September 17, 2013

Ending the Streak on a High Note

My 2nd run streak (112 days!!!) officially came to an end on Sunday, following Saturday's amazing 7 hour 26.5 mile run up and down the Southern California coast between Pacific Palisades and El Segundo (and back!) with an incredible group of women training for their very first marathon. The decision to end the streak weighed heavy on me yesterday - but the need to recover from what turned out to be the longest run (from a total time perspective and almost in total distance) I've had in my running career thus far, weighed even heavier. This streak began on Memorial Day as part of the Runner's World 2013 Summer Challenge but instead of ending on 4th of July, I challenged myself to make it longer than 50 days, then 100 days, then the "#RunTillFall" challenge came around....   I was really trying to continue the streak through the first day of Fall on 9/22.  But alas, I ended it a week earlier. I recently posted a blog on The Art of Streaking.  One of the major points I made in that post had to do with knowing when to say when. Specifically, "be willing to end it at any time". I knew the hardest part about this streak would be deciding when to stop. I wanted it to be a decision not a 'must' because of an injury. The streak was meant to keep my love for running alive - to get into the habit of doing it every single day....for a finite period of time. Surely I would get a sign from something or someone - and I needed to stay open to that idea so I didn't miss it and wind up hurt for days, weeks or even months because I just HAD to run 1 silly mile on a day when I knew my body wasn't up for it.

Saturday marked the last long run for our remaining Galloway group marathon members - 26 miles! I know what you're going to say: "Why do you ask beginners to run 26 miles before race day? Isn't 20 miles the 'normal' last long distance run before a marathon?"  In short, yes, 20 miles is typically the longest run most beginners will do before tapering 2-3 weeks prior to race day. In the Galloway programs, we have members run 17, 20, 23 and 26 miles, with 3 weeks of recovery (via 6-7 milers) between each of these distances. I know it seems like a lot to ask but with ample recovery time between the long runs, we see tremendous growth in our runners' confidence levels.
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The experience they gain on these days (physical, mental, nutritional) goes such a long way on race day. At first, there is apprehension and uncertainty - and by the end of the 26 mile training run, there is joy, confidence and excitement about race day!!  I am so very proud of 3 women who have hung on through this 30 week training program - including one of our amazing pace group leaders who not a year ago said to me "marathon? me? no way." She finished her longest distance ever with us on Saturday, all while supporting another beginner marathon along the way - imagine THAT!

Since we were doing an out-n-back on the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, I gave our group the option of running the full marathon distance by adding 0.2 miles to the planned 26. That was met with a resounding Yes! In the
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end, we ran even further than that - 26.48 miles total. Lots of crowd weaving on the way back as the Venice Boardwalk and Santa Monica pier pathways were filled with people, many of whom were likely enjoying the foggy, misty cloud-covered day, escaping the 95+ degree valley heat that day. We couldn't have asked for a more perfect running day. The sun came out in the early morning hours, perfect for lighting our early start. As soon as we turned around in El Segundo, the fog we'd seen off in the distance over the ocean rolled in and brought a heavy mist with it. Just what we needed for the last half of our run! We really did have an awesome morning and afternoon out there. Yes it took us 7 hours but we all finished with big smiles on our faces! Of course, we threw our shoes off and walked out in the cold ocean for a natural ice bath before heading home. What a day!!

I've thought about wearing different shoes when I know I'm going to be running much slower (in this case, more than 5 min/mile slower than my marathon race pace) because I don't think my Pearl Izumi Streaks are intended for a 7 hour run, no matter what the distance is. They have a comparatively low heel toe drop and because I have to change my gait to slow down and I'm walking a lot more (this is a 1 min run/1 min walk group), these long slow group runs can take their toll on my body. Specifically my hips, calves and lower back. I was pretty sore after sitting in the car for the 50 minute drive back home. I didn't do much for the rest of the afternoon or evening. Sleeping on Saturday night wasn't fun. Not only is it freaking hot around here, my body was becoming increasingly sore and even turning over in bed was difficult. By the time I rolled out of bed Sunday morning, I was pretty miserable. My lower back was going into random spasms. I couldn't push off from from toes on my right foot because of outer calf pain. All the while, I'm thinking to myself "I still have to keep the streak alive".... or do I?

Runner Confession Ahead: This might be a good time to add that I completely missed the 23 mile training run with this group because it fell the weekend before the Disneyland Half. Hubby and I split the distance between us that day - I ended up running the last 10.5 miles with them.  This means I ran 26.5 miles six weeks after running 20 miles (too long in between long runs!) and only 13 days after PRing at the Disneyland Half (1:47) - and I had been running every single day for 111 days leading up to this 26 miler. And I'm transitioning into the new Pearl Izumi EM Road M3 shoe which has only a 4mm heel toe drop. That's a pretty big difference from the 10mm drop in my Izumi Streaks and while the transition is going well,  I've been feeling it in my calves.

I couldn't get the streak out of my head all day Sunday. Should I? Shouldn't I? Just give it shot Vera. What if you start running and all your discomfort goes away?  What if it goes away for 1 mile but in the aftermath you're out with an injured back for a month? What if you can't run with your group for the first marathon? What if you can't run the NY marathon because you just HAD to run a mile today? It was those last 2 questions I was really focused on. All this training, all this time - I've been trying to get into NY for 4 years! Yes I could still show up to the Long Beach marathon and show my support for our Galloway members but that really isn't good enough for me. I want to be IN it with them - experiencing every mile.

Hubby was great about it of course. He watched me have this internal debate/mental implosion all day....even offering to take me out and help me get through the mile after the sun went down if that's what it would take to keep me going. A huge part of me was saying "just do it! you've got the support - just go!". But honestly, in the 112 days leading up that moment, there was NEVER a moment where I didn't want to run. On this day, I almost hated running. Not. Good. Still waiting for a sign Vera? THIS IS IT.


Johann said...

Well done with the streak! I think it is the right thing to take a break now. Awesome running overall, you are in great shape!

Vera Lordan said...

Thank you Johann! :-)