My longest training race (my longest race ever) was this past weekend, The Black Cat 20 miler in Salem, MA. I don't know if I can ever make myself run 20 miles on my own, without aide stations, a finish line, a medal and a race T-shirt? Luckily there are many available races for people like me who need races to train for other races. I haven't gone more than 10 miles since the 16 miler over a month before for many reasons including: snow, cancelled races, laziness and uncontrollable intestines. There were many options for this race. People had a choice of running 10 miles, 20 miles or running it as a relay with two to four people. The race was an out and back from an elementary school in Salem to Marblehead beach and back for 10 miles, repeat it for 20 miles. I had a bit of anxiety over seeing the finish line at my halfway point. I was unsure if I'd be able to resist the temptation to stop at 10 miles.
My race buddy came out of hibernation and joined me for the first 10 miles. We were a little late arriving so I dropped her off to get the bibs while I parked and took the trolley over. I needed a bathroom and when I got there the line was out the door. We were both in line but at different bathrooms. The race was to start at 8:00 am and it was 7:59 am when she pulled me out of line and brought me to a bathroom with no line. I wasn't all that fast either because races are like laxatives for me. Major anxiety before the race. My hope was to finish in under four hours without crapping my pants. Already I was worried I would crap my pants just trying not to miss the race.
We ran outside and luckily they hadn't started yet. We made it. I've been running solo since I started training for this. I haven't been able to persuade anyone to run with me in the winter. I would have had friends for the half marathon a week ago but it was cancelled due to snow that never came. It was nice to have my run buddy back. I also realized I'm not a good run buddy. I don't like to talk at all when I run. I think I've been alone on the run so much that I can't get out of my zone. Luckily Bunny (my run buddy) found someone to talk to who would talk back and who was running the same pace. I was right in front of them listening, or I thought I was until I realized I hadn't heard Bunny's voice for a while. When I looked back I realized it was someone else's conversation I was listening to. At this point I hit the turn-around and the porta pottys. Thankfully I got to finish what I started before the race. With my intestines relieved, I came out and caught up with Bunny and her friend. Since I was in a zone and didn't want her to have to wait forever for me to finish, I moved up ahead. One thing I wasn't crazy about in this race was that the roads weren't blocked off and I felt like I was dodging traffic as the field got slimmer. They did have cops at all intersections so runners never had to stop and wait for traffic. They also had plenty of aide stations with enthusiastic college students to cheer us on. I hit the 10 mile mark and felt pretty good. I had no desire to stop and quit.
The second 10 miles were much more scarce with runners. There were times I felt like I was on a solo run and not in a race as I would run by smokers or shoppers going in and out of businesses. I resisted the urge to stop and smoke and shop and instead I secretly latched onto another runner. He was the perfect pacer for me. Luckily he had headphones on and couldn't hear my heavy breathing as I tailgated him. I made it to the 15 mile turn-around again and again I had to stop at the porta potty. I had to give up my pacer. This really made me sad and I considered taking the risk of crapping my pants so I could continue on without having to think about pace. I couldn't take that chance. It made me think of Tom Hanks in Cast Away when he had to give up Wilson or risk drowning. I have yet to make it through a long race without having to crap. Three times since I got to Salem!! Four so far if you count when I was trying to leave the house, the same reason I was late to begin with. Well I made it out of the porta potty and only had five miles to go. I started to feel a bit miserable and cranky. I was getting annoyed with other runners who weren't running at the pace I wanted them to. Nobody seemed to measure up to my long lost pacer. He was irreplaceable. I tried following one woman and I was annoyed she just wasn't right and I had to pass her and try to find a better replacement pacer. Then a nice woman ran up beside me and started chatting with me. I was nice and chatted back but I secretly wanted to lose her and get in my zone. I moved up ahead. Somewhere after mile 17 I started walking. Then another runner said "no you can't stop I've been following you!" That was the nicest thing anyone could have said to me at that moment. I always thought I was too erratic to be some body's pacer. I apologized for walking but I had to. I was in agony. This was familiar territory as I had this same agony by mile 10 in my last race. I've made progress and wasn't hobbling like an arthritic 100 year old until mile 17! I soon discovered walking was more painful than running and I told myself I'd start up again at mile 18 and run through to the finish. I started getting a bit depressed because it seemed like this mile was taking forever and I still hadn't hit mile 18. I forced myself to start running again. It was painful but less painful than walking. Then happiness set in. I saw mile 19! Somehow I missed the 18 mile marker. The enthusiastic college student/volunteers cheered me to the finish. I officially finished in three hours and 34 minutes. I could have shaved off at least another five minutes if I didn't have to make those two pit stops. I've even read articles on this subject. I've tried about everything but no matter what, my intestines demand I stop for them. If I need one during the marathon, I hope the lines aren't outrageous.
That race was perfect for me. I was sore for the rest of the day but one 800 mg ibuprofen cured me. I haven't had any pain since and that was two days ago. I think I'll just keep doing what I've been doing. My only real obstacle left is to find a way to get one 20+ mile run in before the tapering starts. I'm no longer afraid of the marathon, I'm nearly ready to embrace it and enjoy the opportunity I've been given.