Monday. A little creaky today but overall okay. I would like to say I had a big weekend but these days they are all big weekends.
I got to the pool for swim practice at 6 a.m. Saturday morning. It was good to spend some quality time working on my stroke — I’ve been feeling negligent in the swimming and biking realms but I keep reminding myself that my focus is on MDS and everything falls into place AFTER that. They video taped us swimming which will be interesting to be torn apart on the weekend. The sad part is I felt like I was swimming fine and then they will point out all the things I do wrong — just more for the list of things to work on.
After swim I rode in the park with Ro and Michelle. We did 3 loops with extra Harlem Hill repeats. I wasn’t pushing it but I still worried whether it was too much based on my impending Sunday workout. I had to go out to an art exhibit immediately after so by the time I got home I had been on the go for 12 hours and was tired, very tired.
Sunday was a 1 hour warmup run followed by the Manhattan 1/2 marathon followed by a 1 hour cooldown run/walk. I didn’t want to go. The temperature was reading 15 degrees with a wind chill bringing it down to 1 degree. I was tired and I didn’t want to put on the layers of clothes and the dreaded backpack but I knew I had to go. People often ask me what my motivation is to go out and do something like run almost 5 hours in sub 15 degrees with my backpack loaded with 10 pounds including my water. The answer to that question is very simple, fear. If I don’t do it, I won’t finish my big event and that just cannot happen. So no matter what, no matter how much I don’t want to do it I have to do it.
I was mentally kicking and screaming my entire way up to the park. I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do this. This is going to hurt, this is going to hurt, this is going to hurt. I did my 1 hour warmup (with a little walking with a teammate) and next thing I know it was time to get in line for the race start and boom, we were off.
As soon as I started I was convinced this was going to be one of the worst runs of my life. First mile all I kept thinking is “this is going to suck big time.” Second mile “I can’t believe I have to do this, this is going to hurt so much.” Third mile “any minute now the hammer is going to fall and you are going to feel like crap.” Fourth mile “geesh, this is getting exhausting worrying about how awful this is going to get, why don’t I just wait until it actually gets awful instead of talking about it??”
My miles were all slow. 12:30’s and 13″s off the bat and then some 14’s. I was supposed to keep my heart rate at 78% but keep running. As soon as I hit Cat hill I was sucking wind so much I couldn’t run and keep at 78% and I knew it wasn’t smart for me to be breathing that hard that early on. So I just let it unfold as it would. I ran everything except the hills. I kept it to an easy jog. I wasn’t racing but I was definitely keeping certain people in my view and decided to not let them get out of sight. I ran with two other gals pretty much the entire way, each of us passing the other and then being passed. I had some decent stretches in there.
Around mile 5 I had to admit the nothing was really hurting. I had no knee pain, no muscle pain and it didn’t feel as cold as last weekend. Harumph, it was probably going to be terrible the second loop.
It was hard when everyone I knew was lapping me but I knew I was working as hard as could based on my level of fatigue and I was already an hour in before I even started. But I was really confused as to why I wasn’t hurting more. Finally I just had to admit that my knees were not hurting and my legs were not hurting and as much as I was expecting the hammer to hit me on the head, it wasn’t coming.
Stephanie met me at the bottom of the park with hot tea to refill my bottles and ran with me for a little bit. I felt fine except for breathing too hard going uphill but I think that is just going to be me getting used to the weight of the backpack. Steph left and I went off to finish my lonely second loop. Almost everybody was ahead of me and it was just a small group of back of the packers who had set out onto the second loop.
Even though I was doing mostly 14 minute miles due to my walking breaks, I felt pretty good. Now my only desire was to finish it up so I could do my cool down hour and get this entire workout over with. I just wanted to put in my time.
I was only 2/10ths of a mile from the finish and was feeling okay and trying to pick up my pace when I saw the little bump — not even a bump, a little rise in the road by the summerstage. I knew I would have to walk it but I didn’t want to, I just wanted this overwith. Right at that moment my friend Felicia was running toward me. I told her I needed help. She tried to give me water. No I had gallons of water and food and everything, I just needed someone to run with me up this bump so I wouldn’t stop. I have no idea why this became so important to me. I was close to 3 hours but I wasn’t worried about time. I just didn’t want to stop and I didn’t think I could do it without help. It was very unlike me.
Felicia was great and ran with me and tried to get me to calm my breathing because it was very labored. It was only about 50 yards and I told her I was okay but she chose to run the corner because I had forgotten that the finish was on an uphill. I was grateful for the support. It surprised me because that is not like me. (I remember once at Westchester Tri, years ago, grabbing Steph from the cheering crowd and made her run up a little hill with me while she was wearing Flip Flops but other than that, I don’t ask for help.)
For some reason the fact that I needed to ask for help bothered me. It made me feel like I was a weakling or something. If you can’t make it up a bump in Central Park what are you going to do in the desert? I don’t like to appear to need help. It’s one thing if people run along and cheer and try to motivate you but usually I’m pretty adamant about wanting to do it myself.
I just couldn’t understand what made me grab Felicia to run with me? Perhaps I was bonking and didn’t know it? What would be the big deal if I walked up that last little bump? I walked up all the big hills, who really cared? My head was in some strange place of not wanting to stop but I didn’t think my body could keep up. As soon as I crossed the finish line I thanked Felicia and went to cheer in my last teammate and then finish with another hour for cool down. By the time I got home it was a few minutes shy of a 5 hour workout with my backpack and I probably got in only about 20 miles — yeesh.
Last night we had our South Harlem Bike Club (SHBC) annual awards dinner. This is a little club we founded in 2004 from a bunch of us who did St. Anthony’s triathlon. We have a virtual club where we keep track of what everyone is doing and at the end of the year we vote and give out crazy awards to one another. SHBC has been very supportive of me over the years. They came out to ride me home from my Hook Mountain Debacle of ’07 and they were there at Lake Placid Ironman to cheer me up that final hill and were there behind the finish line waiting for me. We have no rules and there are no formal meetings but we do have team uniforms!
We have a lot of really excellent athletes in SHBC. Not only in their speed but in their understanding of endurance sports. I remember training for Ironman my first year and talking to then about just not being able to comprehend that the training I was doing was going to get me ready for Ironman — I had so far to go. I remember one gal Karin told me that the progress of fitness is not through a steady rate of increase. Fitness increases exponentially as in little jumps, she explained. If you can run one mile today and you increase 10% you can run another 1/10th of a mile. But like compound interest, as long as you keep the money in the bank you earn interest on your earned interest. So when you get to running 13 miles, a 10% jump is 1.3 miles. So it doesn’t really matter where you start as long as you keep making incremental increases based on where you are now.
Later in the Ironman season I started to really understand it. All of a sudden 60 miles felt like a warmup and 13 miles felt like a normal run. I still think about that when it comes to MDS. How does my 9 hours over a weekend translate to 7 days in the desert? It will happen in jumps. (Or in leaps as in leaps of faith…)
I took the opportunity to tap into my SHBC friend’s head again last night and I told her how worried I was about having to do something so lame as ask for help to get up a bump when I was going to be out in the desert and would need to be much more self-sufficient — I was not going to be able to ask for help running up a hill. Once again Karin explained to me that I asked for help because help was available. “But I won’t be able to ask for help in the desert.” I bemoaned. “That’s right, because it won’t be available. But whatever help you do find in the desert you’ll use that too. You’ll use whatever resources you have. Today you had a resource available to you and you used it.” There is something about the way she explained it that made me feel better — like I wasn’t entirely lame for asking for help. It remains, however, embarassing.
One of my friends complained at the party that I don’t talk enough in my blog about the details of the race and she had no idea about some of conditions I was describing at the awards ceremony. We agreed that I would start a new feature in my blog called the “ACK Fact” of the day (named for my friend AnneChris).
So today’s ACK Fact: At MDS there will be approximately 800 participants and we will sleep in open-sided tents which are transported and erected each night by the race directors. We have to carry everything we need for the week including toilet paper. There will be 3 latrine tents set up at camp each night to be shared by 800 participants. Basically a hole is dug in the ground, two feet plates are set down to mark where you have to go and that’s it — you line up your feet, squat and go. Four cloth walls make the tent. Many people do not bother to use the tent and just go wherever. You have to bury your toilet paper. It gets very windy and often pieces of used toilet paper float through camp. There ACK, are you happy and sufficiently disgusted? No? I cannot post it here because it is too disgusting but if you have the stomach for it (don’t do it) you can search youtube.com for “marathon des sables toilet.” I cannot bring myself to post that video here but I will post a link to a much less graphic version Click here for pic of a MDS bathroom tent.
**Today’s title is compliment of fellow SHBC’r, TL’er and Rumble Girl Mo.