I finally feel like I'm gaining ground on the whole getting back in shape thing. I signed up for Wildflower (gulp, guess I'm doing a half Ironman at the end of the month!) and am continuing to train for the Rock 'n Roll marathon in June. Last Saturday, I was invited to do the "train run" with a group. Basically, you ride the train up to Oceanside and run back to Solana Beach along the coast, a mere 16 miles (the word, mere, here is said sarcastically). My training plan called for 12. I had only run 10 the weekend before. 16? Sure! Why not?
When I woke up at 5:00 am on Saturday morning, I had lots of doubts. What had I been thinking? 16 miles is a long way. I hadn't run 16 miles in.....I couldn't remember the last time I had run that far. Could I even do this? My old friend, fear, set in, the same friend that had motivated me to train through lots of crazy-hard workouts and complete 3 Ironmans. Fear is the best motivator. I realized this was the first workout of the year that I was afraid I couldn't finish. This, for some weird reason, excited me.
I chatted up some new friends on the train to Oceanside. By the time we set foot along the coast, we were like old buds. This had been my main reason for seeking out a group of running friends. Running alone is nice but can get lonely. I had resolved to take it slowly, not sure if I could even complete the distance. The group had reassured me they were going to take it slow as well. They had sandbagged right out of the gate and started clipping off down the road at 8:30s. I shrugged, maintaining my pace. I had no problem getting left behind. Simply being motivated to get out of bed and put my running shoes on was all I had needed. I paced behind them, maintaining an even 9:00 min/mile pace. I wasn't sure I could maintain that but it felt good for the moment. I decided to go with it.
The coastal cities flew by, I fell into a zone and focused on spacing out for endless stretches of time. As I ran through the RV campground in south Carlsbad, the tantalizing aroma of bacon, sausage, pancakes and eggs cruelly tempted me. I salivated enviously watching families gather round for a Saturday breakfast feast. The group I had selected to run with was quite organized; they set up a few aid stations. By the time I reached their van in Leucadia, I was almost out of water. I hadn't realized how hungry and thirsty I was until I stopped, refilled, gulped down 10 ounces of water, refilled again, and scarfed down a few orange slices and pretzels before continuing on my way. Their van was like a little heavenly oasis along the 101. It may not have been pancakes and bacon but it was just what I had been craving.
We started up again as a group. There was only 10K left to go, and I could tell the others were hurting. I was hurting too but it was very superficial--mainly blisters and tender callouses on my feet, easy enough to ignore. In some perverse way, I almost welcomed the pain; it was good practice for what I would feel on longer runs. One toe kept hitting the front of my shoe. The pain was sharp and stabbing; I had a hard time not altering my gait to favor the toe. But I only had a few miles left to go. I focused on telling the others my sudden proclamation, "Only 2 miles left!" I'm not sure they were grateful for my announcement but it certainly made me feel better. Seeing the others in pain somehow minimized mine in a sadistic manner. Runners that had passed me earlier were now walking. I focused on maintaing my pace. I was still going 9:00 min/miles. Steadily, I passed some faltering runners (not that I'm competitive or anything). When I reached Solana Beach, I knew I only had 1 mile left to go. I was thankful for this fact, pushing aside creeping thoughts that on an ultramarathon, I would just be getting started. I will cross that bridge when I get there. I crossed the invisible "finish" and threw my hands up in the air in celebration. I had done it! Not only had I been capable of running 16 miles but I had run much faster than I thought I could. Thank you new running group for motivating me!
Upon returning home, I took my first ice bath of the season. After a run like that, I knew I needed one. The toenail that had been hitting the shoe was a rosy purple. I sank into the ice water and started the timer, welcoming the cold like an old friend. It feels soooo good to be getting back into training again.