This morning I cranked out my final long run of my training plan with the Minneapolis Marathon training group. We set a new record number of attendees this morning, topping out at 240! And while the run was far from easy and I started bargaining with myself about three-quarters of the way through ("You never have to run this distance again! Well, nevermind the marathon... You never have to run a 22-miler again! Just dig deep, don't puke, and get it over with!"), it was a cloud-free, bright and sunny 73-degree morning -- which, in running terms, might as well mean we should just run in the middle of Death Valley.
I was pretty sure this morning was going to be a disaster. I have noticed that my runs follow an every-other-weekend pattern, where I have a strong run followed my a run that I wasn't pleased with, followed by an awesome run, followed by a run that was downright painful, etc. I had two good weekend long runs in a row, and I figured I would be doomed today. I tried to get this negative thinking out of my mind, but when my cat woke me up on the wrong side of the bed (and an hour too early, as well, with the inability to drift back to sleep), I couldn't help but dwell on this pattern while I laid around waiting to begin fueling.
To make things worse, when I went to make my breakfast while doing my pre-long-run morning routine, I noticed this:
My English muffins were as green as the Whole Foods logo. At least we know the "no preservatives" label is true! I really began to panic at far too early of an hour. Where could I find new English muffins this early? My whole pre-long-run routine I've been working on for months has been shattered! I have some oatmeal, but I know from experience my blood sugar will crash. I trust a bowl of Trix to get me through a long run even less than I trust oatmeal. I knew I needed a dense complex carb, so, ladies and gentlemen, I ate half of a Tandoori Naan for breakfast. Oh yes, I did. And it really wasn't that bad topped with peanut butter and bananas!
I left for the run with a half hour to spare, only to find out mid-commute that 35W was closed between Hwy 62 and I-94 ... which happens upon the exact route I take to get to Historic Fort Snelling. The detour wasn't bad at 7:30a.m., but I knew it was going to be a disaster heading back around noon. (Have you ever run a significant number of miles, and then tried driving a stick in stop-and-go traffic? Serious uncomfortable muscle twitching.)
I basically ran the entire marathon route today, minus the furthest-north 4-mile loop. We started at Historic Fort Snelling, ran north toward downtown Minneapolis, turned around at the Gurthrie Theater, headed back south along the West River Parkway, and returned to Historic Fort Snelling. It was there I made a loop around Snelling Lake to tack on a few more miles than the rest of the group was doing. Sad beans -- the airplanes were not flying over Snelling Lake this morning. :(
My first 15 miles went by relatively quickly and painlessly, until I turned off on the bike path behind Historic Fort Snelling. The path goes from paved to gravel under a canopy of trees and high-arched bridges, and while normally this is a great break on my joints and a welcome change in scenery, I sensed trouble. I sensed that I was making some new friends on this run.
Meet Friend No. 1. He actually goes from the top of my toe all the way to the bottom of the underside of my toe pad. That long white line is the thinnest part of the blister, while the fattest part of the blister takes up the entire top of my toe.
Meet Friend No. 2. He actually wasn't that painful ... until I lifted off of my shoe every. single. step.
Meet Friends No. 3 & 4. I'm starting to remember now why I like less room in my toe boxes, because these two places rubbed with every step I took -- lift off and landing.
Right when I felt these developing at mile 15 was when I began telling myself to just make it to 20 miles, and anything after that will be bonus on my training plan. No more than a few steps later, I scratched the idea of making it to 20, and began compromising with myself to just make it back to the start (a total of 18 miles). After that, it became, "just make it to that tree, then you can take your shoes off and walk back to your car."
I ended up being able to tune my foot pain out almost entirely -- only because I was uncomfortably warm and I did the last 6 miles without a supported water stop. It was coming up on 11:00, the sun was pretty high, there wasn't much shade around me, and I was sure this was going to be how I was going to die. Alone, on Snelling Lake, with no drinkable water or anyone around to find me, which completely defeats the purpose of why I decided to join a training group in the first place. That would be how my luck would have it. Pretty soon my new blister friends seemed like not-too-bad company.
I stopped to walk once (the Historic Fort Snelling hill), rationed the water I had left in my Amphipod handheld, and tried to tell myself to make it to the next landmark I could see. Somehow I made it back to the start (mile 21), grabbed some water, and found it somewhere deep within me to run another mile. Once I got back, I realized my mile splits didn't average out much differently than they have for any of my other long runs. Insane.
As I begin my taper, I question whether I will be able to finish the marathon. I think I can. Will it be easy? No possible way. Will it be pain-free? I'm absolutely sure there is no such thing. Will I die? I don't think so ... and that's good enough for me. :)
I thought about how to perform foot surgery to pass the time during my icebath. My surgery was mostly successful, if not ridiculous. I have no more immediate long runs, and it's time to start healing. It's time to start tapering!