Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How Not to Train for a Marathon

I had one of the worst runs of my life on Sunday afternoon, an 11.2 mile death march up and down the hills of Percy Warner Park while my poor mother tried to keep me putting one foot in front of another. Long run Saturday became long run Sunday because I spent Friday afternoon through Saturday here:

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The 180th Annual Convention of the Diocese of Tennessee took place up at Sewanee, and even though I’m not canonically resident and therefore had no seat or vote, it was a good experience. The weather and atmosphere was completely different from being up there during the summer. The infamous Sewanee fog was out in full force. We could hardly see our hands in front of our faces and finding the cabin I stayed in was an exercise in driving extremely slowly. Not to get into the nitty gritty of church politics, but convention was amicable and uneventful, apparently different from years past. The Right Reverend Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island was the keynote speaker and gave the sermon at Saturday morning’s Eucharist. She was incredible and very much embodied her episcopal role. It was my first Eucharist at All Saints’ Chapel (pictured above), and it lived up to expectations. The music and aesthetics and liturgy were all spot on.

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The various parishes, missions, and ministries of the diocese all processed with their banners, which was a touching experience for me. Emily, our Divinity School field ed student and my friend, was our banner bearer. Not at all biased, but our banner was by far the prettiest. Anyway, I spent Friday and Saturday mostly drinking wine and coffee and not getting very much sleep.

So when Sunday rolled around, I executed my duties at church, serving at two services and leading Sunday school for the youth, not stressful but exhausting. Intellectually, I thought, “I should be mindful about hydrating since I’m running this afternoon.” But the other voices said, “Have some more coffee.” I slammed down an English muffin with almond butter and banana with a little water and got ready to meet my mom at Percy Warner Park.

I had been dreading this run for a while. Percy Warner’s hills are long and steep and brutal, and while I’m familiar with the 5.8 mile loop, I had never tackled the 11.2. The first mile is all uphill, and I knew immediately I was in trouble. My heart rate was sky high, and my legs felt like bricks. My hamstrings were still sore from my first Bikram class on Thursday, and I could feel them with every step. I couldn’t catch my breath, and it felt like we were going much faster than we were. Each mile split was morale-depleting.

The elevation graph of doom

“What was I thinking. I’m never going to be able to run a marathon,” the little voices in my head told me. “You feel like death after 5 hilly miles. How do you think you’ll feel after 20?” I struggled to resist lying down on the road and crying. Then I listed all of the reasons I was having a crappy run: legs were tired from both BodyPump and Bikram this week, dehydration, travel and emotional stress, church that morning, unseasonably warm and humid January weather, a hard and hilly course, etc. Every time my eyes started to well up, I tried to think, “There is no crying in running (a la A League of Their Own). Do you think Desi Davila or Meb Keflezighi cries when they have a bad run?” We got to the clubhouse, and I drank some water and took some Gu Chomps.

I started to feel a little stronger but still took quite a few walk breaks just so my heart wouldn’t explode out of my chest. We made it up 9 mile hill, and I felt better just knowing the end was in sight, particularly since the last mile is all downhill. Still, my hamstrings were super tight, and I started to feel a hot spot on the bottom of my big toe. I just couldn’t get comfortable, and everything I had on (heart rate monitor, RoadID, fuel belt) felt like it was strangling me. We hit the stone gates as my Garmin clocked 11.2 miles, and I wanted to cry. I chugged the water I had remaining in my fuel belt and walked around trying to shake out my legs. Then I went home, drank some Gatorade, felt sorry for myself, and put on my compression gear.

It sucked, and I still finished. Lessons learned: no more long runs after church, and drink your freaking water. Still, any pep talks about how I am not a failure and how I will be able to run a marathon are certainly welcome. Week 3 of marathon training complete.