We all knew that the run I planned for Thursday (yesterday) wasn’t going to happen. Because that is life.
I ended up doing a bike ride session on the indoor bike at the gym instead (for various reasons – namely that I got home a bit late and then my elderly neighbour came over to see me about a problem with her phone and it took me a while to understand the issue as her English is not very good, which also meant that she failed to understand that I really didn’t care about her phone or that I needed to go for a run, which resulted in lots of hand signals and a charades-style discussion about fishing – yes, fishing – before I realised it was dark and Shane banned me from going out in the pitch black)
SIDENOTE: For interest’s sake, I’ve been documenting my completed workouts on the same calendar as I put together and posted a few weeks ago, so that when we get to The Straddie Salute tri you can see just how wrong and off-schedule my training goes – almost every day. I think it is good to see the reality of how you can adapt and go with the flow. Stay tuned!
BUT the run needed to happen this week, because I will then have 4 weeks to practice it and have it down pat before THE TAPER starts for Straddie. So today had to be the day.
SIDENOTE AGAIN: For those who are new to my super-dooper triathlon lingo, according to trainingpeaks.com, ‘The taper is the controlled decrease in training load required to bring an athlete to that pinnacle of a focused mind, and a body that has shed all fatigue and is fresh to go’. I can’t wait!
So anyway, the run. You may have noted that the title of this post is ‘The 14km Run’. If so, please pat yourself on the back for being a super-sleuth. Because yes, that was indeed a clue – I threw all caution to the wind and wondered why bother with a 12km if I could do a 14km and be another step closer to the 21km I need to do in August?
You may also have noticed that I appear to be having a mid-life crisis.
You may also have noticed that this mid-life crisis is occurring abnormally early and has severely affected my ability to think rationally.
You may also be correct in your assessments.
Really what happened was I looked at my map of the local streets and figured out a 12km loop, but didn’t like it. This is the kind of insanity that happens when you become a runner – you look at a course on a map and feel compelled to weigh it up, like you might do the Local Council candidate in the elections, as if your feelings towards it/them somehow matters.
‘Nah, I don’t like the look of this one – looks like a battered old potato… This one looks a bit dodgy… Or how about this one? I feel like she could be nice’
It’s illogical, but the 12km loop lost my vote because I didn’t like the look of it. ‘If I just go to the end of the road rather than turning around at house number XXX, then I’ll have a 14km loop’ I thought to myself. This met all of my requirements (ie it was a silly idea and I liked it) so was a done deal.
I instinctively knew that the run needed to be done in the evening. My ex-runner mother actually asked me yesterday about what time I prefer to run and although I hadn’t consciously considered it before, the resounding answer for my long runs (especially distances I haven’t tried before) is in the evening.
This may be a surprise because I’ve mentioned numerous times that I love working out in the morning. For years I did nearly all my workouts in the morning – it’s a great feeling to get them over and done with and ride the high of endorphins for the rest of the day. I still prefer to do my swims and bike rides in the mornings if possible; there’s a totally different vibe to kick-starting your day with a session against the clock, ramping up your energy and adrenaline ready to tackle the challenges ahead. Working out in the evening always has a more relaxed feel to it, a vibe of pummeling out the emotions of the day and de-stressing. They’re both wonderful experiences, but for me the morning workouts and their incomparable pump are favourite.
However, running is a bit of a beast – I need to mentally prepare myself for the voices that will inevitably appear at the 5km mark and tell me that running is the stupidest idea anyone ever had for using feet. Being able to build myself up to a big run at the end of the day seems to be working quite well. I get pumped, I get excited. I start to look forward to the pain and the glory.
I also have to be well fueled for a big run: the difference for me between running on fuel and running on empty is the difference between running and literally walking. I don’t want to wake up at 3am to have breakfast before my run at 5am when it is just a training run and sleep is precious (although obviously for the impending half marathon I will make sure I wake up early and start fueling myself on race day) so running at the end of the day allows me the hours beforehand to get some carbs into my body.
With the course, day and time decided, I commenced preparations. Or should I say, I Commenced Preparations. Yes.
Firstly, being Friday I was able to finish work about 30 minutes early, to allow enough time to complete most of the course before sunset. This was important because the middle two kilometres would see me running on a country road with no lights and no path, so I didn’t want it to be too dark for that. I hoped that I’d finish within 1 hour 30, but not knowing for sure whether the course was exactly 14.2km as the map suggested or whether I could even run 14.2km straight meant that I was just guessing.
At 3pm I checked the temperature, which was 32 degrees but windy. I would be running to the local boat ramp, so most likely into a headwind for the first half of the run. Strong winds and strong sun (which would be setting, but still hot) meant I’d need water at some point, so I had to figure that out too. I filled a plastic bottle with water, wrapped it in a plastic bag like a piece of rubbish and decided to leave it strategically on the side of the road at the 4km mark – and hope that no good samaritan decided to pick it up and throw it away.
I had a bowl of cereal at 3.30pm (having no energy gels in the house, unfortunately) and tried not to get too nervous. I prayed the runner’s prayer – for poop – which luckily was a prayer that the Triathlon Gods answered.
Note for Newbies: If you cannot poop before your long run, then fuhgeddaboudit – you’re not running today.
At 4.30, Operation Run-Too-Far-Too-Soon kicked off with a swift change of clothes and a pump of my bike tyres. I had decided to cycle to the gym, where Shane would be arriving in the car later, so that as I lay on my deathbed post-run I could simply roll into the car and my beloved could hitch my bike to the mount and drive me home. I had a close call driving home the first time I ran 10km, so I didn’t want to take any chances after this epic Too-Far-Too-Soon attempt.
Note for Newbies: Running a long way can make you feel very faint. Do not operate heavy machinery straight after.
I rubbed some Vaseline under my arms, where I have developed a nice chafe line on my right hand side from rubbing against the seam of my running tops. I was prepared for blisters because I get them under my arches after every run, but they haven’t yet been bad enough to bother trying to prevent them.
Despite my attempts at staying calm, I was very nervous. I felt intimidated by the distance and the pain I’d feel. I knew that kilometers 6 and 7 – those last ones before I could tell myself I was on the way home, that I was over the first half – would be the hardest I’ve run so far. I had butterflies in my stomach and sweaty palms. As usual, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t complete the course.
I set off for the gym, and it has been a long time since I cycled that little course. I was astounded by how much faster I could go along the same stretches of road! My ego reared its ugly head and decided we’d better see just how fast we could manage on these old bumpy roads. It was fun, but I arrived at the gym very sweaty and a bit out of breath.
I locked up my bike (yes I actually have a lock these days! Thanks to mum!) and wandered in to the gym to change my shoes and head gear. I had a few sips of water, did a warm up and then the lady on duty came to chat to me.
I cut her off, explaining that I was going out for a 14km run but I would be back in about an hour and a half for chatting. And off I went.
The first kilometre was absolutely awful. I couldn’t believe it. My legs felt heavy, they felt uncoordinated, I had no energy with which to control them. I started thinking about how I would blog about setting off for a 14km run and only managing one. I got angry with myself.
I was so frustrated that I would have to throw in the towel… Until I realised I had just cycled to the gym. Maybe it was just the usual discomfort from running off the bike? I wondered.
The hope that I wasn’t as useless as I feared spurred me on. It didn’t get easier quickly, but by about the 3km mark I was settling into a better rhythm. So I blamed it on the bike. I promised myself I could turn around after 5km if I needed to and that thought comforted me.
At about the same time that I was telling myself these lies, I spotted Shane driving towards me, heading to the gym. I waved and was pleased he’d seen me looking a bit more confident than I had for the previous kilometres. I checked my watch, knowing that Shane would want about an hour at the gym. I had been running for nearly 20 minutes. I couldn’t afford to go too slow if I wanted to catch a ride home – in fact, I needed to run my best pace the rest of the way.
I powered on, running past where I had left my water bottle and deciding that I didn’t need any yet. I consciously tried not to go all out for the fifth kilometre, knowing that the tough part was still to come.
Indeed, when I ran off the path onto the road and knew I wouldn’t be back on pavement for another 4km, I wished I could quit. The sun was fading fast though, so I had to run at a decent pace to try and ensure I got back to the path before things got dangerous. There is nothing to say except it was hard. My legs screamed to stop. But I didn’t.
When I finally got back to the path, it was clear I wouldn’t be able to run this course in the afternoon again. I was really pushing it with the darkness and I felt a bit unsafe. So when I try it again it will have to be a morning run.
With 9km down, I was desperate for water… So as much as being back on the path seemed like the perfect opportunity to walk for a while, I pushed on for water. Luckily no one had thrown the bottle away and I allowed myself to walk about 30 metres to douse myself and squirt some water into my mouth. Then I put the water back in the bag and left it on the side of the road for pick up later.
By this time, it was pitch black outside, and I checked my watch to see that I had been running for about an hour and five minutes – too slow! I had 4km left. If I could have quit and gone home, I would have done so. But I had no way to let Shane know my change of plan and the visions of the lady at the gym waiting and probably wondering where I was, kept me on track.
The knowledge that I was going too slowly and would be raising concern if I didn’t hurry up meant I had to switch off my brain and turn my legs over without thought of the blisters on my feet, the cramps in my hamstrings and the thumping blood in my ears. A few times I told myself I didn’t have to do this run again. I told myself I could have extra beer later. I told myself I could have a day off tomorrow. Anything to get through it basically.
Even running on the dark roads became a distraction – trying to spot the dog poops and cracks in the pavement before they caught me out.
Eventually I could see the bright lights of the gym and I forced myself up the hill to where more water awaited. A couple of friends were standing near the door and enquired about my run, which I was immensely proud to say was 14km long. They asked what route I had done and I explained it.
‘Wow!’ They exclaimed, ‘I drive up there occasionally and it always feel like a lot further away than 7km!’
BLOODY OATH I thought and my ego puffed itself out once more. If I were a peacock I would have started strutting around with my tail feathers out.
I managed a quick chat with the lady on duty and then Shane came and rescued me.
‘I was starting to think you weren’t coming back’ He said.
‘That’s funny, because I thought the same thing, numerous times.’ I replied, ‘I was in trouble there for a while!’
My audience reassured me that I’d done a good job and I tried to believe them. Then I came home to write my blog (and yes we picked up the water bottle from the side of the road on the way back)
And I’m not proud of the run like I thought I would be, but maybe that’s because I came so close to quitting so many times. Looking back, I had a similar feeling after my first 10km run. It’s almost like I need to do it a few times to prove it’s not a fluke… And then I can be proud.
So, next week.
In the morning (eek)
It’s a date.