Two weeks ago, I ran 20 miles. Check that. I tried to run 20 miles.
Perhaps I should have stayed in bed. I hadn't been sleeping well. My mind was racing with other concerns. I didn't have my watch (I'd left it at work after a photo shoot).
Nevertheless, I set out at around 8:45 a.m. with a bottle of Gatorade in my hand and PowerBars and gels in my pocket. And I felt pretty good. My legs felt springy, my breathing was solid. I picked up the pace...
And I bonked. That is, I crashed. It didn't happen immediately; through 15 miles everything felt great. But I had gone out too fast, and it came back to bite me. After mile 15, everything started to fall apart. The muscles above my knees began to twitch and tighten. My shins began to ache. I gulped air, and my stride slowed to a sickening shuffle.
In the end, I couldn't do it. I tried, but at mile 19 I didn't have much left to give. I walked about half of that last mile, rousting myself to jog the last quarter-mile or so before my body practically begged for mercy.
I finished in about two hours 45 minutes, but I felt the aftereffects for days. You're always going to be sore from a run from that length, but it was a good two or three days before my legs began to feel good again.
And, the whole time all I could think of was this: What have I gotten myself into?
This morning, I planned to run 20 miles. I was not feeling good about my chances.
My body felt lethargic. Last night, it felt downright awful. But I'd slept a bit better, and figured I'd give it a shot. I set out with more Gatorade than normal, and the same amount of PowerBars to fuel up with throughout the run.
Most importantly, I had my watch, and I checked it often. I made sure to drink more, earlier, and eat more often, too. The result? As bad as I felt two weeks ago was as good as I felt today.
Everything clicked as the miles melted by. Again, the first 15 were no problem. But my muscles remained strong, even as I passed mile 16, 17, 18. As I neared the end, I briefly considered going longer, tacking on an extra mile or two to up the workout to 22. But I didn't have enough to eat or drink, so I decided it was best to finish on a high than to risk breaking down due to overzealousness. (Because, as I have said repeatedly, I always think I'm a world beater, even though I know better.
Then it was done. My body ached, but wasn't sore. Whereas two weeks ago it took a good hour for my breathing to settle back into normalcy, this morning it felt great.
How long did it take? Two hours, 44 minutes.
It just shows you how fickle running is. But I'll happily take this as a win, use it as a building block for Nov. 22. I'll remember that run two weeks ago, too. It may be more important to my success come marathon day if I take the lessons learned that day and use them.