Maybe it was the 45-minute cardio class I did at noon the day before. Or the 4-miler after work (2 miles easy, 2 miles hard), also the day before. Or because I slept poorly, logging only 4 hours the previous night. Or perhaps it was a combination of all of the above.
Because at mile 10.5, at 11 am on an 88-degree, muggy Saturday in Washington, D.C., I was ready to call it quits. Bent over with my hands on my knees, I studied the ground, chest heaving. My 20-oz. bottle of "energy" Vitamin Water was empty. I sucked down a plain Gu, the gel sticking to the roof of my mouth. My throat hurt and I felt dizzy. I was so very tired. And I had another 5.5 miles to go.
I had slept through yet another group run that morning because of noisy next-door neighbors who like to carouse until 4 am. So that day, I ran by myself. Ordinarily, that's fine and dandy. I can entertain myself. But for some reason, that 16-miler was really tough. I could have used company.
Originally, I was going to run 18 miles, as I missed last Saturday's 18-mile group run because of the Leesburg 20K the following day. But my marathon-training group was only going to run 14 miles, and my sub-coach (who doesn't really coach, just emails me every two weeks, asking, "So ... how's your running going?") cautioned that I shouldn't run more than 1-2 miles than planned in case of over-training.
I was at the end of Hain's Point, a long and lonely stretch of parkland by the Potomac. I was 10.5 miles from my house. The plan was to cross the 14th street bridge (all you Marine Corps Marathon runners - you'll be running over this around mile 20) while cars whizzed by at 60 mph, run south along the Potomac, and head into National Airport, right at mile 16, and board a Metro train there to my house.
Except I found it hard to get going again. I felt lightheaded. What is wrong with me?! I thought. But I wasn't entirely surprised. I had known even at mile 3 that I was going to be in trouble. I already feel tired, I remember thinking. Uh-oh.
I resumed running. It felt like my legs were churning through deep water. It was a little hard to focus on the road ahead. I had to stop at every mile for 10 seconds or so to stretch my hamstrings and catch my breath. A woman with the build of a stevedore trotted past me. Then an elderly man in tube socks. Huh.
At mile 15, I had to stop twice. My pace, which was erratic throughout the run, ranging from 9:03 to 10:05/mile, had slowed to a glacial 11:00/mile.
At mile 16, as a small group of chubby weekend bike riders looked on, I finally finished and leaned against a tree. I felt 100 years old. The run took me 2:38 and change.
My clothes clung wetly to me and my hands shook slightly as I hobbled through the airport, looking for a drinking fountain. Travelers gave me a wide berth. Fine with me. On the Metro ride home, I stood up, not wanting to get the seats sweaty. I leaned against a wall and closed my eyes. I opened them. Tourists looked at me with veiled concern or undisclosed interest. Or maybe it just seemed that way.
When I got to my stop, I walked straight to Whole Foods. I was ravenous. I lurched through crowds of Polo-shirted and Ambercrombie & Fitch-wearing familes. After loading up on pasta and salad, I sat down, after first putting a layer of napkins on the seat to absorb my sweat. I resisted the urge to eat with my hands.
Again, people steered clear of me. And no wonder. I looked as if I'd just taken a shower with my clothes on, and my hair was plastered to my head. My arms and legs were encrusted with a fine layer of salt. And the way I attacked my food, I seemed semi-feral.
Any thoughts on why I bonked?