Saturday, December 29, 2007

MIND GAMES

19-mile long run today, training for Austin.

When things started feeling like they were getting a little less comfortable (which often starts about 8 miles into my run), I started the mind games. I also took 3 Excedrin tablets, to be at their peak a couple hours later. (3 Excedrin have 750mg of acetaminophen, less than 2 Extra-Strength; 500mg of aspirin, less than 2 regular; and about 190mg caffeine, nice little hit.)

Then I started the math. 19 miles was the plan. At 9 miles, feeling just a tad tired with 10 miles to go, "If I feel this good 16 miles into the marathon, I'll be in good shape." I turned onto a road I haven't run before, to add a couple of needed miles, and encountered some hills. Stress I hadn't counted on, but they were actually kind of a relief, using different muscles. At 11 miles, it was, "If I had 8 miles to go in the marathon, I'd be at mile 18, and I'm feeling pretty darn good for 18 miles, looking forward to that 20-mile mark." Then I had to make a pit stop (sacrificed my bandana for the cause) and it was a little hard to get going again after that, quads had tightened up (don't ask, let's just move on...) and I thought, "Well, if I don't have a bad patch till I've got less than 8 miles to go, I'll be doing pretty darn well."

And so it went. At 13 miles, only 6 to go, I'm at the 20-mile mark. I figure I was using my right brain (the philosopher side) for these calculations, but with math being a left-brain function, I had to keep swatting away reality: "You're not at 20 miles, you're only at the halfway mark, you just passed 13 miles. If you feel like this at the half, you're in trouble." SHUT UP, LEFT BRAIN!!!! If I don't feel any worse than this with just 10K to go I'll be in great shape. Keep on going, don't slow down.

Except I had to stop. Traffic light at a crossing. Long wait. First the eastbounders got to go. Then the right-turn lanes. Then the westbounders. Then the left-turn lanes. I looked for a crossing gap but none appeared. And during this stop, in fact a few moments after I stopped, I began to feel like shit.

Light-headed, short of breath, nauseous, anxious, "I'm going to pass out, I'm going to have a heart attack." I knew what this was, physiologically: Same amount of blood going to my heart and lungs even though my legs and arms weren't pumping it out as fast, temporary overload. Knowing that, though, didn't make me feel any better, and when I finally got my crossing signal, I could no more run than I could bench press a couple hundred pounds. I was pretty sure that, if I could start running again, things would even out, and I told myself that, but the mind game didn't work, I just couldn't bring myself to run, and I walked about half of mile 16 and pondered calling my husband to come and get me. "You wanna DNF? Is that what you want?" Nope, I sure don't.

Right Brain encouraged me to walk to the next stoplight, walk across, then start running again and not walk again till I was done. And at mile 17 I thought, "If I feel like this at mile 23, that'll be pretty normal, the last 3 miles or so are always a struggle, don't slow down unless you're dying, which you're not." I could see, far ahead, the intersection close to our lane, and I imagined that I was seeing and hearing the finish line up there. That helped. Except it was a mirage because when I reached the intersection I was not at my finish but had that diabolical 0.2 miles left till our lane. That's OK. The last 0.2 is always a cruel trick of irony.

Right Brain pondered going PAST 19 miles to 19.2, just to make it realistic.

Left Brain said, "The hell you will."

Left Brain won. I hit mile 19 and my stopwatch just as I reached our gravel driveway, which I can't run anyway (large, ankle-twist-potential gravel.) So I walked the 0.25-mile driveway as my cooldown. Thinking, "If I feel like this at the end of the marathon, I'll be OK, and I'll be happy, and I'll sure be glad to stop running."

3 hours, 33 minutes. Average pace 11:13/mile. Sure don't know how I can run 26.2 miles faster than that but there's that race-day adrenalin to help out a person's Right Brain.

3 comments:

bunnygirl said...

Good job! Some days are harder than others, and while I wish every long run felt fantastic, it's slogging through the tough ones that really trains the brain for those last miles of the marathon!

(I'm in taper. I did 16 and thought it would kill me, but 22.5 last week wasn't so bad. What can you do, except laugh at the absurdities our bodies throw at us?)

TxTriSkatemom said...

way to keep it going, Ellie! Those are the hard ones that keep you moving when it counts! that's the way to keep the uncooperative side of your brain in it's place!!

runr53 said...

sorry for the late reply, but... you simply have to run the last .2 miles first! Easy right?