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All last week, my feet had been hurting from the last long run… which was only 12 miles. That session was a cut-back week, where we do less mileage. Because of my trip to Florida, I didn’t do all the base miles during the week that I was supposed to do before the last long run. So my feet have been hurting all last week. Beginning a sixteen mile training run in pain probably isn’t a good idea, so I decided to take it nice and slow (slower than usual) and see how it goes. My goal was to just go the distance, no matter how long it would take. The point of the long runs is to get time on your legs to get them used to all the stress of a marathon without injuring yourself.
Well… the farthest I’ve gone at the Waterfall Glen Forrest Preserve is from the Northgate Trail Head to the Outdoor Education Parking Lot, which is just a tenth of a mile farther than a half marathon at 13.2 miles. Today I’d be going almost all the way around the 9.5 mile trail, going to the 8 mile marker and then turning around and heading back (counter-clockwise) to achieve the sixteen mile distance. This trail has a lot of nice long descents and gentle hills, but they suck a whole lot coming back, as those easy descents become ass kicking climbs.
When I finally got to the eight mile maker… I took a picture of it with my camera phone. I have a picture of every mile marker, except number 9, which I haven’t seen yet because I haven’t gone far enough to see it. As I stood there at the 8 mile marker, I thought about continuing on clockwise around the trail, as from where I stood, my car was only 1.5 miles away going clock-wise on the trail, but if I turned around and went back the way I came, it was eight miles away. I decided to do the eight miles, a decision I knew I would eventually curse and regret, but if I’m going to do 26.2 miles in October, I have to be able to do 16 miles now.
My feet hurt pretty much the whole time on the trail. But by mile 12, my feet really started to bother me and I cursed my decision to do the full 16, when I turned around at mile marker 8. Instead of a dull, constant pain in my feet, it turned into sharp, piercing pain. Each step felt like walking on pins and needles. I had no choice but to march onward. They can’t bring an ambulance on the trail, so I’d have to make it back to the trail head all by myself. By mile fourteen, I had to bite my tongue to help dull the pain in my feet. I know those last two miles of the trail very well, and knew exactly where I was and how much farther it would be to make it back. By the last mile, I felt like a glacier… moving so slowly you can’t even tell. Each step was, in medical terminology, "exquisite tenderness". The last mile hurt more than the first 15 all together. When I finally made it back to the trail head, I had no feeling in my legs. When I got home, I lay down on the couch and just stared at my dog Happy, who sat next to me and stared back. I hurt so bad, I couldn’t even fall asleep. Normally my dog would beg me to take him for a walk, but he could tell I was in a lot of pain, so he just sat there looking at me. That’s pretty much how I spent the afternoon, trying to recover. In the evening, I took an ice batch. It was freezing cold and I suffered some extreme shrinkage… like a turtle, the head was definitely inside the shell.
Now it is Sunday morning, the day after, and remarkably, I feel a whole lot better (but haven’t fully recoved from the ice bath, my nuts are still somewhere near my kidneys, I’m hoping they’ll drop down to normal sometime today).. I’m still sore, but I’m not in extreme pain anymore. Today I’m supposed to do an hour of cross training. I wonder if sitting on the couch and watching preseason football all afternoon counts? Oh well, next week the fun begins again, and we get to do 18 miles. If I felt like I was going to die after just 16 miles this week, I really wonder how I’m going to feel after 18 this Saturday? Going the full 26.2 still seems like a fantasy at this point… but the Chicago Marathon is a pretty flat course (no hills!) and it will be significantly cooler in October. (At least that’s what I keep telling myself).