Yesterday was the perfect beach day. The sun rose in fiery glory above Koko Head crater, the air was thick with the kind of humidity that encourages a beach blanket snooze, and temperatures were already creeping into the high 80s by 6:30 am. What was I doing, you ask? I was running 16 miles.
We gathered early at the Kalapawai Cafe and were disappointed to feel the sticky heat of the day already making itself known. From the cafe, we were shuttled to Hawaii Kai, about 16 miles away, and dropped off to run back to Kailua. Sunday seemed to be a busy day on the island and we met many other runners and large groups of cyclists as we made our way home, and everybody looked as if they were melting in the heat. I felt myself fading early in the run, and, when we stopped at an aid station and someone mentioned that we were at the halfway point (ONLY the halfway point!), I wanted to cry. I was moving pretty slowly, but I focused on staying hydrated, eating enough to keep going, and making it to the end of our route. The heat made everything else feel worse: my knees hurt, I was tired and thirsty, my armpits were chafing, and it was so hot that to run another 8 miles felt impossible.
The other things that were starting to feel impossible were all of the hills that we had to climb. It seemed that as soon as we crested one, another was in sight and I began to understand how Sisyphus might have felt; struggling to the top only to have to do it all over again. But, like Sisyphus, maybe there is an element of joy I can find in the struggle because here’s the thing: the marathon doesn’t have many hills. While I was running up yesterday’s steep inclines in the blazing sun, I questioned the purpose of running all of these motherf@#&ing hills when there is, I’ve been told, only one real hill on the entire marathon course, but, in all honesty, these mother@#%ing hills are making me stronger.
I think that if I can make it through 16 miles of heart-stopping hills without my heart actually stopping, there is a chance that the marathon will seem not necessarily easy, but also not like a death-defying feat. If my legs are accustomed to propelling my sad little body up steep hills again and again, then maybe they won’t buckle underneath me at mile 23. And if I’m used to talking myself out of lying down in the bushes on the side of the road and hoping a wild animal eats me when I’m at the base of YET ANOTHER HILL- OH MY GOD, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU MIKE????, then maybe I’ll be able to talk myself out of veering off course, breaking into someone’s house and having a nap on their couch at mile 24. I think this is Mike’s plan; he’s putting us through torture now so that we get to mile 20 without even realizing it, and when the going gets really tough, we’ll be tougher.
I’m at the point in my training now where some pieces of equipment have failed me, and some have proven their worth a million times over. I’m still in love with my Topo Fli-Lyte sneaks because of their lightness and roomy toe box (although I was starting to have some mild foot pain after runs over 10 miles, so I did get some SuperFeet inserts for them and this seems to be just the ticket for my big ‘ole footsies), and I’ve recently fallen in love with Lululemon’s Pleat to Street running skirt. I love this skirt because it has all the benefits of wearing tight spandex shorts (no chafing, no shifting) without the embarrassment of wearing tight spandex shorts (ummm….they are made of spandex and are really tight, need I say more?). I bought this skirt (off the clearance rack, total score!) on a whim, and after wearing it on a couple of longer runs and then switching back to running shorts yesterday, it has become my bottom of choice. I love it so much that I’m considering going back to the store and buying another at full price.
Sadly, my Polar FT4 heart rate monitor was a total fail for any run longer than 8 miles. Even when I applied copious amounts of BodyGlide to my ribcage, the strap caused a lot of chafing. I even tried to put an extra-big bandaid over the chafed spots, but it didn’t help. I was pretty disappointed because I had become accustomed to pacing myself based on my heart rate, but I managed well enough without it until I found an alternative. Two weeks ago, my FitBit broke (it was old and had lived a hard life) and I upgraded to the Charge HR that tracks my heart beat using sensors on the back of my wrist. And, in true FitBit form, even though my old one was too old to be covered by a warranty, the company offered me 25% off the purchase of any model of new FitBit. I dug the discount, and so far, I’m digging the new technology.
My water bottle belt is a mixed blessing. I enjoy the luxury of having a drink of water available whenever I need it, but occasionally one of the water bottles will get bounced out of its holster. I think I’ve solved the problem by tightening the strap and placing the belt a little higher on my waist (I hate to toot my own horn*, but I do think I’ve lost a little weight- even if it is just from sweating) because I think the problem might be that the belt was sliding too low and getting bounced more than normal. I’m looking into some other portable water options for the race just in case the belt proves to be more trouble than it’s worth. One other downside to the belt is that the storage pouch is a little small. I wish there was another one on the opposite side of the belt so that I could fit my gels and my keys without having to worry about busting the zipper.
Things seem to be aligning as we get closer to marathon day; I’m nervous about our upcoming 18 mile run this weekend, but I won’t start worrying in earnest until Thursday night after I’ve made it through our weeknight runs. 18 miles seems like such a long way to run, but I remember feeling the same way about each double digit distance, and so far I’ve managed to make it and feel pretty good at the end of each run. I know some of us, yesterday, were questioning our desire to run the marathon, but I think that is probably a good sign that we are giving the distance the respect it deserves. We are not in danger of being unprepared. Although yesterday was very hot and I was going more slowly than I did when we ran over the Pali, I actually felt better at the end of this run than at the end of the other, and I think it might be because I ate more snacks along the way. In addition to a gel, I also ate a few Clif Shot Bloks, and they might have made the difference.
This morning I expected to feel stiff and crippled, but I hopped out of bed and felt no worse for the wear. At the end of our run, the proprietor of the Kalapawai Cafe (who met us at the finish having run 20 miles himself) treated us all to breakfast and I enjoyed the most divine egg and cheese sandwich ever to grace my lips. I didn’t think I was hungry, but I remember taking the first bite and then looking down to see an empty plate. I did some pretty extensive stretching after I hobbled home, and then joined Mel, a fellow runner, and her family poolside to finally enjoy the weather the way it was meant to be enjoyed. I didn’t do much swimming, but I did enjoy a Mai Tai and leaned my elbows on the edge of the pool, kicking my legs lazily while her children showed off their jumping skills. It really was a perfect afternoon and I wonder if that brief hydrotherapy made the difference in my lack of soreness and stiffness today. Perhaps it was the Mai Tai; either way, I’m considering giving it all a go again after Sunday’s 18 miles. It can’t hurt, right?
*No I don’t; that is the entire purpose of having a blog- tooting one’s own horn.