You choose to go voluntarily into the fire. The blaze might well destroy you. But if you survive, every blow of the hammer will serve to shape your being. Every drop of water wrung from you will temper and strengthen your soul. **Margaret Weis**
We completed week 8 of training with an 8 mile run, Woo-Hoo!! 8 Miles is the absolute farthest I've ever run so I am officially past where I left off in 2007! Even better, I felt less spent at the end of yesterday's run than I did at the end of my longest run in 2007.
My running buddy is named Amy (she knows she is in my blogs so I'll go ahead and use her name, Hi Amy!!) Amy has been working very hard to get in shape and her co-worker, a Para-rescue Jumper guy (I'll call him PJ for now) has been acting as her personal trainer. Amy invited PJ to run with us, but did warn him that we run really slowly and girl chat the whole time. I'm pretty sure he didn't take her warnings seriously enough and probably won't run with us again, poor guy. We ran so slow that he was in pain so he walked most of the time and easily kept our pace with his mile long legs. Although I'm not sure what was more painful to him, the slow pace or the time when our conversation deteriorated into stories of giving birth.
The run itself went very well. We decided to keep at least a 13 minute per mile pace, and not let things slide to the 14 mpm pace of last week, and actually came in closer to a 12.5. Unfortunately, we took off too fast following PJ's lead and I kept looking at my Garmin, which was saying things like 10 mpm, 10.5 mpm, thinking, "I'm going to die at this pace before we even get to the jogging trail!" We finally convinced PJ to slow down and continued at our snail pace. I had mapped out an 8.5 mile route on base, not realizing it would take us on and off the NASA base, which is all inside the same fence as Langley. As we wandered around the base, we passed horses, and a nature walk that none of us had ever known about, and eventually came to a car gate with a big red stop sign on it. I leaned over the gate to look at the sign on the other side and it read "KEEP OUT, DO NOT ENTER" since we were already on the wrong side of it, we figured what the heck and ducked under it. That was when we crossed onto the NASA research center property. It was a ghost town which made it perfect for running. The only cars we saw were the security cops roaming around and probably wondering what the heck we were doing. I'm pretty sure they were talking about us on their radios because each time we turned down another street there was a cop watching us. I guess they didn't think we were a real threat or they would have asked to see out I.D. cards, but I'm pretty sure they were happier after we passed the security gate back onto the Air Force base.
Shortly after our foray into NASA space, we hit the one hour mark and I broke out the power gels. Amy turned hers down, I think because she was feeling guilty about the doughnuts she at the day before, so I ate mine and pulled out my water bottle. In the process of washing down the last of the gel, I managed to inhale some water and went into a coughing fit that just about ended the run for me. Probably the only thing that kept me going was that I would have had to sit there, freezing, for almost an hour while they ran back to the cars and drove over to pick me up, by then I would have died of hypothermia so I figured I was better off to keep running. Needless to say I had a stitch the rest of the run and my ribs are still sore today.
Around mile 6, I was really beginning to question my ability to finish the run. My side hurt from coughing, my hips were complaining, and another 25 minutes of running seemed like an eternity. I started thinking that training for a marathon didn't sounds like so much fun since training for the HM was quickly losing its charm as it was. I kept going though. Amy got into some kind of Zen zone and left me behind as the focused on some spot on the horizon. PJ, finally able to run at a reasonable speed, caught up to her to tell her to reign it in before she hit a wall, figuratively and literally.
By the last half mile I was actually feeling really good. The boost from the power gel really hit the spot so I wasn't feeling so spent and I could see the end of the run. Amy was now beyond Zen. Her expression was blank, her face was pink, and she wasn't slowing down for anything. She had fallen behind me a bit so I slowed to let her catch up. With about 100 yards left, PJ was standing at the finish line (he had left us in his dust a while back) with his hands out to be tagged. Amy caught up to me and said those famous last words, "Race ya' to the finish!" I took off in a wild sprint that lasted about 10 seconds and then slowed down until I saw her shadow creeping up next to me and then did it again to the finish line. Amy mumbled something about me being cocky and I hollered back something about the power of Gel and we giggled as we tumbled past PJ, who I'm sure was really glad it was all over. As we walked our cool down back to the cars, I realized I had pushed a bit too hard. My knee was tender, a problem I haven't had before. It wasn't bad enough to cause a limp and the pain is gone today, but it was a good warning about doing silly things like racing at the end of a long/slow distance run.
I was wonderfully exhausted at bed time and not in as much pain as I deserved to be. My shoulders were sore because I kicked up my RA carrying 30 lb. dumbbells that I got my husband for his birthday this week, but the joints that take the pounding running felt good. I read an article this week in the new issue of Runner's World about a New York City fire fighter who ran the NYC Marathon after being torn up in a horrible accident. He has suffered so much, been so badly damaged, and been so depressed, that the feat of even walking makes what I battle seem trivial, and yet he hasn't quit and has choosen to face a marathon. So many people find strength in running. People that would otherwise be completely overwhelmed by their problems find the answers in miles spent on the road. Against the odds and against what often seems like common sense, they choose to enter a race and train; they chose to enter the fire. Running has saved me from RA, RA has saved me from myself. I too have chosen to enter the fire.
2009 running miles: 65