Monday, September 20, 2010

Surviving My First Kroger to Kroger 21-Miler

Let me preface this post by saying that yesterday I had the most pleasant long run I've EVER had in my five years of training for and running marathons.


For those of you who aren't around here, one of our main grocery stores is Kroger. The Nashville Striders (my running club) puts on a training run twice a year that runs from the Kroger in Franklin to the Kroger in Belle Meade... a total of 21 miles.

My morning started with a 4:20 am alarm. Since it's a point-to-point run, there's a bit more logistics involved. My friend Matt picked me up at 5, and then we swung in down the road to grab Laura. We met up with Liz and Carmen in the Belle Meade Kroger parking lot where we all combined into one car to drive to Kroger in Franklin for the 6am start. We all laughed a bit at ourselves when we admitted that we were trying to not converse too much because we wanted to save our stories and catching up for the hours we'd be running together.

We got to Kroger with enough time for me to run inside and use the bathroom one more time. Oddly, the line for the ladies room was shorter than the mens. Weird.

We headed out of the parking lot just before daylight... there's something kind of fun about starting a run just as it's starting to get light out. Although, not 20 minutes before I was talking about how crazy it was that we'd been up over an hour and it was STILL dark outside.

We started at a pretty steady 10:00 pace and began chatting away as the sun rose. The five of us pretty much stayed together, and we actually had a handful of people around us for a while. It was kind of nice to have some new people around to chat with... I LOVE my running buddies, but on some of these long runs it's better if you have even more people to help keep conversation going as the miles go by.

After about 35 minutes, I started feeling like I needed to pee. I thought it was pretty odd since I had only had a few ounces of fluids before the run and had gone at Kroger. Within 10 minutes, I had to go so bad it hurt. I kept my eyes peeled for a good location and pulled off the road when I found one. What makes a good location? Something that is secluded but not forever away from the road (I don't want the pit stop to take too long) and that doesn't have a ton of tall plants, bushes, etc. I don't want to touch anything, even by accident.

I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've popped a squat on a training run in a LONG time. Once that was done (and no, I didn't use any leaves to wipe... I know it's gross, but I figured that my undies could do the job. Besides, I was going to be a smelly disgusting mess by the end anyways, so who cares?), I caught up with the group. Fortunately, I didn't need to go again throughout the run despite drinking at each stop every four miles.

By the way, I LOVE the fuel stops on these training runs. It's so nice to just run with a handheld that I can refill with water every few miles. And I love being able to get cold Gatorade at the stops. I can't stand to drink it if it's warm so I never carry it in my bottle.

I tried to eat some GU Chomps every 50 minutes or so, and it seemed to work well for me.

It ended up that this man Mike ran with us for most of the run. I had met Mike back in April when we both paced at the Country Music races. Super nice guy, and it turns out he's run well over 100 marathons. He told us all sorts of stories about the different races he's run throughout the country. I always think it's really neat to hear about other people's experiences, especially when they've done so many races in so many places.

Somewhere around mile 16, we came across a kitten. I'd guess it was about 3-4 months old, and it had definitely been around people before because it let us pet it and pick it up. It was the craziest thing.... it kept running down the road with us. It followed us for a while, and we kept trying to get it to go into a yard and stop. We couldn't be sure if it knew its way home and was just out for a stroll or if someone had dumped it. No matter what we did, it just kept running along with us. It was just like a dog! We finally got it to stay in this one yard, and we hoped that it would be safe there and find its way to wherever it was going. We were all kind of tempted to take it home with us. We found out later from Laura and Carmen (they ended up behind us a little ways after about 14 miles or so) that it ran with them for a while, too. I hope the little thing is ok. If I could handle having another cat, I'd go back and look for it.

Liz had a ticket to the Titans game, so she took a shortcut back after mile 17 or so. Matt and I continued running with Mike and came up on another guy and girl running with the group. We ended up running the last two miles or so chatting with them, and it seemed to help all of us to have new people to talk to there at the end.

It had been incredibly nice weather the whole time, but I could tell that it was warming up quickly. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and it went on to be in the mid-90s later in the day. I'm glad we had cooler temps while we were out there.

We grabbed some water and only waited about 10 minutes for Laura and Carmen to come in, and then Carmen drove us back to Franklin to get Matt's car so that we could all get home.

21 miles in 3:40... about a 10:29 average pace. I feel REALLY good about that.

I ended up going to watch the Titans vs. Steelers (pathetic) game with Matt and his wife, but not before scarfing down a burger and fries from Five Guys. It was just what I was craving, and I demolished every bite. Then ate some snacks and had a beer at their house before coming home for a little nap. Then I grazed on all sorts of food for the evening, including one very delicious piece of homemade strawberry cake.

I really don't know how to explain how all these pieces fit together to make this the best long run I've ever had. I just loved it... gorgeous back roads scenery (seriously people, Tennessee is pretty beautiful... wish I had my camera on this run)... good weather... good company. I felt great.

Don't get me wrong. I was glad to be done. I've been worn out and hungry and a little dehydrated around the clock since then. It always takes a day or two to recover from these long runs just like with a marathon.

But really? If I needed to keep running, I could have... and would have been on track for a 4:30 marathon.

Matt and I were talking afterward about how nice it would be if we were actually starting a taper like most sane people are doing after this run. Our next marathon is still two months away... we've probably got at least one more crazy long run like this in our future.

And I think it's decided - I'm running Huntsville in December. If I'm already running 21 miles now and feeling good, why not run Monkey in November, Huntsville in December and Goofy in January? I've been saying for a long time that this season is about endurance and not my finish times. It seems fitting.

Oh, and I'm running the Nashville Women's Half this weekend. Nothing like 21 and then 13.1 the next weekend, right? Needless to say, I'm taking it easy between now and then.


Nicole said...

Nice job on the 21 miler girl!

Jamie said...

way to go on the 21! sounds like a great day surrounded by good running friends :) hope that kitten found its way home.

Quirky said...

Oh Mel. You crack me up! I probably could have done without the mental picture of you squatting in the brush on the side of the road, but it was hysterical nonetheless. Glad you enjoyed your run.

Tasha said...

Way to go! 21 miles is SO FAR! When I prepare for my next marathon, I definitely want to do more than the 20 mile long run on the Hal Higdon plan. When I did Mercedes in Birmingham last year, those last 6 miles nearly killed me because my longest run before the marathon was only 20 miles.

You're going to do great on your upcoming races! Go girl!

Love to Run said...

This sounds like such a fun run. Glad it was for you. Keep up the great running.

TiffanyClark said...

YAY! I'm running the Women's Half too this Saturday!