Yesterday was my longest "long run" yet. Granted, I'll be able to repeat this sentence pretty much every Monday until my marathon, but it's still satisfying to say it.
My goal was to run 13 miles, but I figured I might as well make it 13.1 and call it a half-marathon, because that sounds so much more kickass.
Sadly, it ended up kicking my ass.
For starters, I got a lousy night's sleep on Saturday. For whatever reason, I woke up at 4:00 and was wide awake. I didn't get as early of a start as I would have liked because once I finally did fall asleep, I was dead to the world until Jack woke me up. And when Jack woke me up, Steve was then dead to the world for another hour. Once I finally got going, it was 9:00 and blazing ass hot, not to mention swampy humid. I could not catch a breeze to save my life, even though I stayed as close to the river as possible in hopes that it'd be a bit cooler.
The heat made what would have been a challenging run an absolute slog. I had to make all kinds of bargains with myself - if I gutted it out and didn't take another walking/water break for a couple more miles, I could walk up the killer steep hill at mile 10, for example. And if I needed to slow my pace? Hey, no problem.
Even still, by the time I got to the last mile, I was hurting. I have a mantra that I say in my head to encourage me: I am strong. I am tough. I can do this. I am a marathoner. I went from saying it in my head to muttering it out loud. Even that wasn't enough, so I spent much of that final mile saying, "Come on already. It's just one stupid mile, and you'll be done soon. Suck it up and keep going. Don't be such a fucking wimp."
Finally, it was over. Instead of feeling strong and triumphant, I was absolutely exhausted. I decided to cut through the grocery store on my way home to soak up a little air conditioning (which was heaven).
On my way in, a man stopped me. "Hey," he said, "I saw you running all the way in downtown Rock Island. Did you run all that way?" I told him yes, and then some. "Damn, girl! That's some running!"
With that, my mindset completely changed. Yeah, it was tough, and no, there was nothing pretty about that run. It was really hard - and you know what? I did it.
The Non-Runner's Guide to Marathons refers to "running angels." They are people who come along at just the right minute to somehow save you with a gel, a drink of water, or just a few words of encouragement. That man was my very first running angel.
I headed back home to survey the damages. My outfit was completely soaked in sweat. I downed two huge bottles of Gatorade in about 30 seconds. Then I took an ice bath. If you're not crazy enough to run 13.1 miles in ridiculous heat and humidity, then surely you're not crazy enough to be familiar with an ice bath, so here's the deal. You fill your tub with freezing cold water deep enough to cover your legs and stay in it for as long as you can. The cold water causes your blood vessels to tighten and drains the blood out of your legs. The new blood then sends more oxygen to your muscles and aids in your recovery.
It was painful, yet awesome.
I also discovered that I had sunburn on my face and shoulders and some chafing on my chest from my shirt. And that taking a post-run nap is even better if Jack joins me.