Friday, August 21, 2009

Longest.Run.Ever.

This morning I had 15 miles on the agenda, and set off with my phone fully charged and fuel belt packed. I headed up 2 miles towards the dam that crosses the lake in the center of Bonelli Park. The directions I had copied from http://www.mapmyrun.com/ were specific, but as I trotted along I realized there were no street signs. I pushed away my nagging worries and continued on, but soon I was forced to stop, I had reached a fork in the road and again there were no signs. I followed my intuition and it took me in a big circle, I always was bad with directions. I went the only other way there could be and finally made my way over the dam. I tried to look out at the lake and absorb the atmosphere, my breathing was already getting raspy and I was only on mile 4. I passed a dead squirrel, it was keeled over and dead for no apparent reason, it's little buck teeth still sticking out. Ominous, but not enough to slow me down.



At mile 6 the run was finally getting started. I followed the road and my handwritten notes were right on. I passed street names I had scribbled along with mile numbers which I knew were slightly off after the extra half mile I had run. My pink plastic stopwatch showed me that I was staying on track with 11 minute miles, slow but perfect for long training runs. Suddenly I became conscious of the sun beating down on my chest and realized there were no more trees. No more trail. No more park. Just a long stretch of hot pavement quickly getting warmer in the late morning sun. I reached for my fuel belt only to realize all of my water was gone, and only 8 miles in to a 15 mile run. I felt the first pangs of desperation. The usual mental games I played with myself were of no help. Self doubt wedged it's way in and my thoughts were consumed... Is this the wall? At only 8 miles? I just ran 13.2 last month! How am I going to run 26.2 miles if I can't run 8? How many times does 8 go into 26.2... about 3 and a quarter... could I run this 2 more times? If I ran all the way home from here, I still wouldn't have gone 26 miles...



On it went, until I realized I was walking and not running. My first failed run, I was walking! I saw an office building like a mirage, in the middle of a random field. I walked in covered in sweat and found a bathroom. I just needed to refuel, wash my face with cold water, and get back out there! Moments later I was back on the route, and starting to feel better. I followed the street up as far as the directions told me to, then looped back down to look for the southern trail entrance, eager to see if the path back would have more trees and a better view. Only 5 miles left and I passed a little airport, I curiously watched the tiny planes lined up along the field. There were roadblocks ahead but after a slight pause I continued on, and soon saw a fellow runner coming back the other direction. We gave a slight conspiratorial wave and I carried on until I again came to another fork in the road. It was getting so hot, the water was giving me cramps, and again I had no idea which way to go. Frustrated, I kicked a rock and tried to fit myself into the shadow of a tree to cool off. One way was a dirt path and the other was paved, so I chose the paved and just as I started to run again, came upon yet another fork! One way looked like a trail, and the other just a camping area, so I followed the trail. As I left the dusty airport road behind me the trail began to snake closer to the lake. Trees were woven densely together on either side, and joined in an arch, casting the most the most beautiful fear-inducing shade I have ever gone through. I was alone, lost, and surrounded by leering branches but soldiered on. I kept telling myself to just stick to the path, in the general direction of my car, and never give up. I was falling farther and farther behind on my 3 hour goal, when again I came to a fork! I wanted to cry, running was not possible when I had no idea where I was going. I spied a car through above the trail and picked my way across a stream, my shoes drenched I ran to the road and I realized that again, there were no street signs, and I had no idea which way to go. I sat on a big rock and fought back tears, one snuck out and snaked its way down the dirt on my face. I started walking again, there was nothing else I could do, when I saw a streetsign! Somehow I was back on the north side of the lake on the long road that had taken me out past the airfield. I had no idea how, but realized I was about 3 miles from my car. I had to salvage this run, it was not a failure, yes there were setbacks but it wasn't over yet. The final two miles I ran and walked when I had to, when I crossed the dam again I knew I was almost there. As I walked the last stretch and saw the street my car was parked on I felt defeated and elated at the same time. I had run 16 miles and next time I'll know where I am going. Sometimes the trail wins, but that doesn't mean I lost.

2 comments:

Jennifer said...

great job girl! the important thing is that you finished it!

Tiffany Hampton said...

I think you have a really good blog, You should network with the moms in the bizymoms san-francisco community.

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