This photo cracks me up. I don’t think it’s accurate to call it the “Power Pose,” (even though I do look pretty darn powerful in that super-slick, blacked-out get-up), the truth is I was not about to go conquer the world moments after this photo was taken, but rather surrender to my favorite form of suffering and salvation, my weekly long run.
I am forging through the last big pull of training for my first “real” Ironman of the year and “A” race of the season, Ironman Arizona. The race is on November 19th, so we are about six weeks out from the cannon blasting off, and another long day outside for this tall red head.
I am beside myself excited about this race not only because I had a breakthrough performance the first I time I raced there in 2010, which is special, but mainly because I will be racing alongside many of my Team SFQ teammates. I have come to know these incredible women and triathletes through our team FB page for the last couple of years and I am thrilled to finally meet them in person and share this Ironman together. Also, a large contingent of my family will be there cheering, and Hillary will be in the crowd as well.
I. Am. Pumped.
Thankfully, my fitness is coming along nicely. Honestly, I marvel at what this child of the eighties bod can accomplish on a daily basis, but that does not mean that I am immune to crumpling to my knees by the taunting cackle of my weekly long run.
That is why I love it.
After smiling and giving myself high-fives for nailing workouts all week, my long run has earned the seniority to smack me right back down to earth. No matter how many years I have been a triathlete, I am still learning to be a swimmer, and cyclist, and am much more forgiving with those two disciplines, but I am a runner, so I expect to execute those work outs perfectly.
That is ridiculous.
I have been running competitively for twenty-four years now, and the only certainty is that nothing is certain. For example, I was fast right out of the gate at fourteen making the Varsity Cross Country team as a freshman, pretty sweet, right? Unfortunately, I grew three inches over the next year, and was doggedly slow at fifteen. Next, I was a decent 100-meter hurdler my first three years in high school, but then I learned the elusive 3-step after my Junior year and finally started winning races my Senior year. *Yay, there is a glimmer of hope I may eventually learn how to flip-turn.* Then came the marathon; I finished my first race in 4:24, and my most recent in 3:16, but there were fifteen years and forty-one marathons between them.
I have worked hard for every single step, the fast ones and the slow ones.
That is why I am kicking off a special 6-part series chronicling the ins and outs, and ups and downs of the final six long runs leading up to Ironman Arizona. It will be a fun romp for all of us, I promise!
Let’s start with how my long run went last Saturday.
It was a two-hour run right after a long bike ride, known in triathlete speak as a “brick” workout. This kind of workout is incredibly valuable in order to adapt from our “bike” legs to “run” legs, and even though it may seem odd, legs are legs, the two sensations do feel very different. Therefore, adapting to the funky feeling of running right after riding is a valuable lesson to learn, so I’ve embraced the brick, and was looking forward to it all week.
The first hour of the run felt good, which is impressive considering I was cooking in 96-degree temps in middle of the day. Yep, you read that right. I know it’s October, but I live in the hottest section of Los Angeles, the infamous San Fernando Valley, so when a heat wave rolls through our glamorous city, it slams the valley with temperatures typically 10-20 degrees higher than reported anywhere else. Awesome. Nevertheless, I was well-equipped to handle the heat because I brought a handy water bottle, plenty of gels, and a positive attitude. I was doing my favorite thing in the world, running, what could go wrong?
My water disappeared ninety minutes into the run, which meant I had four miles left to go with no hydration. I was embarrassed and upset while nodding my head as the high in the sky mid-day sun wagged its finger in my ghostly, slack-jawed face and screamed, “You should know better!”
Next, a dark cloud of shame crept over my eyeballs, and I started to feel sorry for myself. I was not only hot and parched, but I flunked the workout. I had not felt this bad during a run in a long time, but I had many times before. It was a tight and unrelenting feeling that hung on me like a poorly knitted sweater that I wanted to take off, but couldn’t, so I just kept running.
I knew I could finish the remaining thirty minutes at the pace I was clipping, but not for another thirteen miles, and that was whole point of the workout. I failed.
It is pure agony and ecstasy to experience runs like this, but I’d rather feel pain, frustration, and defeat than nothing at all. I’d rather fail, learn, and try again than have never tried in the first place. Not every run is joyful and perfect, a lot of them are horrible, but the key is to keep running no matter what.
The upside is that I did finish the workout, albeit in one large salty chunk, I finished. Also, there is only a slight chance that it will be nearly 100 degrees in late November in Arizona. Even if it is, there will be aid stations at every mile of the marathon, so my fueling needs should be covered. Wait a second, is that cloud overhead starting to turn silver.:)
I still have a handful of longs run to conquer before I blast off on my twelfth Ironman, each one will be an adventure, stay tuned...