The alarm sounds at 5:10 am, and feeling surprisingly well rested despite waking up three time in anticipation of my early morning run, I get into my running gear. I add an extra layer on both top and bottom as i hear the wind whipping through the trees outside the dark window. Sunrise was to be at 7:16 in Goshen, CT today.... that means I had quite a bit to get through before there would be any light.
Running down stairs and toasting up some bread and smothering it with PB and honey and drinking the last bit of my morning Liter of water. I take my omeprazole (tummy protectant, also keeps me safe if i need to pop a couple ibprofen mid run). And Im out the door... i jump in my car heading to the local camp to leave my car at "home base".... I step outside and vote its too cold to loose the extra layers, and too cold to waste time rubbing on the icy hot. So I strap my camelback on and my blinker (so I dont get hit by cars) and my little mini light, so I can see where I am stepping, and I take off running. Without much more than a seconds thought I was rolling through mile 5 mark, overly warm with "hot hands" in my gloves and shoes, I stripped my second jacket off.
I decided to take a well known route: miles 1.5-5 of the Litchfield Hills Road race course, taking me up past the high school and down past the track into White's woods and looping back, now at about 8 miles I decided to explore a new trail I'd never taken. So far so good, although strangely enough as the sun began to rise the temperature dropped. Me, now damp with sweat began to get colder, and the first wall hit... less than 10 miles into my 28 miles, I calmed myself knowing I was still running 8:30 pace comfortably, I could always slow down. I would be ok, right? doubt began to rise.
The path was gorgeous, and little did I know came out a well known road in Litchfield. Suddenly without planning I had tacked a couple more miles to my loop... which was Ideal, adding in more hills and tricking myself into the thought that I felt good.
The reality of this run was when I was at 11miles, I began to question my goal... or goals... all of them. What was I thinking, my Iliotibial band was already spasming creating an irritating, though not awful, pain in my knee. I was cold, my face was so frozen that moving my jaw was difficult. Eating my Hammer "gel" was awful, it was so solidified that I could barely squeeze out the nutrition while trying not to cut my lips on the packaging. My knees overall felt frozen, moving was hard and forceful, running on my legs in the cold feels the way I'd imagine running on wooden legs (like that of pirate from old cartoons) would feel. Painful, difficult but overall annoying. Did I mention my camelback hose froze... so much for water...:/... I would stop when necessary and drink straight out of the pouch- much better than nothing.
Mile 12 was a nice break, looping around my absolutely favorite place to run, the Litchfield CT Boardwalk, the bouncy wood was a nice break for my legs, the slick ice was worrisome with water on both sides, and no other souls around... but well worth the views. Two swans in the water, gorgeous and white as they were fishing for breakfast beneath the rising sun. I insisted to myself that I stop and take pictures... thats what this about right? I run because the long term personal goal is to have fun and see more, just faster.... ;).
The break also reset my knees, (for a little bit). Growing frustrated by the returning aching in my left knee but determined to continue forward I was now reaching 14 miles, my half way point, I turned around from my current position. The pain was enough that I wasn't sure what I had left and if i was brought to walking, I'd prefer to be closer to home base.
16 miles in, I was stopping every 3/4 of a mile to walk a bit and stretch my left hip... at 19 I sat in "hero's posture" on the side of the road, now only 2 miles from car, I was literally brought to my knees. I was tired, cold, and hurting... no one else care's if i run 21 or 28, I thought... who am I kidding. If i get hurt, it really doesn't matter at all does it? I rose to my feet, reminding myself that 28 miles, is 28 miles, whether you walk, run, or crawl, just keep moving forward, so i started walking, and broke into a run. At 19.85mi I chose to go straight (up hill) instead of taking the turn toward my vehicle. The relief the uphill brought my knee gave me a lift, pushing through the pain that returned as I coursed back down hill. Forgetting where these roads go, I progressed forward, turning where it seemed right. Mile 22 I was back at the stop sign where I had I agreed with my inner self that I was quitting, that my training run was not THAT essential that I should suffer through it. Now I was back to being 2 miles from my car... so I'd at least make 24miles, my minimum. Moving forward checking off telephone pole, mail box, relfector sign, pole, pole, mailbox as I slowly continued on.
Why- push forward on a "bad" run.... because God forbid your race day feels like this, you need to know how to move forward. Not to mention, aren't there always times in life we ask this question. "Why does this suck so bad right now, how can I KEEP on going, Why Should I keep on Going, Who Cares?" But we, ourselves care, and we can handle and grow from the challenges we choose to endure. And how will we ever find out what we can do, if we do not try...
Mile 24... 0.8 short of 40K.... I can make that. So I do, and then thats nearly 26.2.... I thought, and I moved onward.... 26.2 complete 3:59:11.... my slowest 26.2 yet... but thats ok with me today, I made it. The pain in my knee had long past plateaued as long as I stopped to stretch and walk a bit every mile or so. I was not on the road to injury, but I was certainly uncomfortable, but seriously---- it's not like someone said this would be easy, (who in their right mind would think the 2nd time you ever run 28 mi, it'd be a breeze in 26 degrees.... HA)
Those last two miles I thought. I thought about the ppl who are struggling this christmas, I thought about myself- my goals, my past... I thought about all the questions I am searching for answers to. And before I knew it 4:19 mins 28.00mi flashed on my watch. FINISHED. (lol, it was the longest 2miles I've felt in a while.... but I honestly don't remember anything except being determined to finish and scared to be hurt. Well actually there was a women walking her dogs- leash free- so they kept chasing me (cute though not scary) and she was singing to herself... it seemed odd, but I kind of respected her willingness to be so free.- so there was something to those last couple miles...:)).
My first Really HARD run in a Very Long time. Lessons learned, experience gained. and most importantly.... I know I will keep moving forward.... Constant Forward Progress.....
Hoping everyone Had a very Merry Christmas!! Sending Love to those who Struggled this Christmas, with family, without family, or anything that can go wrong.... I hope the memories were filled with smiles and LOVE!!