I’m a month out from this race, and I feel like I’ve been working hard. What I feel like is all I do is run, work, run, work, run, run, laundry, run.
I’m enjoying the training — really loving it, actually — but I also look forward to some Saturdays in November where I wake up, stay in my pajamas and eat pancakes and read books with the kids. Until then, I’ll keep spending my weekend mornings in the dark on gravel roads.
This weekend was no different.
Chris and I decided to do back to back long runs instead of one mega run. That meant 17 Saturday, and then again on Sunday. The most mileage I’ve done like that is a 10 on a Friday and a 20 on a Saturday — which is fairly typical for me marathon training. I wasn’t sure how this would go.
It was truly a tale of two completely different runs.
Saturday was cloudy, pouring rain and ridiculously windy. I confess, I have been spoiled with beautiful running weather lately. We headed east of town to the Big Sioux Recreation Area.
It was just over 5 hilly miles there, and then we met up with my friend Natalie, who recently ran the Leadville 100-miler. She claims to be a normal person, but no normal people do that. She’s inspirational partly because she does ultras, but more so to me because she’s a normal person — she works full time. Has two young children. She just finds time to do what she loves, and I know how hard that is, especially when your hobby is distance running — it’s a huge time suck.
Natalie agreed to meet us at the entrance to the park, and then took us four times around this loop there.
Friends, it was humbling.
I consider myself to be a fine runner — I’m not great, and I’m not horrible. I can hold my own.
But when I stepped onto muddy, twisty single-track trails, I felt like a complete idiot. She did this side-to-side dance going down the trails, and I kept sliding around, and at one point stumbled so much I came very close to falling flat on my face. And by “at one point” I mean every 10 minutes or so.
She told us to power hike the hills, and not think too hard going downhill. It was a completely different way of running. And it was awesome. She answered all our questions about training and nutrition and scheduling and all of it. I could absolutely see the allure of trail running over road running. (As an aside, I wore my compression socks to run for the first time and they were great.)
After about 6 miles with her, we parted ways and headed back into town. Straight into the wind.
I won’t lie, it was brutal. I felt like the trail running took so much concentration that I was mentally exhausted by the time we turned. And then the hills and the wind together just made me crabby. Poor Chris. I’ve generally been cheerful when we run together, but Saturday I felt like I was in that no man’s land of self-hatred that usually strikes me around mile 21 of a marathon.
Here is an elevation map of our day:
It’s no Leadville. But it’s no Ditch Road, either.
I just wanted it to be over. It was by far the slowest 17-miler I’ve done in years. But it felt tough.
Afterward, Chris shared his mom’s homemade cinnamon rolls, but I was so tired and so shelled, I just shivered throughout. They were awesome, though.
Thankfully, Philip and Jack were busy on Saturday afternoon, so Viv and I napped for a few hours. That was desperately needed. And then I played outside with the kids for a bit. Look at this lady:
It was a gorgeous afternoon. That night, we did a family movie night and ate popcorn and watched The Lion King in our pajamas. It was seriously awesome.
Then on Sunday, Chris and I did it all over again. We drove west of town and ran rolling hills on gravel roads, around a lake and back, for another 17 miles. This one was as awesome as Saturday’s was horrible.
Almost no wind, stunning sunrise, gentle, rolling hills. And, even better, a sweet negative split. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to log 60 miles for the week, and to have the last 5 at 8:30 or better. That tells me I’m not in the crap shape I thought I was.
Maybe there’s hope for me yet.
That afternoon, we took Jack to a cyclocross race — and let him participate. He had SO much fun. It’s put on by a local bike shop, and the kids raced for 15 minutes. Philip had to help Jack up the hills — which basically meant he did hill repeats. But it was very cool, and we will be back for sure. My coworker Patrick suggested it.
Jack at the starting line.
He sped down the hills, and Philip had to run him down.
The kids get help over their obstacle — a piece of caution tape they had to lift their bikes over.
So, that was our weekend. I also ate Pringles and pretzels on my runs, and they were great. I could absolutely get behind potato chips in races.
Today, I did an easy 6 miles and will teach spin.
Then I think I seriously need a day off. I’m exhausted.