I did it. I got in my 8-miler last week, which was surprisingly easy! Today I tackled the 10. I finished it, but based on how good I felt last week, I anticipated this 10 to be a walk in the park. It wasn’t. It was drudgery. Every last step. I wanted to give up multiple times.
First, I thought I would try a new trail that would give me an opportunity for a nice, flat (easy) out-and-back. Explore 5 miles one way, then turn around, and less than two hours later, I would be dusting off my shoes, eating a snack, going to the gym and moving on with my day – grocery shopping, picking up the kids and shuttling them to their activities. Normal Life. This fantasy did not materialize as I sit on the couch in my pajamas writing this and looking like the angel of death may claim me in the next 30 minutes.
Mistake #1 – Leg workout the day before long run day
I should not have done an intense lower body workout in the gym yesterday. When I got out of bed this morning, I felt every single muscle from my calves through my lower back screaming at me. Normally this pain would be good news, a sign that muscle is repairing itself and getting stronger. Today however, this exhaustion in my legs was a bad sign.
Mistake #2 – Not looking up a new trail
I should have checked that the trail would go 5 miles in one direction. I entered O’Neil park, walked down the steep hill to the bottom where the campgrounds are located, and started my Garmin watch. I thought the trail eventually connected to the bike path in Lake Forest, near Saddleback Church. The run started off well – albeit slow, because of the aforementioned leg situation. The path was beautiful and heavily shaded with large oak trees and several quaint stream crossings. I passed a beautiful and heavily pregnant runner (no less than 7 months along) rocking a fast pace wearing nothing but a sports bra and her running shorts. It was one of the most inspiring sights I have ever seen. It made me tuck my irritation about my sore legs way down deep and push a little harder. About 2 miles in, the trail became very uneven, heavily laden with rocks and stones. And just stopped. It just came to a dead end.
Shit. My 10-mile out and back just got reduced to 4. What do I do? The only thing I could do. Turn around.
Not a minute later I stumble on a rock. One of those great big rocks that any normal person would avoid and go AROUND, not try to be cute and go OVER. And I twist my ankle. The one that shattered last year.
Now what do I do? Say screw this? Claim my exhaustion only 25 minutes in and walk back to the car?
I walked a couple of paces. I stretched. I rotated my ankle clockwise a few times, then counter-clockwise. No swelling. I checked in with my pain level and determined it wasn’t bad, maybe a 2 out of a 10.
Assessment – soldier on.
Ugh. That is literally what I said to myself as I made the decision to push forward.
So now what? Remember the big hill I walked down? I purposefully didn’t start my watch until I was at the bottom of the big hill because I didn’t want to include it in my distance today. I run this hill often. I do hill repeats on this hill. I love this hill. But not today. Today, I did NOT want to run this hill.
But now, if I wanted to continue to get the mileage, I had no choice. Today this hill was my nemesis to be conquered. And conquer it, I did (insert evil laugh here).
Once I reached the top of the hill, I had to make a choice. My car was right on the other side of the gate. I could see it. A gleaming white beacon of refreshment. I knew there was a bottle of water sitting in the cup holder, still cold. There was a banana and a delicious protein bar. There was air conditioning. There was a place to sit and rest my aching legs.
But the momentary comfort would not provide me with a lasting sense of pride or accomplishment. As tantalizing as my car was, I knew I could not return to it for another hour or more.
Instead of turning right, out the gate and into the car, I turned left, and trudged the next 2 miles uphill through O’Neil park. In my mind I said, I’m at 4 miles, I’ll do 2 miles out of O’Neil, another mile added on when I get out of the park, and the last 3 miles back to the car will be relatively downhill. Awesome.
Mistake #3 – Putting hope in a plan that has not been thoroughly vetted
I ran the miles out O’Neil park. But…the two miles I had anticipated, were based on a different starting point from previous runs. By the time I ran out of trail I had added only 1.5 miles. Any long-distance runner knows that those smaller distances – quarter mile, half mile, mile, – they matter in the whole. I still needed to add another 1.5 before I could turn around. Now I was getting annoyed at myself. Irritated at my lack of planning. Questioning if I should just turn around now and call it a day at what would be maybe 6ish.
Ugh. Again. I said it louder this time. Ugh.
One foot in front of the other.
So, I just kept moving. And singing. I started singing to my music, out loud, even when I was passing other people on the sidewalk. The singing got me out of my own head. I focused on something other than my pain, and it also kept my heart rate even. If I could sing, I wasn’t out of breath and I knew I could make it the last 4.5 miles.
Now that I was out of the nature park, I was on the city street. Every stop light became a decision. Right, left, straight? I just kept going. And going and going.
Mistake #4 – Adding too much distance because you’re a poor planner
There was a point when I was at 8 miles and I thought it was only about a mile back to my car. I could just go to the car. If I went about 9, I was already going further than I had gone last week.
Or….I could stop making excuses and add the distance to make SURE I would complete 10. I took a detour and did a quick lap (well, let me rephrase that…a slow, laborious lap) around the reservoir in our community then popped back out onto the street for the home stretch.
I hit the 10-mile mark. I did it. I could barely move when I stopped my watch, at exactly 10 miles. The run was a completely different beast than I had expected. All mistakes that I could have personally avoided. But I persevered through the discomfort, through the pain, through the disappointment. I didn’t give up on myself. I continued to put one foot in front of the other. Step after step. I didn’t give myself an easy way out.
That bottle of water was still waiting for me. My stomach was rumbling with hunger because I had been running for almost 2 hours. I was eager for my banana, which had probably now turned brown sitting in the heat of my car for that length of time. No matter, it was going to be delicious. I could taste it.
I was almost there.
I just had to walk the last mile to the car.