Running for It, Week 24: In which my body is a LIAR

Or maybe it’s my mind that’s the liar, I can’t figure out which. I’ll explain what I mean by that later.

So this past week was good. Real good. It was probably the best batch of runs I’ve had since the half-marathon, and I owe it all to the fact that it hasn’t been 118 degrees outside. Yes, that horrendous Kansas City heat wave finally broke. We’re talking temperatures in the 60s/low 70s when I got up to run in the morning. No humidity, either, and brother, it was fan-freaking-tastic. I had great times on my midweek runs, probably my best pace since the half-marathon. It’s amazing what you can do when you’re not spending your entire run regretting you ever made the rash and ill-considered to do this thing in the first place because it will probably be the end of you. Without muggy tropical heat sapping every ounce of my energy, I was just sailin’. (And by sailin’, I mean runnin’. Very fast.)

Well, kind of very fast. I’m still not running as fast as I was running while training for Hospital Hill, but I’m running about as fast as I did during Hospital Hill, so I’m gonna chalk it up as a win.

And speaking of wins: 17 miles on Saturday. Heck yeah, I did. And it was great! No complaints. During past long runs, I have had all manner of petty annoyances to contend with, such as:

  • running in the dark
  • running through spider webs
  • a phone that kept getting phantom signals from my headphones and making random phone calls and skipping around to different songs
  • having to offload cargo mid-run (by which I mean I had to go Number Two)
  • Collapsing dead from exhaustion

(Okay, so I still had to run in the dark, and I still ran through a bunch of spider webs. This is the price you pay for getting up before sunrise to run in the woods. I think the City of Gladstone should reimburse me for my web-clearing services, but I digress.) But the rest of it hasn’t been a problem. I got an app for my phone that blocks phantom headset signals. I have successfully adjusted my gastrointestinal schedule such that I am taking care of business the night before. No kiddin’, 17 miles and I didn’t have to stop off at the bathroom even once. (Maybe it’s because the bathrooms are so convenient now? If I do a run when they’re inaccessible, perhaps I will have to face my old nemesis once again. Let’s not find out.)

And as far as the exhaustion goes, I did fine. Still taking short, one-minute walking breaks once per mile, and I ran faster on this long run than I have run on any so far. Now I’m not gonna lie to you: even with those breaks, during the last couple of miles I was getting pretty tired. During the last mile in particular, I could hear that voice in my head telling me to knock it the heck off already, this is getting stupid.

A while back, I listened to an episode of Radiolab called “Limits.” The episode dealt with, well, limits, including the limits of human endurance. The hosts talked to ultramarathoners and other endurance athletes, and they discovered that these folks have to eventually learn to actively ignore that little voice in their heads. They have to figure out little tricks to convince their bodies that they’re not exhausted, that they still have the energy to press on despite everything that’s screaming “NO! NO YOU DON’T!”

I’m not gonna say I got to that point last Saturday, but I could feel it creeping up on me. I was tired. My body told me that I wanted to stop and just walk the rest of the way. But I didn’t. I called my body a liar. It told me I couldn’t do it, and I called it a LIAR. I just put my head down and pushed on. It may not have been fun, but I did it anyway. And that felt good. It makes me think that I can do this thing. I know, from talking to other marathoners, that the last eight miles or so are a tough slog for just about everybody, but I think I’m starting to develop the mental discipline that will allow me to… if not ignore the pain, then at least to push it down–WAY DOWN–long enough to finish what I started.

I can do this.

But I don’t want to get ahead of myself here. This is the part of the training schedule I have been dreading since Week 1. This is when the regimen gets interesting, and by “interesting,” I mean “terrifying.” My midweek runs finally bump up to five-eight-five, and the Saturday runs are gonna be just insane: 19, 20 miles? It’s gonna kill me. I’ll be running like 40 miles a week! Or so. If I do the calculations, it’s probably going to be less than 40, and that would be a crushing blow.

That’s why I’m not going to do the calculations. That’s one of the chief strategies I’ll have to deploy to get through this thing: ignorance.

Hey, it’s worked for me so far.

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