely well.

Susan said...

Yeesh - what challenges! One can not gloss over it and say "So what, you were in Greece!" So good on ya... you made some distance happen and that is commendable.

Irish Blue said...

I agree with all of the smart people above. You were on vacation - unknown territory, bad weather, blowing sand (yuck) - but you got it done and now you can
move on.

Denise said...

I just found your blog through Aron's!!

I've had quite a few humbling runs. They really put me in my place!

ShirleyPerly said...

Yes, as others have said 20 miles is nothing to sneeze at, esp. in the heat with other things you are not used to. Chalk it up as good mental training. I often find workouts like that are where I learn the most.

jeanne said...

OF COURSE it's not your fitness, you nut! you had all those actual, real-life obstacles. I'd be terrified I'd lose my way in a new place. Ya did great, and you'll have another opportunity! so there.

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