November 1, 2010

Hitting the Wall

I ran 22 miles this weekend. I'm proud, I'm excited, I'm amazed and I'm just trying to take it all in.
During the month of October, I ran a total of 138 miles. I look at that number with a huge smile on my face; I'm not sure I've ever been this proud of myself. It took a lot to run those miles and looking back on last month, I realize I've avoided blogging about my runs in an effort to sort out my thoughts and figure out how to keep my head in the game.

While training for a marathon, you often hear about "hitting the wall." There's a point during the race when the glycogen stores in your liver and muscles are depleted and you're exhausted. Your legs feel like lead, your head may go foggy, muscle coordination goes out the window, and you are hurting. I've heard this usually occurs somewhere near mile 20, give or take a mile or two. They say you dream for 20 miles, and then struggle for the last 6.2. They say those 6.2 can feel like an eternity and you just need to focus on putting one foot in front of the other.

Well I hit a wall of sorts about three weeks ago. My training was going well, I was psyched and was totally excited for every training run on my schedule. And then I just wasn't. My emotions were all over the place. I had a great run and then I had an awful run. I felt like I was flying or I felt like I wanted to stop running and start crying. And mentally, I just wasn't in the game. I didn't want to go out for my runs. I just wanted to sleep and relax. I missed the days when going for a run meant putting on some sneakers and heading out for how ever many miles my body felt like going; when I didn't have to look at a schedule to see how long or far or hard I needed to work.

After one particular run, my first 20 miler, I came home proud and excited that I had run that far. But then I began to read everyone else's run recaps and began to doubt myself. Sure I ran 20 miles but it was painful and there were moments when I needed a walk break. And why was I getting slower and slower when everyone else I knew was gaining speed? I just felt so discouraged. So I emailed the Laminator and asked him for some advice and encouragement which he was only too happy to provide. We met the next day for a cup of coffee and chatted for a while. Sir L (as I love to call him) had lots of wisdom to dish out. He reassured me that what I was feeling was normal and that the last month of training is always the hardest. It's ok to feel exhausted. It's perfectly normal to want to give up. But if you want to be a marathoner, you don't give up and you just keep going one step at a time.

At one point in our conversation, I marveled over Sir L's Chicago Marathon time of 2:59:55. Incredible, right?!?! I was so impressed and inspired and you know what he said to me? He told me that just as I am inspired by him, my running is inspiring others. When we set out to create new goals for ourselves, we need to dig deep in ourselves and base them on our strengths, and not worry about what other people are doing. And he was so right! Just as I'm amazed that Sir L can run a sub-3 marathon, I'm finding that other people are amazed that I can run 22 miles and plan on running 26.2 in 3 weeks. And although I'm not running this marathon so that other people can pat me on the back, their words of encouragement and awe remind me that what I'm doing isn't easy and takes an enormous amount of energy, both mental & physical.

I walked away from that coffee and chat with a clearer head and a renewed excitement for the marathon. And because I had hit a wall, I gave myself a break that week, added an extra rest day and cut down my running just a bit. I'm glad I did. Last weekend I traveled to Philly and met up with a bunch of wonderful women to run a half marathon, to which I added another 3.5 miles to run a total of 16.5. The entire run was positive; my head was clear and I felt so strong. I finally started to believe in myself again. Then this weekend I returned to Philly for my last really long run before tapering, 22 miles. I'm not going to say it was easy at all. It was hard and there were moments when I wanted to stop and cry. But I didn't. I pushed through the mental wall at mile 15, and with encouragement from my friend Michael, kept on going. At mile 17, I began to feel strong again and by mile 20, I was ready to speed up and push it through the last 2 miles. I know people often say you don't need to run more than 20 to train but I wanted to see what it would be like to hit that wall so that I would know what to expect on race day. I think I hit it at mile 21 but I know I could've run another 4.2. All it takes is one foot in front of the other, right?
Brunch with a wonderful group of women after the the Half on 10/24. Aren't runners beautiful?!?
Heading out to run 22 miles in Philly! Yes, those are shot blocks tucked into my knee brace. What can I say? I'm a sucker for accessories ;)

View of the foliage along Kelly Drive

Crew teams practicing along Kelly Drive. Reminded me of my days on Crew freshman year of college!

We just ran 22 miles and we look this good! Hell yeah!!!



  1. Photos are breathtaking! I really hope the leaves stay on there for another 3 weeks :)

    Funny how we both hit the mental wall around the same time. I think having the crowds there will really help both of us keep going. Plus when you know that this is THE run you've been waiting 4 months for, we're not going to want to stop until we've crossed the finish line :) Nov 21st will be our reward for working so hard.

  2. You are so amazing!!!!!! and look great btw!!!!

    such a beautiful view during a run!

    I don't know if I missed this but are you running on sunday? I will be volunteering and would love to cheer you on when you pass by me =)

  3. Congratulations on running a 22miler and breaking through the mental wall! You're right, just takes one foot in front of the other! I love the first picture of you; you look so confident and proud. Just think of how great you'll feel crossing the finish line!!

  4. I think it's such a good way of putting it to "hit the wall" during training. I think that wall isn't talked about enough and tends to happen right between the 2 twenty-something runs. To me, that wall is harder. I've run 5 marathons and I have had a hard time in each race. In Chicago it was mile 24-25, other times it was different. It isn't always at 20 and 20-26 don't have to be terrible. Try not to go in with preconceived notions about what will suck because you have a great running head. I love your "finish with a smile" and I'm sure you will.

  5. You ARE an inspiration. It was your blog (and Dori's) that made me get out there the first time. I'm slow, I'm injury prone, and I walk A LOT, but I'm doing it. You guys always write about how great it is to get out there and run and race and it's infectious. And you're completely right. Even when I've had a HORRIBLE day, it's still a better day than I had sitting on my butt. So thanks for your posts, I really appreciate them and they always motivate me to reach for more.

  6. Don't worry about your ups and downs... totally normal. It's the head game that comes with this ridiculous sport we love. It's the ability to keep going, even when when your mind and body say no, that makes you a true runner! You will kill your 26.2!

  7. You always inspire me! You also make me excited for next year, and hearing about your struggles now will remind me that it is normal and I am not alone when I'm going through that.

    Did you like the shot blocks? You know I love those.

    Congrats on your last long run! You will be great at the marathon, I know it. You are a BAMF and don't ever forget that!

  8. Great post. I ran 22 for my last long run before I started to taper for my last marathon and it gave me lots of confidence that if nothing else, I would be able to make it 4.2 more miles on race day. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and you're all set.

    ps, you actually got to see rowers racing at the Head of the Schuylkill!

  9. I just can't wait to hear your race report. Your training journey has been amazing. Thank you for sharing all the highs and lows. I know it helps me to push through the challenges of achieving my goals when others make it all feel possible.


  10. You are SO inspiring to me! I have loved reading about your marathon training and I can't wait to meet up with you in Philly. I'm so proud of you!

  11. "Sir L" is so right — Following your training has totally inspired me! I've run a few half marathons but never a full, and reading your blog is reassurance that I can (I hope!) run 26.2 someday. Keep up the awesome work. You're going to rock the marathon and continue to motivate people along the way.

  12. Can I just say that you're AMAZING. Just AMAZING!
    I too am INSPIRED by you. Figure that, Haha!

    Much kudos for pushing past that WALL...both physically and mentally. I'M SO DAMN PROUD OF YOU!

  13. That is AMAZING. You have me feeling so inspired. I couldn't even run a mile when I moved to Chicago. I was not and never have been a runner. Then I went to the healthy living summit here in Chicago, and decided that I had to run. I started slow, and a month in hit my goal of 3 miles. Feels like NOTHING compared to 20. I'm not sure I can even dream of that. Not with my knees :)

    But -- it does make me want to do more. I am definitely more of a yoga/spinning kind of girl. And now with this snow coming I have no idea what I'll do.

    I'm rambling. You are AMAZING. Thanks for inspiring me!