Sunday was a big moment of truth day for me and my marathon training. It was a day of, "Will I successfully run 14 miles?" This is something that I had been thinking about all week long leading up until Sunday morning. To top it all off, I hadn't been feeling all that well and going into Saturday evening I had a sore throat, earache and a low grade fever. Nothing that a good 14 mile run on Sunday wouldn't cure, right? Well let it be known that when the alarm clock went off at 5:30am, my fever, soar throat and stabbing ear pain had subsided to the point where I could attempt the run. Was I 100%? No, but I wasn't debilitated enough to where I should sacrifice my long run. With marathon training, the long run is the most crucial run of the week.
All my long runs this year are taking place at the beautiful Rockefeller State Park Preserve which is about 45 minutes north from me up in Sleepy Hollow/Pleasantville, NY. This park provides over 1,400 acres of playland for runners, walkers and horseback riders. Absolutely no bike riding allowed. The trails are well maintained and provide a wide variety of inclines from easy to steep. During my runs I have encountered a lot of wildlife including rabbits, chipmunks, ducks, deer, turkeys and an osprey. The majority of the trails are under tree cover so you aren't running directly in the sun all the time. Often you are running alone, despite the fact that there are a ton of cars in the parking lot. It is truly a beautiful and refreshing place to run!
So what does a 14 mile run look like? It look a lot like this...
I run with a Garmin watch and I love that I can download all my running data onto the computer to analyze and keep track of my stats. One nice aspect of the data is that you get a nice map of your run. This picture only captures a fraction of the trails at the park. Of course my route is in red and in a few spots I run them over again, whether to get another hill in or a little bit of a recovery before I move on to a tougher spot.
The last time I ran 14 miles was back in 2006 when I was training for the marathon the first time. I ran 12 miles two weeks ago and prior to that run I hadn't run that distance since 2009. During the 12 mile run, I felt really good up until mile 11 and then mile 12 I was faced with a long, steady hill to the finish. That was the longest mile EVER, but I finished it.
So going into the 14 miler, I was nervous. I knew that I could do it. It was just actually doing it that scared me. So how did it go? The first 10 miles was good. I was running a bit slower than normal, but I didn't feel horrible. I had four miles to complete so I chose to rerun a path that I normally do at the beginning of my trails runs called David's Loop. On my way running toward mile 11 on this path was my road to almost disaster.
See David's Loop is one serious hill. The incline is something else and I have conditioned myself to handle it well on fresh legs. Now I was attempting it on legs that had been running for just over 2 hours. Half way up the hill I got very tired, my heart rate spiked even though I was going much slower and I thought I was going to be sick. To get through it I just told myself that the downhill for recovery was almost there. Once I got past this obstacle, things would be better. Once I hit the downhill things got a little better. My heart rate went back to normal and I didn't feel like I was going to vomit as badly as I felt going up the hill. My legs were very tired and my mind started playing games with me. I have felt this mind game before. I knew it before I ever saw it on my run. I knew I was stronger than my mind telling me to quit. I knew I just had to keep going.
As I was running down toward Swan Lake, I hit mile 12. I was excited to be hitting the path around Swan Lake because I knew it was relatively flat and I would be able to recover and finish the 14 miles. So as I am running I all of a sudden feel like this...
I am fighting my mind that wants to give me an emotional break down. It wants me to call it a day. I am struggling at this point. I hit mile 12.5. I am still fighting with my mind. It's tell me I am done. I hit mile 12.75. My legs are carrying me back to the car. I hit mile 12.79. I am leaning against the car window with my head hanging on the edge and tears in my eyes. My wonderful boyfriend looks out at me and says it's ok. He helps me regain my composure and tells me that I got this. We check to make sure I have enough hydration in my bottles to finish that blasted last 1.10 miles. Just one more loop around the lake and then I am done. I got it.
I did finish my 14 mile run. It was very emotional for me. Sunday, I proved to myself that I could do it. The next time I have to run I will be that much stronger. I have pushed my threshold level up a notch. My boyfriend is such a rock. He gave me the support I desperately needed. I am so lucky to have him on my team. I thank him with all my heart.