We’re Half Way There (Livin’ on a Prayer)

I’m sure many of you out there have been wondering  where I’ve been this last week. (Or not, which is okay too.)  The answer is camping with family and friends, blissfully disconnected from the internet.  Teaching Flower Face to kayak, a bear sighting, and a night when I protected two big, adult men from an attack raccoon are experiences I might blog about later. (Or not.)  But for now I really want to focus on running.

When I returned to cyber-reality I realized I hadn’t written much about my marathon training.  Wilma and I just completed a 16 mile long run and if I’m looking at my calendar correctly we’re about half done with our preparation. The whole process has been really crappy.  And really wonderful.  And both simultaneously.  Wilma and I have struggled with some health issues that we’ve had to work through. We both have asthma. And then there have just been days when our bodies wouldn’t run, no matter how much we willed them to.  Indeed one of the most interesting things I’ve learned in this training cycle is that each run contains within it the possibility of its own failure.  And sometimes they do fail.  We walked five miles instead of a doing a scheduled ten miler.  I had to stop dead in the middle of our speedwork a couple of weeks ago because running fast on a hot, humid evening felt to me like throwing my body through a wall of flaming water that I was also trying (very unsuccessfully) to breathe.

And then there was the 12 mile death march.  During this run I learned there are two parts of the body a distance runner must pay serious attention to:  the GI tract and the feet.  The last few long runs leading up to 12 miles I had had some unprecedented pain on the bottoms of my feet, most often in the ball but also along the non-arch side.  Because I am who I am, I decided ignoring it and hoping it would eventually go away was the best strategy.  On the death march, from about mile seven to mile twelve, my feet gave me more pain than any athletic injury has every given me; each strike felt like an electric shock, especially on the left.

I barely noticed it.

This was because I was also plagued, for the first time in my running career, by a severe bout of runner’s diarrhea.  I hadn’t been careful about hydration or nutrition before my run, waking up from a nap five minutes before Wilma came to pick me up, and sleepily eating a granola bar on the drive.   Early on in the run I felt really weak so I ate an entire pack of extra salty, margarita flavored Shot Bloks without water.  After that I couldn’t recover.  My stomach cramped, I went hot then cold, and then . . . well, I’ll let you imagine the rest except to say that I’m really glad we train in the woods and that I had to lie on the cool tile of my bathroom floor until midnight that night.

But I finished the run, mostly because walking would have taken longer.  Wilma bravely allowed me in her car, and even took me to a convenience store on the way home to buy Gatorade.

The fourteen mile run was a little better, except my feet hurt in a whole new way as I had to buy stability shoes to solve the previous pain.  They changed my gait and felt like I was wearing bricks.  And the diarrhea was replaced by evil, epic nausea in the last six miles.  But Wilma told me a story that carried me through my misery; I followed her voice like a dog, and turned my brain off.  One foot in front of the other, she would remind me, gently, if I fell back.  And that was about all I could do.

Now logic would say that after two pretty miserable runs I might decide marathon running is not for me and take up, well, knitting or something useful.  Let me tell you why I didn’t.  First of all, training to run is training me to live.  Yeah, the marathon will be great.  But right now I’m slogging through some pretty difficult stuff in my family life, and every time I feel like I want to just quit I remember that I finished those two horrible runs no matter how sick I felt and that I am stronger than I think I am.  One foot in front of the other.

Second, running actually makes me take care of myself.  I’m more in tune with my body because I want it to function well.  I have to eat right, get enough sleep, drink a lot of water, and pay attention to nagging injuries.  This attention to self is pretty unusual for women in our culture, especially moms, sadly enough.  I love the feeling that my usually reviled and beaten into submission body now feels like a smooth machine, no matter its surface flaws.  Flower Face even gives me excellent back and foot rubs with lavendar lotion.

Third, well there was that 16 miler.  I finally got my hydration issues under control so there was not a hint of GI distress.  My new shoes, while still heavy, had ceased to hurt my feet.  Wilma felt good too.  The sun shone, the breeze cooled us and the forest was more beautiful than ever.  We cruised through it.  The only hard part was when we had to turn around at our usual ending place and do one more mile.   Halfway through that last bit we belted out, “Oh-oh we’re halfway there . . .Oh-oh livin’ on a prayer.” startling a genteel elderly couple in hats. I know, ridiculous song (Bon Jovi?). But we were grinning, sweaty fools, high with our own bodies’ power, with the fact that we actually did it, and with all of the impossible runs (and parts of our lives) we had to overcome to get there.

~ by Iphigenia on July 10, 2011.

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