Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Desperate Miles, Desperate Measures

It's been a rough couple of weeks.

I've run many (er...several?) 20+ mile training runs in my life, but never when I've been traveling so much for work, dealing with a sketchy leg constantly on the cusp of injury, and sick for much of the week prior. On top of that we've been dealing with a tragic family situation, which has made everything that much harder. Between all that I have barely been holding it together most days. So maybe it is not shocking that for a lot of last week, I didn't really think the 20 miler was going to happen.

I mean I'm a serious optimist here, people, but I just couldn't see it. I double-dog couldn't see it when I woke up at noon Sunday morning with all kinds of aches in my feet and hips and glutes. But still, I kept telling myself it was going to happen, counting it in my mental weekly mileage tally, & even justified making the blueberry crisp I hadn't made the night before because "It'll be good for refueling when I get back from my 20." (Carbs! Antioxidants!)

Under any other circumstances, I don't think I would have done it. I felt like crap. Everything was sore. I was sad and distracted and afraid it would wreck what was left of my leg and honestly just could not muster the least little bit of enthusiasm about running at all. But with all the problems with my hip post-SF2HM/18 mile long run two weeks before, I was on the brink of waving the white flag in terms of Santa Rosa, and I knew I needed to at least try to run those twenty miles in order to see if there was any hope of running twenty-six of them two weeks from now.

Oh hey! Haven't had one of these pics in a while. Aren't you
reassured that I still have feet & don't wear the weird toe shoes?

I have never been big on running with music, mainly for safety reasons but also because I've seen the research about running with music being correlated with dissociative running, which is correlated with higher rates of injury & decreased performance. Even so, I do have a running playlist on my phone which serves as a kind of "in-case-of-emergency-break-glass" type of thing. If I absolutely, positively can't get myself out the door any other way, the playlist is my carrot of last resort. This was the second time in eight years I've had to use it.

The plan was simple. I'd start running, see how my hip felt, & go until I felt too ill/too in pain to continue ("Run Vaguer Run Faster (?)"). No worrying about pace. No feeling bad about stopping at traffic lights and water fountains. Just run with good form, for as long as possible, & find out what the leg can take.

Not exactly what it said in my training plan but close enough.

The only way I got through this run was by not thinking about which mile I was on or how many more were left until 20. In fact, I'm pretty sure that if I'd told myself, "We are running twenty miles today come hell or high water and that is FINAL," I would have given up after three because it just seemed so completely impossible. Instead it was more like, "Good job, you ran some miles & aren't broken yet! Maybe run a few more & see what happens?"

I'd even made a deal with myself that instead of running entire loops of the east side of Golden Gate Park which includes two or three big sucky hills, I could just run back and forth along the part without the sucky hills, but that proved too complicated for my brain to deal with. "NO GOING BACK, ONLY FORWARD," it insisted, so forward we went, big hills and all (and I don't know why but I swear they got easier on every lap, probably because eventually my soul just became too numb to notice or care.)

When I'd run 16 miles and was four miles from home, I knew I'd make it. Because I kind of had to, or face the shame of having to call Don & have him put a towel down in the passenger seat. Let's be clear that if I'd had to run by my house at mile 16 and keep going for another four miles, I am not altogether sure I would not have quit. I was keeping up more or less the same easy pace with no problem, but I can only carry six gels at a time & realistically probably needed nine, & that on top of still being kind of sick led I think to a kind of mild bonking that was more mental than physical.

I really can't describe the relief of getting to this moment without any pain in my right leg, and only very occasional & manageable pain in my feet.

(Not that it makes any difference whatsoever, but I'm pretty sure there were some Garmin hijinks in those last two miles. The first & last two are almost always my slowest because they're back in my neighborhood & inevitably involve more weaving in & out of pedestrians/cautiously approaching intersections/slowing to stop at lights/etc., but I don't remember them feeling particularly worse or harder than the few right before and honestly don't think they were THAT slow.)

On the other hand, apparently this is just a thing that happens now:

I don't even feel it anymore. Hooray for nerve damage!!

In case you're interested in what got me through that run (besides a shitte-tonne of emotional apathy), here's my playlist; analyze away.


  1. My God, woman, your feet! There's got to be a pair of shoes that don't do that to you, right? RIGHT?! I will say that I never would have made it through 20 miles with that long list of pain, family stuff, and illness... Kudos to you!

    1. OMG I wish it were my shoes because maybe then I could fix it! It's my toenails on my 3rd & 4th toes cutting into the ones to their left. No matter how short I clip my nails, it still seems to happen. :-/

  2. First, I'm sorry you're dealing with tragedy. It seems unfair that good people have to go through it, but I guess maybe that's because the good people can provide hope that life is still okay.

    Second, kudos for listening to your body, tuning out your brain and saving a towel from having to be washed. (Seriously, I want leather car seats solely for that purpose.)

    And wow, your poor toes! Since your comment above said it's the nails, have you tried Injinji socks? They didn't work for me because they spread my toes out so then the outside of my big toe blistered even MORE than it already does, but maybe it would be worth a try?

  3. I'm really sorry about the family situation.
    The rest of it seems like good news? Good-ish news? Reasonably decent news, all things considered? I think any time you can run 20 miles and not be injured or ill at the end is good news ...

    And our running playlists share a fairly amusing set of songs. I remember finding out that the lead singer of Silversun Pickups was a dude. I really, really, REALLY thought it was a lady with an interesting voice.

  4. Hang on there. Do not teeter over the injury brink! Hope things in your life start looking up and you find comfort; and hope you can have the race you want.
    Have you tried wrapping your offending toenails in moleskin before you run?

  5. Oh no on your feet - I got a blood blister at SF half marathon somehow (maybe I was forefoot striking a bit too much on race day?), and it kind of hurts now. The toe nail is ready to fall off, and there is a bunch of blood below the nail - not sure whether to take the nail off, and then cleanup the skin below it so it can heal? Sounds like you have had a rough 2 weeks, hang in there.

    On the SF marathon aid stations, I have no idea. Just seemed like chaos at each aid station, and I didn't know which one's had what the later in the race it got. Nuun = no bueno.

    I was also thinking more about my race implosion - it may not be all related to fuel, I mean I have never ran that fast/far in my life. Unfortunately my body decided that mile 12 the race was over. Though fuel should have been able to let me power through it.

  6. OMG girl, those feet.
    Though I've never run 20 miles before, I don't think I want to if it means blood just starts spraying out of your toes.
    Anyway, I'm sorry about your huge crescendo of injury/health/family issues that have been playing out over the past month, and I hope things get sorted swiftly.

  7. EEK re: your toes and BOO re: your stack of sucky life situations. Hope it all resolves/gets better soon! I second Layla's recommendation of Injinji socks -- I have 3 pairs of the super thin/lightweight ones.

  8. I pretty much only own an iPod as a 'running emergency break glass' backup.

  9. Sometimes the greatest accomplishment is completing a run you weren't sure could happen.
    Maybe you should put a bandaid around the offending toe before long runs in the future. I can't stand those weird toe socks! Wore them once during a workout and it was all I could focus on the entire time.

  10. Ouch. That looks painful and hard to launder. Well done on getting the 20 done!