Saturday, July 08, 2006

Bottomed Out

"When you get to the bottom you go back to the top" -"Helter Skelter", The Beatles

I could see the phone in my mind before I spied it hanging from the wall next to the sliding doors of the Walgreens. It was still about a quarter of a mile away, which left me with 6 miles to go. Four of these were through "gut-check alley", the seemingly endless rolling uphill trek to the Bashas'. I didn't bring any quarters, but I'm sure Kiera wouldn't mind me calling collect in my condition. As I got closer to the intersection that separated me from my call I was thinking about what to tell her to bring; A towel, a t-shirt, and a bottle of water. I'd eaten the emergency gel a mile earlier at mile 15, where the Rillito path offers a last water stop before the last 7 miles but I was still feeling like death.

I'd woken up early after a good dinner and the weather was clear and 70 degrees, which is about as good as can be expected in July. Instead of having the long run hanging over me for Sunday, I figured I might as well just get it done. I decided on the out and back route instead of a few loops for three reasons: There were two water fountains, half of the run would be flat for a change, and I couldn't cheat myself by calling it quits after one loop. If I did this as an out and back run, all I had to do was head out 11 miles. I'd have to get home somehow.

At eight miles in I was feeling a little tired, but the pace had dropped from a 7:20 average down to 7:15 so I figured I was still doing fine. With some trepidation I continued to the halfway point, where I stopped for some water and to size up the rest of the run. At this point the legs were tired, and I truly wasn't looking forward to the second half of the run, which would find me running into the direction of the fast-rising sun.

At about 14 miles I was getting cranky, and when I stopped for water at 15 and took my gel I didn't get the expected kick to my nervous system. I was about done here, with no length or power left in my stride, and I was facing the doom of gut-check alley while bonking. The pace had edged back out to a 7:20 average, and I felt like I was slowing with each step.

I cross the street and I'm staring at the phone, which is only 100 meters away, imagining the conversation. I've only called once before to bail out of a run, but that was a few years ago and Kiera wasn't home at the time. I was only two miles from home on that occasion, but the sound of the answering machine picking up was like someone tapping me on the shoulder after finishing a marathon and saying, "You know you still have to run two more miles, right?"

I'm supposed to go left into the strip mall parking lot here. I'm supposed to lean against the wall and wallow in self-pity as the stuccoed exterior digs into my bare, sweaty back. Thoughts of "What the hell, I run 100 miles a week and I can't even finish a stupid long run" and "Why do I put myself through this" will follow. I won't need to explain, Kiera will understand and the kids won't mind a quick ride in the car. By the time they come to pick me up I will have cooled off and will sheepishly accept their help, climbing into the passenger seat for the short ride home while Haiden looks on worriedly from the backseat. "Daddy, what's wrong?" and other questions will be asked.

The phone and the Walgreens it's attached to are slowly obscured as I crest the first hill of River Road and work my way down the other side. I'm about a mile into gut-check alley now, and even if I'm running 8 minute miles I'm still moving. With four miles to go I'm convinced I made a mistake by not calling, as the legs just don't want to pick up the feet anymore, but by the time I work my way to dog-poop trail I know I will make it home somehow.

The last three miles take forever, and I finish the run with a 7:25 average. Just for kicks I went back through my log to see where I was at for my long runs during my fifth week of training for both of my previous cycles-
2/19/06, 24 miles in 7:38 pace (granted this was slow with the Grinders)
8/19/05, 22 miles at 7:27 pace, bonked at the end

I'm going to take the weekend and try to get some more perspective on the idea of a recovery week or two. I'm hoping I can get some insight from Nobby as well as another coach who has given me good advice over the past few months. I'm at 92 for the week so far, so with an easy 13 tomorrow I'll get my 105 for the week.

Training: 22 miles, 2:42:54, 7:26 pace


Eric said...

It will be interesting to see what Nobby thinks about the recovery week(s) idea.

Don't get too down about the last few runs. I remember posting a couple of times about how disappointing it was to be running 'slow' 7:20 miles and envying your long marathon pace runs. Things came around for me, they will for you too.

Laurie said...

Your intensity amazes and inspires me. Good job finishing the long run when your head almost let you bail.

angie's pink fuzzy said...

damn Mike what a nailbiter! even at a slower pace, you still finished. way to go.

Mark said...

Long runs are tough. You did a great job finishing it. I know that you have been considering the recovery week for a while. Benson and Ray from "Run with the Best" recommend extending the long run or increasing the speed of the long run the recovery weeks. That way you can recovery and also stress your body differently. If you were coming into some of your long runs a little fresher, you may get more of out of them. Just a thought.

robtherunner said...

Way to gut it out Mike. I was hoping you weren't going to make that call, but I have been there as well, and of course no one is ever home so I end up crawling back.

Phil said...

Mike ... don't get too down on yourself. It is the middle of summer and you are running on the Sonoran desert. It's HOT out here and bound to impact even an experienced runner like you. You'll recover quikcly and the morning temperatures will start dropping in 8 or 9 weeks. You'll be back up to your normal blistering pace in no time.