But needless to say, I was feeling nervous. Not only were we getting in some uncharted territory -- or in my case, charted territory that I didn't remember -- I was going to be running solo. Matt had a cross country meet in West Chicago at 10:30 so if I started with the CARA group at 6:15, there would be no way to get the run in before then.
That meant getting started earlier, and while I posted something on their Facebook page to see if anyone wanted to join me, there were no takers.
With that in mind I decided to make it a marathon day simulation, so I set my alarm for 4 a.m. Of course, that meant it was going to be a short night as I covered a football game on Friday night and the last time I looked at the clock it was about 1:15 a.m. Oh well.
So yeah, I got up and did all of the things I'll do on race day: showered, stretched, got all of my stuff together and worked on my mental checklist of things I'll need to bring along. Normally I just get out of bed and pretty much go, but now's the time to start getting into that mode.
|Usually these shoes are black; brought a bit of the path home with me!|
It wasn't hot, probably in the mid 60s, but it was pretty humid. We were supposed to head east this week, which meant I was going in a direction I'd never done before. My group went that way the week I wasn't there for the 15-miler, and it wasn't all that popular. Actually, I liked it...while it is a little more "urban" and is exposed to the sun a bit, it also has a lot of traffic, and that was nice. So I was running alone, but it didn't necessarily feel that way.
A couple of people in the group had mentioned that there may not be water and Gatorade set out that early, so I brought my fuel belt and some extra cash in case I needed to stop somewhere. Thankfully, the first one at mile 3 was there, as were the rest of them!
I ran in the dark for close to an hour, and surprisingly the miles went by pretty quickly. I started feeling a bit sore at about 6 miles or so, and had to stop myself from letting my mind wander to the thought -- "if my legs feel like this now, how in the world can I run another 20 miles on race day?".
Running is so mental, I'm telling ya. I mean, it hurts, and hurts for a long time. My legs probably will start hurting at 6, 8 or 10 miles on race day, but you just have to keep going.
I had brought my (broken) watch with me, and kept it in my pocket, checking it occasionally to make sure I was sticking to about a 12-minute pace. I hit the 8-mile mark, meaning I had 1 1/4 miles to go before I turned around, and about 10 minutes later started looking for the 9-mile pole.
It was nowhere to be found, and a bit later I found out why. Anyway, I kept going and thought that, at a 12-minute pace, I would hit 9.25 miles at about 1 hour, 51 minutes. So I stopped there, a little perplexed that I hadn't seen the post. The trail is so well-marked, it was just really odd.
After a couple of minutes to walk and stretch, I headed back and saw the 9-mile post! Instead of being right next to the path on the right-hand side (heading east), it was on the LEFT and about 10 feet off of the path. At the time I had run by there was a big group getting ready to run and perhaps they blocked my view a bit.
So I looked at my watch and saw I had been back to running for about 7 minutes. So, 14 minutes total, or a little more than a mile. Guess my run was going to be a little longer than planned!
A couple of miles later, I started coming across the CARA groups, including mine. By then the sun was starting to come up and it was beginning to get warm, so I was glad I was on my way back!
Despite everything beginning to hurt like crazy -- hello pain, it's been five years since I've seen you! -- I was able to hold my pace and clicked off the rest of the miles in the 11:40 range. My confidence began growing as I hit each milepost on the way back. In fact, as I hit each one I silently counted it out..."14!"...."15!"..."16!".
I grabbed a drink with three miles to go, and it was clouding over a little bit and the wind came up. Just what I needed! There were actually a few drops of rain too, which was welcomed by then. By the time I got back to Wheaton I was just cruising and thought...man, I think I will somehow be able to do the last seven miles.
This was really the first time I've felt that I will be able to complete the race. No doubt, I'll finish, but at the same time it's just no fun when it is an absolute death march from mile 16 or something. Feeling the way I did as I approached 19 miles just gave me a lot more confidence.
In the end, I finished 19 (ish) miles in just under 3 hours, 40 minutes. That was running time, as I stopped my watch at the water stops, but even figuring that in, I still held about a 12-minute pace, which translates into a 5:15 marathon. I'll take it!
I'm posting a picture of my shoes and what they looked like after the run. They worked hard for me!