Tune in Today, Wellness

Tying up my training tales

September 22, 2015
Update: Tune in today to see if she can … train for a half marathon.
Yesterday was beautiful in the midwest. It was one of those Sundays where you can feel summer dancing with fall, and it’s warm enough for short sleeves but smells like burning leaves. It also happened to be our last long training run (let the angels sing).

This journey, while not completely over yet, has gone remarkably fast. Not while I was doing the actual running per se, but in hindsight. I’ve learned a lot about myself, my mind and my body. I’ve learned a little bit about what the human spirit begs for when it’s clinging to exhaustion. I’ve learned that a solid playlist and hidden frozen water bottle at a halfway point can be the difference between thrill and defeat. I’ve learned that I can usually predict, within the first mile of a long run, if the coming hours will be hell or happy. And mostly I’ve learned that this sport is completely unpredictable and really, fantastically freaking hard.

Here is a look back at the best and the worst of my long runs.
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I realize this sounds a little crazy considering the miles we logged, but our 5 mile run was brutal and maybe the hardest of them all. Britni and I worked through a route that ran the perimeter of my neighborhood and then through it. Problem was, it was 89 degrees with no breeze and the roads were black asphalt. I had to walk twice and made an early prediction we would never make it to the actual race.
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Six was fairly uneventful. The sun was blazing by 10 am, so  I ran 4 of it outside alone and then topped ‘er off with 2 miles on the treadmill while I treated myself to Mean Girls. This was also the day I realized I could never train for a half marathon on a treadmill because I obsessed over watching the distance tick by. When it came to machinery, there’d be none for Gretchen Wieners. That was the only training run I did on the treadmill.
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If I could bottle a run and drink it every time I had to tap into some wicked cardio, it would be that 7 mile run. It was a cooler summer evening, we played music out loud and hid waters at our halfway point. Nothing felt like it was breaking or grinding or seizing, and I finally felt like we had this thing on lock. Look how happy we were …
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Every victory we claimed the week before vanished on our 8 mile route. With all the best intentions, Britni mapped out a course on her side of town. Started off great, looping around a pretty private lake. But then, there was something neither of us saw coming: The steepest, longest, most unforgiving beast of a hill I’ve ever encountered on foot. At least when I wasn’t intentionally scaling an epic mountain. It was about 4 miles into the run and was a true spirt breaker. From Everest on, we were quiet, breathy and barely hanging on. That was a long run. Hot and long.
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So, I have this friend, and she’s a very dear friend, but we’ve always given each other a hard time. We’re brutally honest and sarcastic and used to literally wrestle each other (not in a sorority girl pillow fight kind of way, but like a, we once tried to make each other eat cat food by shoving it into each other’s mouths kind of way) after we each downed a bottle of wine watching a full season of Sex and the City. Friendships are complex, man. Anyway, Britni was on vacay and we’d been wanting to run together, so Jill came over to my neck of the woods to knock out 9 miles. It was a run I was dreading and I was, it’s fair to say, a little worked up. I had a route, I had waters, I had a plan. I always have a plan, she was quick to remind me. And she wasn’t feeling the route, a point which she was also very quick to remind me of … and remind me … and remind me … and remind me, until we finally veered off my trail and onto hers. Needless to say, about 2.5 miles in, we had to take a 5-minute break from speaking to each other so we didn’t wrestle on someone’s front lawn. The silent treatment is much more suitable for two grown ass mothers of three. After our brief reprieve, we took care of business and the run turned out pretty great, actually. (She’ll know after she reads this, but I actually run the route I discovered at her unyielding insistence every time I go to that trail now. Damn it, I love it.)
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I hit 9 again the following week just to be sure. Britni was still on vacation and Jill and I hadn’t decided if we liked our running partnership after our first pass at it, so I found myself in a bit of a bind. It was surely going to be dark by the end of my run, so I preferred not to hit it alone. When I signed up for the half, my big brother offered to join me on a long run if I ever needed someone. Well, I needed someone. Matt is a great runner and has done several half marathons, but he hadn’t been training for this one. The big guy held in with me until almost 8 miles, gem that he is. There was no warning to his white flag, really. He just planted his feet, told me he could most likely see me if I got into trouble, and he’d meet me at the car. Thanks, bra.
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Jill and I made up just in time for the 10 mile run. She, of course, didn’t tell me until about an hour before that her bud Cassie would be joining us. Cassie is, of course, a marathon runner who is, of course, much faster than, of course, me. But anything beats pounding 10 miles of pavement by yourself. Around mile 5 I realized I might die. Around mile 8 I started sending up the silent prayers to get through it. Somewhere in the dark of night we crossed an invisible finish line and it felt so dang good to check off a box with double digits on my training schedule. Hell, i still can’t believe i did it.
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With Britni back in the game, we decided to tackle 10 again the following weekend. She mentioned she’d been battling an upper respiratory thing, but was feeling much better. We started at our usual pace; comfortable as a pair of fleece pants and an undershirt. I noticed she was sniffling. Then we stopped a few times so she could blow her nose. Then she stopped talking. Then her face got really red. You guys, I thought I was going to lose her, permanently. Not to be dramatic, but … oh. my. lanta.  My girl did not look good. We split for a bit, but that tough cookie kept at it to clock 9 miles. Not too shabby for a gal in respiratory distress.

Six days, an inhaler and lots of fluids later, we decided to swing for the stars and try an 11 miler before the race. A bright sun cut through the early autumn breeze to make it just warm enough for the face sweat to strike hard. I made the comment shortly in that it didn’t feel like it would be a great run. And it wasn’t. My knees hurt and ole Britni was gasping before we hit the third mile. With her tight lungs and my old stems, we somehow managed to log about 9 miles and that was that. It was a bold attempt. But it wasn’t pretty.

So, here we are. Just 4 days till the big race and we left things frustrated and fragile. At this point, there are a lot of eggs in the adrenaline basket. Let’s hope there’s enough to carry us at least, we’ll call it the last 4 miles.

A few final thoughts on training.
Breakouts! My skin hasn’t been this bad since I was 15.
Sore knees, hips and calves. I feel like an old, retired rodeo clown.
The schedule is such a monster time sucker. It’s like … what do my kids look like again?
I’m so dang hungry. I want to eat all of the things.

I’ve found so many great songs building my playlists. (Best thing about running in the dark of night is I can mouth the words and no one can see me.)

I never felt a runner’s high necessarily, but I do get a sweet endorphin buzz about 30 minutes after I finish a significant run. Hey, it’s free and legal, folks!
The time I’ve gotten with Britni, Jill, my brother and even myself, is such a rare treat for this over scheduled mama. No complaints about the company (except Jill, just that one time).

Until Saturday … 

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1 Comment

  • Reply Nissa September 24, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    Holy crap, you are amazing. I can’t believe how well you’ve done. I have NEVER ran over 5 miles. Ever, ever, ever. Maybe one day … Good luck this weekend!!!!

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