It is, officially, taper time. I've never been here before. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. I wasn't yet in taper when I woke up today. I had one last long run: a 22 mile county run. You know, the course with all the massive hills. Adding to the difficulty is that today was going to be a hot one. 70 at the start and 86 at the finish. Lots of sunshine. Gulp.
I didn't sleep well. I was nervous about this run. I kept telling Tim I was just afraid I wouldn't make it through it. I couldn't articulate why, but I was afraid of something catastrophic happening. At 7:00, he delivered me my pre-long run meal of cream of wheat. I ate it in bed, then turned over and went promptly back to sleep. He stayed up and took care of Rowan so I slept until a little after 8:00. I have an amazing husband, and I'm spoiled. After I got up, Tim went to stash us some drinks. He had frozen them, Kathy-style, so they were sure to be refreshing out on the run. While he was out, I treated both my calves with the robot. They were tight from yesterday's run. Before I knew it, it was time to get ready to go.
I decided to make today's run a dress rehearsal. I wore everything that I think I'm going to wear on race day, right down to my socks. This also meant I should wear my TENS, as I'm planning to wear it during the race. I wear it in a little fanny pack (I look like a complete dork). The nice thing about having a fanny pack is you can stuff gels and all kinds of other stuff (tape, extra batteries) in it. I put the TENS on, and just as I was testing it, I saw Bill running up to the house. He did his long run yesterday, but he was going to join us for part of our run today. As I stepped out to greet him, it hit me how friggin' hot it was. And the sun was in full force. I tend to handle heat pretty well, but I hadn't run in anything quite this hot for a long time. So, now I was able to worry about that.
And we were off. We started off easy, and I immediately became aware that my legs were a lot more fatigued than they were yesterday. No pain, just fatigue. I kept telling myself to just take it easy. As we started up the first major climb, the I Street Hill, three, actually four, words kept repeating in my mind: "It is effing hot." And boy, was it. We had no wind. I could feel the heat radiating off of me. My legs felt good, but I didn't know how long that would last. After that climb, I started to feel better. I was consciously holding back. I was running with two people who can and would go quite a bit faster than we were, but I didn't want to blow this run.
Bill peeled off around 5 miles and headed home. Then it was just me and Tim. He let me set the pace. I request that he not run the hills with me. He runs hills much faster than I do, and I'd prefer he just wait on me at the top of them. Otherwise, he's unnecessarily making some very hellish hills last even longer for himself. Before we got to the next major climb, in Buddha, I began to notice that I was having some moderately severe breakthrough abdominal pain on the right. Which is rare, because the TENS usually covers it up pretty well. About a half mile into feeling this pain, I stopped to change the batteries. I had trouble doing that (sweaty hands!) and we spent several minutes messing with it. But it was worth it, as the fresh batteries gave the TENS some more oomph.
Then it was time to start climbing. There is a big, long hill in Buddha. And, as we ascended, there was no wind. It was utterly still. And HOT. It felt like my face was on fire. I also began to feel what felt like heart burn. I had taken a gel at 4 and 8 miles, and it almost felt like they would come up. I didn't feel nauseated, just had heart burn. I made it up that god forsaken hill, and as soon as my heart rate recovered, I felt strong. I told Tim "I'm getting stronger as this run goes." And that is my usual pattern. I'm a late starter. But, alas, I was drenched in sweat. It could still get ugly from here.
Within just a few minutes of cresting that hill, we saw a red Tracker coming toward us. It was Bill! He was our angel of mercy. With him he had ice cold Gatorade, bags of ice, and salt tabs. What a guy. Honestly, it was wonderful. I downed the Gatorade very quickly, and stuffed the ice in my sports bra and shorts. That was kind of a turning point in the run as far as the heat--with the ice on board, I felt so, so, so much better. Bill left us and told us he was going to stash the other two Gatorades atop of the second twin tower hill (the two biggest climbs in the run come back to back, and are thus named the twin towers). He left us, and we set off for a major downhill portion of the run.
About a minute into that portion, all the Gatorade I had just consumed began to come up. I didn't even break stride, but I kept puking. Still no nausea. It was just uncontrollable--anything I drank came right back up. But still, I was feeling strong. We stopped at the bottom of the descent where Tim had stashed more fluids. We were roasting, and we both filled up our various garments with ice. I took another gel, despite the puking. And I finished my Gatorade. We started running and, within five minutes, my gel and my Gatorade came back up again. And again. I puked on this run probably 10 to 15 times. I did not feel sick, but the stuff was just not staying down. I began to worry about dehydration. I was sweating horribly, very thirsty, and clearly absorbing nothing. But I still felt great.
Before long, around the 12.5 mile mark, we saw Bill AGAIN! This time he gave me a high five (bringing my point total up to 16...let's just say I won by a lot). I think he recorded us on his phone. As he was pulling off, Tim asked if he was riding. His response was yes, but at 1:00. So Tim might not make it in time to ride. They both told me not to worry about getting him home in time for the ride, but it was all the motivation I needed to speed it up a bit. I knew Tim really wanted to ride. I also knew that I felt very, very strong and that negative splitting the run would give me a confidence boost. So, without telling Tim, I picked it up.
Not very much, I just made the pace a little more steady. And I continued to do so throughout the run. I also continued to throw up anything I put in my mouth. Watching me, I'm sure someone would have thought I was really struggling. But I wasn't. The abdominal pain was coming and going (breaking through a bit because the TENS electrodes were coming off...I've never worn them when that sweaty), and sometimes it was pretty sharp. But I'm so used to it I could kind of block it out. And my legs were just....strong. I was very hot, but it didn't seem to affect me too much.
We got to the base of Slaughter House Hill, and climbing that monster is honestly the only time I felt kind of bad during this run. There was no wind, we were 20 miles in, and it's just a steep mo fo. But I survived it. Just two miles left. I told Tim, "I think I'm going to make it. I'm going to make it to taper." I picked it up even more. My legs felt actually kind of fresh, like maybe I had only done 10 miles, not 20. The last two miles were the fastest of the run, and well below marathon pace. That shows me that, as I said yesterday, I am strong. I'm not that fast right now, but I could run and run forever. And I could do it on some bad ass hills.
We waved at Bill as we passed his house, and soon we were home. Tim immediately got in the kiddie pool in the back yard (our ice bath). As soon as I checked on my mom and Rowan, I got the TENS off and joined him. HEAVEN. We were so hot. I usually dread getting in that pool. Not today. We rolled around in it like pigs. And, just like that, I entered taper.
It may seem strange that it's such a big deal to me to enter taper. But it just is. I've never done it. I've trained for two other marathons. I've made it not quite to peak week, then I've been hurt. Not this time...I MADE it. My training has been conservative, I'm handicapped by the mystery abdominal pain, but I'm where I've never been before. I survived the hard part.
Tim made it home in time for the ride, and I set to trying to rehydrate. I was not at all hungry, but I managed fluids just fine. I have no idea why I couldn't keep anything down while running. That's never happened to me on a run before, not even on hot ones. I really didn't mind it too much. I'd just turn my head to the side, puke, and keep on going. But I know that, in the marathon, that dehydration could catch up with me. Hopefully it doesn't happen May 1.
So, as I've entered taper, I'm already obsessing about some things. But I'll save that for the next blog post. I'll need something to keep me occupied.