It’s official. I have become one of those runners at whom I used to shake my head in disbelief over the lengths they would go to in their training. I am now one of the crazy ones.
Yesterday marked the end of the build portion of our marathon training plan – our 20-miler. Through the week as Saturday approached, Tim and I kept a close eye on the weather, watching the forecast get worse and worse. But, we were pretty determined to get our run done on Saturday. Neither of us like the run hanging over our heads all weekend – we’d rather get it done and have Saturday night and all day Sunday to relax and recover before heading back to work. We also had plans to see Tim’s family after our run on Saturday and to meet a good friend of mine who was in town on Sunday for breakfast, and we didn’t want to change our plans. Finally, we figured if we could handle a 20-miler in bad weather, then if we were faced with the same on race day, we wouldn’t panic and we would be prepared.
So, we got up early and packed enough stuff into the car (water, Gatorade, gels, my fuel belt, extra running clothes/layers, towels, dry clothes for afterwards, etc.) that I’m pretty sure my cat, Nittany, thought we were moving out. So, she went and hid under the bed. Maybe we should have joined her.
We set off from the house around 7:30 and drove to Swain’s Lock at the C&O canal in a cold, steady rain. When we parked the car, the temperature read 35 degrees. The rain was at a drizzle, but it was icy.
We bundled up and set off. Our plan was to run south on the trail for five miles and then head back to the car to refuel, dry off, etc., and then to run north for five miles and then turn back.
Before we started, I asked Tim if he wanted the over or the under on whether we would see five runners out there. He picked the over, I picked the under, but surprisingly, he was right! We ended up seeing about 10 other crazy souls running on the trail yesterday!
But, back to the beginning. When we first started off, I really wasn’t sure if I could do it. It was really cold. I’ve run in the cold before (many times) and I’ve run in the rain, but I’ve never run in the cold rain, and certainly not for 20 miles! It was pretty uncomfortable at first, and my toes were tingling, but after about a mile and a half to two miles, I got into a groove and warmed up. The rain was extremely light at that point and not too much of a factor. I felt my confidence grow.
As we neared the turnaround five miles in, the rain had gradually picked up and by the time we started heading back to the car, it was coming down pretty steadily. Miles 5-10 were the low point for me. It was raining pretty hard. Rain mixed with ice. Ice pellets stuck to my gloves and arms. I was soaked and cold. I started clenching and unclenching my hands and telling myself over and over in my head – “You can do this. You have this. You can do this. You have this.” I think I picked up the pace a bit and my hands warmed back up. Still, when we took a bathroom break at about mile 8, I asked Tim, “Is it bad that when I peeled my tights down that I couldn’t really feel the tops of my legs when I touched them?” But, we forged ahead.
We got back to the car, climbed in, and turned the heat on for a few minutes. Then I proceeded to change my entire top half – short sleeved running shirt, long sleeved running shirt, thermal jacket, dry gloves. All now dry. The wet tights and shoes stayed, but I put a pair of dry socks on. We refilled my fuel belt and took another gel. And then we sucked it up and headed back out there. That was hard – leaving the warm, dry car knowing that we had 10 more miles to go! But, at that point, we were committed.
My body felt a little tight when we started back up, but I loosened up within a mile or so and the rain slowed down significantly until it was almost non-existent. That gave me a big mental boost for the next few miles, and as we got closer to the turnaround point, the end was within sight and I knew we were going to do it! In less than an hour, we’d be back at the car with 20 miles under our belts!
I still felt pretty good as we turned around at 15.1 miles for the homestretch. Unfortunately, within a mile or so, the rain picked back up and became really icy. I could feel little pellets of ice bouncing off the top of my hat. It was not fun. But still – that finish line was in my sights, and I knew we were almost there!
Tim told me when we were past 18 miles and we both gave a little cheer because that’s the farthest either of us had run before! Two more miles, and we were finally at the finish – tired, sore, wet, and cold – but we made it!
All in all, I felt pretty good. Even at the end, my energy level was good and I was breathing easy. My legs were tired and sore, but nothing hurt too bad. We proceeded to drive to Tim’s dad’s house as ice continued to pelt the windshield. The temperature was still in the mid 30s. I could not believe we had run 20 miles in that!
We had a nice visit with Tim’s dad, sister, nephew, and niece after taking hot showers and changing into dry clothes. They fed us an awesome and much needed post-run brunch – bagels, eggs, bacon, juice, and coffee – yum.
And then we were pretty much paralyzed for the rest of the day, but we were happy. Our run, in those conditions, was a total physical and mental challenge, but we did it, and we made it through the hard part of our marathon training. Three weeks of tapering workouts and we will be at that starting line! And if it’s raining/sleeting/cold, we’ll be ready!
Miles run since last post: 25; total miles for the year: 682.2.