Monday, August 28, 2006

16.2 Miles of Pain

At Mile 15.8, midway up yet another hill, I stopped, bent down and put my hands on my knees. I groaned softly to myself and stretched my hamstrings. My feet hurt. I was bone-tired. And I was out of Gatorade.

A car backed out of the multi-million dollar house I stood in front of. A sleek, black late-model Mercedes wagon slowly drove by. Then it backed up and a 40-something man rolled down the passenger window and asked, "Are you all right?"

I straightened up quickly and smiled. "Yes, just fine!" I said. "Just finishing a long run." And I waved goodbye to him.

Note to self: Don't look and sound like you're dying until you're at home.

I was still almost a half-mile from the house we're renting here at Tahoe (there's plenty of room - we have two bedrooms and another bathroom that are unused - you're welcome to come up!). I shook off my lethargy and slowly jogged another .4 mile, then called it quits.

My 16.2 miler that I did yesterday afternoon, in the high altitude, took me 2:38 and change. Though if you count all the stops I took to stretch my muscles and catch my breath, it was closer to 3 hours.

I"m starting to get worried about doing well at the Marine Corps Marathon. I meant to do at least 4-5 miles at marathon pace (8:35-8:37/mile). That didn't happen. Of course, I ran for the first time in weeks at 7,000+ ft. high altitude. And I ran with a head cold.

But still.

The first 4.7 miles, I did at at a 9:00/mile pace with E. and Nelson, our Labrador mix. Then I dropped them off at the house, suited up with waistpack holding Gatorade, one Gu, a cell phone, a $20 bill and a few paper towels (to blow my nose), and headed out again. I followed the trail that curves around Lake Tahoe. Sometimes the trail ended, and I found myself running next to busy Hwy 89. Pick-up trucks barreled by. Some honked.

The trail, which dipped and curved, was fairly quiet. School has started in Northern California, so the hordes of San Francisco Bay-area folks that travel 3+ hours to the high Sierras are mostly gone. Only a few bikers in Spandex whizzed by me. By mile 10, I wanted to quit. I'd already stopped several times to drink water and take the Gu.

I felt I couldn't get enough air into my lungs. I trudged along at a 9:57-10:00/mile pace. That was as fast as I could go. By mile 11, I was stopping every 10 to 15 minutes to catch my breath. I looked a the cerulean blue lake to my left and wished I could jump in, shoes, waistpack and all.

I finished my run at 5:30 pm. The shadows were lengthening around me and the lowering sun burned through the evergreen trees. When I finally trudged inside, E. said, "I was about to come looking for you!"

Good thing he didn't. Because if I'd seen him round a curve and stop while I was still in the middle of my run, I would have unhesitatingly jumped in and called it quits.


  1. Listen to you - "But Still".

    But still nothing! You were sick, out of training and in thin air and you still went the distance. Your red cell count will skyrocket and when you get back to sea level and no longer have a cold you will fly like the wind. No worries. I'm just glad you didn't take decongestants and then try to run in the thin air. Good job!

  2. Ha - 16 miler in Houston on Sunday, one of my friends drove past at mile 12 and said that I looked like a dying madman. It's kinda hard to explain the attraction of long run suffering to them, isn't it?

  3. First of all I think you're crazy. General principles.
    Secondly, why are you running at a time of day when it will kill you quickly?
    Thirdly: do you ever run anymore at the time that MCM is run? Um, it might help, you know.
    Fourth, Tahoe sounds divine.
    Finally, two years, huh? You've come a long way.

  4. well, i'm glad to see my nagging paid off! at least you took some supplies with you!

    and yeah, i have a FEELING the altitude may just have had something to do with things.

    That, and the cold.

    Don't worry! Or I'll have to CUSASY!