Monday, April 9, 2007

The race is on

Since the beginning of February, I have been training for my second half-marathon. The race is in two weeks.

When I prepared for this distance the first time, the San Jose Rock 'n' Roll Half-Marathon last October, I used this novice training schedule by Hal Higdon. This time I decided to try the intermediate plan, because, what the hell? And I really surprised myself, sticking to the schedule almost entirely. The cool thing about training for a half-marathon is you don't actually have to run 13 miles to get ready for the race. You only have to run, oh, perhaps 10. I really couldn't believe this at first. Other runners would be like, "No, seriously! Those last three miles are a cinch! It's the adrenaline!" Ha! A more absurd thing I could not imagine. My lone 10-mile run in the last training plan left me limping for days. Three miles ON TOP OF THAT will be a "cinch"?! But wow, were they right. The last three miles of that race were, in fact, my best miles. My most thrilling, unbelievable, holy-shit-I'm-actually-going-to-do-this miles.

Anyway, so my training was going great, I had already done two 10-mile runs, and next up was a 12. But then came the setbacks. It has been one thing after another, starting with putting our condo on the market a week ago. Preparing for that was this head-spinning whirlwind of boxes and cleaners and staging and inspections and painting and moving and about a million other tasks and appointments that wiped out most of a full week of training. I figured that would be fairly easy to make up, but then I got an awful cold and didn't run for another week. Two weeks without running this close to the race? Not good.

Yesterday, the training plan called for my final long run. The timing of this one - two weeks out - is really important, because on race day you want your body to be as rested and recovered as possible. If I didn't do this run, it would mean I hadn't logged a long run for a MONTH before race day. All week I fretted about this, wondering if I should just drop out and try again some other time. This might seem loserish of me, but I would seriously rather not run a race at all than run one unprepared. So I told myself I would take a little test. Even though I was still coughing and congested from my cold, I would try to run 10 miles. If I can do that under those circumstances, I would do the race. So off I went.

How did it go? Ahhh, not well. In fact, it was godawful. I'll even go so far as to call it my most excruciating run ever - and, friend, I have had some bad ones. Let me back up a little, because it is important to note that I spent Saturday night in a decidedly non-healthy, non-athletic manner: My husband and I scarfed down lots of greasy pizza and beer before going to a midnight showing of "Grindhouse." Plopped into bed at nearly 4 a.m., exhausted and wishing I hadn't stuffed down those last six Red Vines. So when I hit the trail Sunday afternoon, I was already completely wasted. The first five miles were OK, but Miles 6 and 7 were .... uncomfortable. The sun was beating down on me. My lower back was starting to ache, as did my feet. My nose was running, and I didn't have any tissue, so at one point I actually considered doing one of those pinch-one-nostril shots into the grass. Which is nuts, since I am quite ladylike.

Oh, the misery! The pain grew worse through Miles 8 and 9, the soreness in my feet growing from dull ache to fiery throbbing, and during Mile 10, I actually heard myself emit repeated grunts and yelps as I dragged my sorry ass to the finish.

But, that last word there, it's important. I finished. God almighty, I hated every step of it. Every step a struggle, every step a fresh burst of pain and suffering. But today? Oh MAN, I'm excited. I freakin' did it! Under all of those rotten circumstances! When the odds were so entirely stacked against me! In two weeks, at the Santa Cruz Half Marathon, they won't be. And I can't wait to see how that feels.

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