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The Big 2-0

It's done - the pinnacle of of my marathon training, the big 20 mile long run that so intimidated and terrified me is behind me.  It's still hard to believe, but it's a little easier when I just feel how much everything below my waist freaking hurts.  Butt, hips, thighs, knees, shins, calves, ankles, feet, toes.  It all hurts.

Luckily, the amazing Exhale Spa offers anyone who has ever taken a class there 50% off of a spa treatment for their birthday month.  For the past three years (this'll be the 3rd), an hour long massage there has been my present to myself, and dear god it was never more needed (or deserved) than today!  I'm leaving for that shortly and debating whether to take a brief ice bath before since it's the only chance I'll have to squeeze it in.

Anyway!  Running more than 15 miles makes me incredibly spacey, so forgive the inevitable tangents.  I just wanted to write about the experience while it's still (painfully) fresh.

This really does feel like a culmination and a pinnacle.  Obviously there's still the race ahead of me, but this is the longest training run.  The longest run with no volunteers, no cheering spectators, no race day adrenaline, no frills, no sister - just me.  Me and the frigging hilly Central Park loop.

On Marathon Day, my sister and I have no time goals, no plans to give an amazingly fast/athletic debut.  We want to have fun, be safe, and enjoy the inevitable spectacle of the Disney Marathon.  Today, though - I had a time goal.  I wanted to finish in under 4 hours, which I'm very proud to say I achieved despite a slow start.  I always plan to start slow, but this was slower than usual!  I guess the time goal of it makes it feel like almost more of a "race" than actual race day in a sense.  It'll just be a completely different beast, totally uncharted territory - and not to mention, 6.2 miles longer!

I started a little after 9 - the MTA was reliably unreliable and the train was stalled for quite a long time before, during, and after Lex & 59th - the stop before the one I needed.  I just sat there, having had my "pre-race" Clif Shot (Strawberry with caffeine!) and my tiny 8 oz water bottle from my corner store, anxiously tapping my feet, trying not to get annoyed about being late on my imaginary timetable, and listening to one of the ultimate Rocky songs, Burning Heart.  Cheesy perfection it is.

Finally I got there, took my customary last-chance pit stop at the Apple Store (thanks Apple!), and got on with it.  I always like to start my long runs with 1-3 miles of no music, no podcasts, just me.  Just to get in a good groove.  At around 1.5 I approached the reservoir with my fingers crossed that it would be all melted away and runnable so I wouldn't just have to do 3 + loops around the park, but once I was a quarter of a mile into the reservoir loop (if that!) I realized it was barely runnable.  I decided rather foolishly to press on, figuring if I finished just one lap of the 1.5 mile reservoir loop I could do the 3 6.2-mile laps around the park and that would take me just about to 20 miles when I hit the intersection of the Park and 5th ave, where I'd catch the train home.

That's a lot of numbers, but the point is, it made sense in my head to press on despite the thick ice on the ground and the fact that it got so slick at some points I just had to walk it.  This slowed me up considerably, as even when I was running I was going at like a 13-14 minute mile, and am terrified of slipping on ice and breaking something.

So that was a bit of a disconcerting start to the day, but once I finished it I knew all I had to think about was just 3 laps.  I was 3 miles in and ready to just mindlessly put one foot in front of the other on the same course I've gotten to know quite well over the last year.

I listened to a Jillian Michaels podcast for the next 4-ish miles, which took me to the end of the loop.  I was feeling pretty good but with a little more foot pain and pain in my left knee than I wanted, especially considering how much further I had to go.  After the podcast I didn't put anything else on for awhile and ran in silence, then got my bottle of water from one of the many incredibly nice vendors in the park and ate my second Clif Shot - chocolate, of course.  I expected to find the sugar/salt/electrolyte gels that long distance runners eat to be incredibly gross and weird, especially since I hate anything gelatin/Jell-O-like.  To my very pleasant surprise, though, they're delicious and I'm able to process them perfectly fine.  Whew!

The second lap was a little harder.  I listened to my very favorite podcast, Two Gomers Run a Marathon - the first episode of their third season, The Sub-5 Strive, where their goal is to run a marathon in under 5 hours - which is what my goal will be when I inevitably run another marathon someday.  Once enough time has passed for me to forget how painful and dumb it is, of course.  The podcast got me to almost the full 6.2 loop and helped distract me from the Worst Hill in the World (it occurs after the 3-mile mark as the loop starts heading south on the west side around W110th St) which is just friggin endless.  I think it's about .6-.75 miles long.  I used to think it was a full mile but it's not quite that long.  It's just horrible.  I find the west side to be way harder than the east.

Around Mile 14 I had my second and last Clif Shot and finished my water.  I was definitely glad to be free of the water - I tend to get weird pain around my left arm from just holding it the same shape forever, and holding the water bottle is just annoying.  And very cold for my already chilly and swollen hands.

I took a break from listening to podcasts again after the Gomers finished their silliness then listened to a perfectly timed 14 minute "mini" episode they had recorded which took me right to mile 16, where I had planned to call Marc to let him know I was still alive and almost finished.  It was a short conversation since my phone was running low on battery and I really wanted to it to last until I hit the 20 miles, but it was so incredibly helpful to hear someone's voice besides mine telling me I could do it.  He's pretty much the best and I'll leave it at that!  It was also perfect because we chatted right as I got to the beginning of the Worst Hill in the World so it was perfect timing to get an extra boost of encouragement.

Once I hit 17 miles and was pretty much done with the hill, it was time to switch to music.  I have a playlist of 5 of my most all-time inspiring and fun running songs - 4 from Rocky and then the ultimate running song (in the random order they appear on the playlist):

Burning Heart, Survivor (Rocky IV)
Eye of the Tiger, Survivor (Rocky III)
Gonna Fly Now, Theme from Rocky
Lose Yourself, Eminem (THE. BEST.)
Heart's On Fire, John Cafferty (Rocky IV) <--one 80="" about="" an="" arker="" favorite="" gets="" he="" his="" how="" imitating="" inspiration.="" is="" it="" learly="" like="" much="" my="" nbsp="" of="" one="" p="" parker="" s="" singer.="" sounds="" things="" this="" trey="" where="">
So basically, tons of cheese mixed with Eminem.  It works for me!

Miles 17 and 18 went by...not fast, but they definitely felt like they had a growing momentum.  Toward the end of 18 my knee really started yelling at me so I took an unplanned walk break until it calmed down, then just drove through 19 and waited and waited and waited and waited to be told I was done.

And then finally - it was over.  Lots of walk breaks, lots of wind in my face as I gutted through the stupid hills on the west side, lots of blowing snot rockets (sorry to everyone behind me...and everyone who just read that), lots of not being able to decide if my hands were hot or freezing, lots of forceful self encouragement...and just a lot of putting one foot in front of the other.  My mind went loony tunes a bit around mile 15 and hasn't come all the way back, so hopefully it'll get back to normal in time for work tomorrow.


So there you have it.  Time to get moving, as I'm moving a bit slowly at the moment!  Tonight Marc and I are having dinner at our very favorite restaurant in the neighborhood - Francis Cafe on Ditmars and 35th.  Amazing amazing French food - we highly recommend it!  Disney will be all about my mom and my sisters, so it feels good to be able to have a marathon-type celebration with Marc as well.

Peace out, Internet!

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