I have been cautiously optimistic about actually having the opportunity to run my longest distance ever on concrete yesterday. Between a pretty angry hamstring/sciatic nerve issue and ongoing viruses in my home, I wasn't sure I would make it to the start of my 40 miler. Thankfully, my body was cooperative and I even had a decent night's sleep which is highly unusual for me. When the alarm went off at 4:00 am, I was already up and ready to get going.
I have done a few 50 milers on the dirt and loved every minute of it, (well, maybe not every minute), but the thought of running almost that many miles on the road has not appealed to me. Life being what it is right now, I had to either do my longest training run on pavement or not do it at all. Embracing the idea that it would make me mentally stronger to do something I wasn't too keen on helped me to keep my focus. As well, several people were kind enough to run with me and the last 10 miles I had 4 angels show up and help me finish the mileage up.
Yesterday's weather could not have been anymore perfect! I began my run solo at 4:45 am, in the dark and with temps around 43 degrees. I kept on my sweats and of course my blinkie and ran the first 10 miles. I think I was about 5 miles into the run when I realized that I was completely outside of myself and had no recollection of the path I had just run. I felt completely "in the zone".
I finished the first 10 miles in time to start with the Woodlands Fit groups 21 miler. The plan was to run alongside them for the comraderie and then to finish my final 10 miles on my own. I missed the official start of the run because I was in need of the restroom and it seemed I wasn't alone. There was a 10 - 15 minute wait to use the one in Luke's causing me to miss the beginning of the run. This was probably a blessing in disguise though because I might otherwise have been tempted to run the pace of my running buddies instead of my own. I knew that it would be hard to actually run with someone because they are training for a marathon and I am training for a 100 miler, two totally different beasts. I have had much success with the 8:2 method in these long runs and plan to use this during Rocky, so my training runs have been structured as such. If you want to finish a fast marathon, running with me is probably not a good idea.
The next 21 miles went very well. I had to stop two more times for the restroom of which I waited another 10 mins and forgot to turn off my watch. I typically turn off my watch if I have to wait in line because this usually isn't a problem during races.
The weirdest part of the 21 was getting a text from Mark after I had run 20 miles and he was just leaving for work. I had to double check the time because it felt like noon to me, yet it was only 8:15 am.
I saw so many running friends on the route and it felt so nice to see them all having great runs and lots of fun.
As I came into my 31st mile, I checked my phone and had texts from a few people that were planning to meet up with me to run a portion of the last ten. Marcos and Amy met me at Luke's and committed to running 5 miles with me. Holden and Christy both were meeting me at Shadowbend Park and planned to run a few as well. It was the perfect team of runners! I can't thank them enough for sticking with me. While I know I could have finished that last ten on my own, I was really, really glad that I didn't. You guys are wonderful!
All in all, the run went smoothly. My nutrition seems to be working well. I eat every 5 miles, typically trail mix, but twice I did eat some honey stinger chews. I love those things! They are like candy and I think they are so tasty! Not like a gel. They sit on the stomach well. I also take an S-cap once per hour. Even though the temps are low, I am afraid to not take them because I feel so good at the end of the runs. I also tried 5 hour energy on my last two big runs and while this is something I would never typically choose to use, many other runners who have had great success have recommended that I try them in training for use during the 100, especially in the wee hours after midnight. I expected that they would upset my stomach or make me feel weird, but so far, I have not had any issues with them. I took one yesterday at the end of the first 10 miles and other than feel like I was somehow cheating, I felt great and had no ill-effects from it.
At the end of the run, I was tired, but I still had some mileage in me. I am not sure if I had 60 miles left in me though. I expected that a 41 mile run would do a lot to boost my confidence, but if I was to be totally honest, I think it could have done just the opposite. I was tired. Maybe I had another 20 or 30 miles left in me, but 60? I don't know.
How does running a 40 miler translate to training for a 100? We run 21 miles in preparation for a marathon. I can see how 21 would boost the ego enough to believe you can finish 26. I ran 35 in preparation of a 50 miler, and I felt that I could finish that distance. But running 40 and thinking it will translate into being physically and mentally ready for the 100? I just don't know.
One thing is for certain. I can no longer underestimate the challenge of the 100. Not that I was, but I think the enormity of the distance is hitting me now. I have seen it said that one "could fake their way through a 50". I understand that phrase now. The other part of it is that while you could make it through a 50 on pure guts, I am not so convinced that I can accomplish this during a 100.
Obviously dwelling on these thoughts won't do much to get me through the 100, but I like to try to keep things real in my world, and my thoughts at this point are this.
I will start Rocky 100.
I will run, walk, and crawl as far as I can.
I will do my best to get farther than I ever have before and if that means a finish, all the better.
Maybe the DNF's that I have had this year have been to help prepare me for this moment. To not underestimate a race. To not get too comfortable or too confident. To not set unattainable goals.
I am looking forward to the next few weeks of running and the eventual race itself. I want to see what I am really made of. I want to see what challenges I am able to overcome and how fully I can rely on myself and God to pull me through those moments I know are waiting for me on that trail...