The Ice and the Back-of-the-Pack

Dallas has been under ice and well below freezing since Monday night.  The whole city has been shut down.  Ice and mandatory blackouts due to a power curtailment.  Roads have been dangerous and schools have been shut down.  On Friday, we got 6 inches of snow on top of that ice.  Let me remind you that this is Texas, and we don't deal well with these conditions.  The snow, of course, hid the ice patches, which made it even more dangerous.  Ugh.  Everything cancelled.  I finally forced myself on Wednesday to put my home treadmill to good use and pushed out a wimpy 5 miles (I only say "wimpy" because I planned to go much further, but was stupid and ran after lunch and my stomach was killing me). 

On Friday, I had planned to attempt another run at home, but then I saw Elaine ask for people to come to the gym with her Saturday.  She has her second marathon in 3 weeks and had the 20-miler on the schedule.  And our race was cancelled (serious boo-hoo for me).  Unfortunately every road and path is a sheet of ice... so she decided to do it on the treadmill and was looking for some company.  I told her I'd do her first 10 with her.  Considering I haven't run more than 13 in over 2 months, and those 13s were only for races, I figured anything more was pushing it.

So I skipped Friday at home, and woke up early Saturday to get to the gym when the doors opened at 8am.  The roads were ice.  I skated to the gym, and when I arrived... I saw 2 people.  The lady near the front desk, and 1 guy on a treadmill.  Wow.  Totally deserted.  Elaine was upstairs just a few minutes after me, and we settled into a couple treadmills in the corner, and started the run.  I was shocked at how good I felt.  At about 6 miles, Ashley showed up and got on the other side of Elaine.  At 8 miles, I was really feeling fine (and that's where I had to stop and reset the silly treadmill).  I texted Peter, who wanted to work today, and asked when I needed to be home.  He gave me the exact answer I was hoping for - noon.  That meant with some determination, maybe I could push out another 8 before I had to head home.  (By this time, the gym was PACKED... the sun had come out and the roads had started to clear and people were eager to get out of the house!)

At about 10, when I should've been done, I started regretting my decision to push 16.  Really?  That's a long, long ways, and I haven't even started my marathon training.  But I just kept at it.  Wasn't much later that Ashley left.  She's a speed demon and knocked out her 10 and headed to get groceries (she also wasn't feeling great, so decided to call it a day).  At 14, I started to really hurt.  My right hip was screaming.  It was very unhappy with my decision.  If I were my coach, I would've yelled at myself for pushing that far past what my body is currently adapted to.  At 15, I decided maybe it was best to walk the last mile for cool down... uh no, that hurt more than running... so I cranked up the speed to just make it end!

Total distance:  16.2 miles.  For the record.  I did walk the first mile for warm-up, and I walked 0.25-0.5 at the end to cool down.  The rest was done at a steady 11:20ish pace. 

At that point Elaine still had 6 or 7 miles left, but I had to call it a day and get home.  She is amazing.  I cannot believe her determination and willpower.  Amazing.  Go read her recap of it HERE.

I put in over 3 hours on the treadmill today and Elaine put in around 4 1/2.  I am so impressed by slower runners (there has to be a better word for that because "slow" is so subjective...).  I mean a fast runner has finished a marathon, taken a shower, and eaten a pizza in the time it took us each to do our long runs today.  And at our current fitness level, we are pushing at the same level-of-effort that speedies push on their long run... yet, we are enduring it for a much longer amount of time.  This is not to say that I am not super impressed by the speedy folks (ahem, KARYN)... but there is something about the mental and physical stamina to push for that duration of time.  It was mentioned in "The Long Run" that Grete Waitz who won the NYC marathon 9 times had once said that the marathon she did with Fred Lebow in 1992 before he died was the most challenging marathon she had ever done.  She admitted after that the amount of time on her feet and running that pace (they finished in 5:32) was more painful than any of the races she had won.  Wow!!!

So to the back-of-the-pack runners... seriously, you deserve endless praise for sticking to it and plowing through runs that can literally take hours and hours.  And to the front-of-the-pack runners, don't forget as you're coming back and people are cheering on your super speedy legs to give a cheer back to those that will be on the course enduring the challenge while you're showering and enjoying some post-run food.

(** I want to double caveat this that I am not diminishing the impressiveness of the speed.  And I know how hard many of you work day in and day out to obtain that speed... and I'm in awe of it.  I just wanted to give a little light and a lot of applause to the endurance and motivation of the slower runner.)