Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Countdown: 45 Days Left

DC’s summers are known for their heat, humidity and pasty Washingtonians. Although tourists from far and wide flock to the town to see the sights, many immediately regret their sight seeing plans when they realize there is only minimal shade (and bathrooms) to be had on the National Mall. This summer, however, has been fairly mild. It does keep me from running during lunch, but I have not had to take extreme measures to ensure that my hair does not rise 3 feet higher then it normally would, and walking around the city for extended periods of time does not have me clambering for my water bottle every few steps. So, all in all, a really wonderful summer - until…UGH-gust. We were really making up for the mildness, which is particularly nice when I have the pleasure of sweating through work clothes that are built for cooler temperatures (read: my office is like a Frigidaire) when stepping outside. (Truthfully, the heat isn’t all bad. The first 15-30 transitional seconds, when I go from inside to outside, are the best. I can feel my limbs thaw out, like the sun is wrapping me in a nice hug. After those 15-30 seconds though, the hug begins to intensify until I am almost in a vice-like grip of heat. Just darling.)

I had heard that the 14-miler my team completed was done on a day the heat hit early (about 90 degrees at 7:00 a.m.), and my attempted 14-miler was in conditions that were no better (hence, attempted…), so when I got out of bed this past Saturday, and stepped outside at 6:20 a.m. into air so thick I nearly choked, I was a little worried. My 10 miler had gone really well the previous weekend, and the 6-miler I did with the Striders that following Monday was also pretty strong - so I thought my knee could handle the mileage, I just wasn’t sure the rest of my body was going to fair so well. My ride shows up, we get to trail and join the rest of the team for some instruction and some inspiration before we started off. The coaches laid out our path for that day, which luckily did not include Haines Point. I am not sure what it is about that place, but I feel like it is the Bermuda Triangle for my energy. All three times I have run out there, I have had really poor runs. I’m trying to get out of the mindset that “Haines Point = exhaustion” and reassure myself that these were all just fluke coincidences, but I’m losing that mental battle at the moment.

Our (sans Haines Point) running trail had us starting out at Fletcher’s Boat House and heading left towards Maryland until mile marker 5.5, then looping around to head back past the boat house, down into Georgetown’s Waterfront, then up into Rock Creek Parkway turning around right before that very scary, very steep hill at the junction of Calvert Street and Rock Creek Parkway, ending back at Fletcher’s Boat House. Initially, I was afraid the coaches had planned for us to go UP that very steep hill heading into Woodley Park (wouldn’t put it past them - sadists), and ran with a pit of dread swimming in my stomach when I knew that point was getting close. As soon as I saw other TNTers turn at the lower stop sign, I could have jumped for joy, but I decided to save my energy for the 6 miles still left to do.

As predicted, my knee dealt well with the mileage, and the rest of my body felt pretty good throughout the 16 miles (I allowed myself to stop and stretch a few times - reasoning that if I pulled something, I’d have to sit out – in pain - and who wants that?), but I really struggled mentally with this run. The whole time I was out there, and even before we started, I couldn’t wait to finish. The portion of my brain that I deem the “whiney two year old” section was dominating my thoughts and threw quite the temper tantrum.
I tried to force some positive thinking, but
“This is stupid.”
“I hate this.”
“Why am I running another marathon?”

kept crawling back in. I am pretty sure it had something to do with the amount of stress I was under that week and the extra humidity that my body was dealing with that morning, but thinking about finishing was the ONLY thing that truly kept me going. Really pathetically obvious thoughts kept my legs moving, the biggest being: “Once you’re finished, you can stop running for today.” In close second was, “Once you’re finished, you can go take a nap.” And finally, “If you walk, you’ll be out here longer.” It reiterated to me just how important it is to have team support on these longer runs. Even if all it is, is passing someone going the other way on the trail in a Team In Training shirt, and nodding in recognition that we are out there together. It’s a pretty powerful thing, particularly when your thoughts have turned against you.

Although I had taken the time to stretch out on the trail, I was undeniably tight after finishing. My Quads especially. The soreness was punctuated when I walked down the small hill to get back into the parking lot/ meet-up area to rejoin the rest of my teammates. It took me a little extra time to walk those 10 feet, complete with occasional scrunched up facial movements and arms airplaned out to the side for balance. My muscles were not happy that I was asking them to do anything else, so I rewarded/ placated them with a solid 8 minutes of stretching. Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhh. Much better. It really is the little things in life.

In total, I was out there just under 3 hours (we hit the trail at 7:15 am, and I got back at 10:05:56 am) that day, which - if you factor in two stretching breaks and one bathroom stop - means I kept a sub 10-minute mile pace (ultimately what I am shooting for during the race). Yeah, that’s right - I rock.

This weekend will be 10 miles with out my team again (since it’s a long holiday weekend, and they figure that most people will be going out of town), so I have decided to buddy up with my old running group again (the Capital Striders) and am dragging along two of my TNT teammates. Bonuses to this weekend are that I get to sleep in to at least 6:30 a.m. (woo hoo!) and the weather has taken a dive this week so I’ll get to run in 70 degree weather! Come on sweater weather/ football games/ candy corn/ running through dried leaves and hearing them crackle at your feet…I love Fall.

I have more awesome people to thank for their generous donations over the past few days. Your donations have brought me to the 60% mark!

- Rick: Buddy. I have no idea how I forgot you last round. For this, I will thank you twice. THANK YOU for your donation. Just think, if it wasn’t for your running group, I would have never gotten back into running. My marathon really started the first day I showed up and meet with you all.

- Mike: Thank you so much for going out of your way to donate to my cause!

- Cecilia: Miss working with you. Let me know when you finally get started again and aren’t just eating dirt and twigs anymore ~ you can count on my support!

- Jeff: Thank you for not only donating, but taking the time to pass along my information to others. The more people that I can reach – even if it’s through other people – the better chance LLS will have to fund their research and give back to families that are personally touched by these diseases.

- Jaelithe: I will always refer to you as my roommate. I’m glad to hear that everything is working out for you in Florida, but…move back up here. I miss you. Thank you for your donation (I hope you can make it to Cali with me!!!)

- Will: Has the move to DC become complete? If so, I believe a drink at a non-discotheque hookah bar is in order. *wink

- Alice: Can’t wait to see you this weekend. Thank you so much for putting some of your hard earned money towards my fundraising goal!

- Hui Ling: It was so great running into you (literally) twice last week! I am going to try and stay on my Strider kick – so hopefully I will be seeing you out on the trail soon.

- Rick: Alright, my second thank you is comin’ at ya – THANK YOU!!!

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