Hard to believe, but I have nearly 4 weeks of training under my belt. Time flies when you're logging miles. Today was a big day. 18 miles lined up on the schedule with 4 of those miles at my target marathon pace (6:07/mile). I was feeling ragged from the moment I got up this morning. I had a later evening than originally anticipated and was up at 5:30AM....not exactly the recipe for a stellar long run.
At any rate, I managed to grab a quick powernap before hitting the road at 12PM. I was planning on logging most of my mileage in Golden Gate Park and along the Great Highway, but my Garmin has been crapping out as of late and I needed a course where I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what the distance was. So, I went to my home away from home....the Marina.
I did one of my favorite loops...'the bridge route'. At least, it's my favorite when I'm not encountering howling headwinds heading towards the bridge. The wind wasn't exactly howling, but it was noticeable and there were more than a few quality gusts to keep things interesting. As usual, there were an abundance of tourists doddering around completely oblivious to anyone else around them. I'm not saying ALL tourists who wander across the Golden Gate Bridge are oblivious, just 95% of them.
After reaching the visitor center on the opposite side of the bridge, I turned around and headed back. My pacing was solidly where I wanted it, but I can't say I was really feeling 'fresh' which was disconcerting as I was only about 5 miles into the run. But, I did a pretty challenging track workout on Monday ('6' 800's @ 2:36) and logged about 7 miles the evening before, so there's no question I was not 100%. I got back the Warming Hut and began to notice the heat a bit more. The fog and wind disappeared.
After knocking out 10 miles, I took a brief pit stop for a gel, some water, and stretching. The toughest part of this run was right in front of me. 4 miles @ 6:07. I really wasn't looking forward to this. The legs were not feeling sharp. My right quad was definitely fatigued and the rest of my body was heading in a similar direction. The only saving grace was a bit of a tailwind that would aid me, but I was not looking forward to running into a headwind on the way back.
Fortunately, Fisherman's Wharf was not packed to the gills with tourists as I segued into target pace. My focus was primarily on maintaining good form and quick turnover. I really struggled with my pacing for at least the first couple miles...I was all over the place...5:26, 5:37, 5:50, 6:26...I just really had a hard time locking in the pace, but overall I was pretty much where I needed to be. 2 miles into this stretch, I started to feel the hurt. It wasn't overwhelming, but it was no walk in the park, either. I was working.
I didn't necessarily do myself any favors by not bringing fluids and/or stopping for them more frequently. In many respects, this is a conscious decision on my part. While I tell all of my runners to drink every 15-20 min. (roughly), I hate stopping when I run....for anything. Complicating matters further is that I hate carrying anything with me. There's also a part of me that genuinely thinks my body will adapt to running in a more depleted state and making these runs even more challenging than they are will ultimately help my cause on race day when I WILL have fluids every couple miles and I WILL have gels every 45 min. or so.
I fought hard to maintain pace for the full four miles and once again found myself wondering how the hell I'm going to get into the kind of shape to maintain this same pace for 26.2 miles. I had to take a break when I finished the 4 miles at target pace. My fingers were starting to tingle...which has happened to me before when I'm really pushing. Breathing was labored as well. I still had 4 miles in front of me against a now strong headwind on legs that were definitely shot.
I managed to get the wheels turning a bit and while it was slow going, I made it to the Ferry Building for some water and a brief respite. I still had 3 miles left. It's always funny how your perspective shifts at moments like this. 3 miles is nothing on an ordinary day. On a day like today, it stretched on for eternity.
I got back on the road and really didn't give a shit what my pacing was, I just needed to knock the last few miles out. As I typically do when I'm really wiped, I started dredging up memories of some of the toughest runs I'd ever done and the pain I pushed through to complete them. This kept me distracted and provided some solace that this was no different.
Sans ipod, I found myself recalling some of the more aggressive music I listen to in order to get myself in the right headspace for a tough run. Rob Zombie's 'More Human Than Human' crept in and suddenly I was only 2 miles from wrapping this one up. The difference between 2 miles and 3 miles isn't much, but mentally it was just huge today.
Somehow despite feeling like I was on the verge of crashing and burning, my turnover started to quicken and I found myself rallying one more time. My pace increased from around 7:00 to about 6:25. I was feeling it. The fatigue/discomfort was still ever present, but the 2 miles that left seemed more like two laps. I'd hesitate to say it was the runner's high as I've never experienced it in these kinds of conditions, but it was close.
The last 200 meters was nirvana. I managed to fight through the urge to pack it in and while the wall was omnipresent..I pushed through it.