Another week closer to the marathon, and a memorable one at that. I ran my long run with my American Cancer Society DetermiNation team for the first time!
The team actually had two long runs while I was away at the cape, so last weekend was the first time I could make it to a practice. I don’t make friends easily, I have a ton of social anxiety and I struggle to make conversation for the sake of conversation. So, I wasn’t sure how this run would be.
The last time I tried a charity team run was back in 2011 and it was a terrible experience. I’m not going to name names (though you could find out if you really wanted) but the conversation felt forced and uncomfortable, and the team was too fast for me and ended up dropping me after just a few miles. I ended up running most of that 17 miler alone, and never went back to a team run again.
I’m happy to say that not only was this experience totally different, it was AMAZING! I came home more excited than ever about committing to raise money for ACS, my decision to run NYCM again and being part of a real team.
I ran two miles from my train to the meeting spot in the park, which I found easily after being too worried about not finding it. People were chatting in groups, stretching, getting ready for the run. When it was time to begin, one of the coaches called everyone around her and explained how the run would be organized:
There would be three pace groups (or four, if enough people expressed interest). Each pace group would be led by one or two certified coaches. Within those pace groups there would be three levels: Beginner (lowest mileage) Intermediate (medium mileage) and Advanced (highest mileage). I went with the 10:00 pace group with plans to run the Advanced mileage.
Before we started running a couple of girls struck up a conversation with me about my Zensah compression sleeves (only at first I thought they were talking about my Hokas. Some miscommunication ensued). When we started running I continued a conversation with one of the girls, Cara and we started chatting about everything! She has a bunion too (BUNION BUDDIES OMG), is a physical therapist, has run a couple marathons, suffered from injuries, used to live in Jersey City (!!!!!!!!) and even talked with me about trying to organize a Ragnar team together in the future. We just clicked.
That RARELY happens to me. The conversation flowed easily, we had lots in common and so much to say! We also talked about our reasons for deciding to fundraise for ACS and the people we knew who both beat and did not beat cancer.
The coaches were great about announcing to the team when a water fountain was coming so we could all stop as a group to drink/refill bottles. Each time we stopped, I started up running again with another teammate, getting to know them, why they are are running for ACS, their running background, where they live and more. One new friend even invited me to a prom!
The miles FLEW by. When the coach announced the Advanced distance was done, I felt sad! I wanted to run and chat more! And for someone who hates talking, that says a lot.
I ran back to my train for a total of 12 miles (I am head of my team mileage wise because Bellingham Bay is four weeks before NYCM). I felt incredible after this run! My body felt good, we kept up a great pace throughout the run, it felt easy the whole time while also being faster than I run when I am alone – and I really liked the people!
I’m excited to join them for more team runs. Unfortunately, there isn’t a practice next week because of the NYRR Hope & Possibility race. When there is a designated team race, they all meet before the race but then they run the race as the run. I’m in hardcore money saving mode now, and I’m not spending money on races.
Some weekends, my long runs aren’t “easy” – they incorporate marathon pace and other variations. On those days, I won’t be able to run with the team. But on any long run day that is an easy, straightforward run – I’ll be there! I can’t wait to run with them again in two weeks!
Even better than the run itself (which was just so awesome) was feeling comfortable and part of a team. I signed up to raise money so I could run the NYC Marathon in memory of my Aunt Dale. This race is very much for her – and when the miles get tough on November 2, I will think about my aunt, how strong she was, how positive she remained the whole time – and I will finish the race wearing her name attached to my Team DetemiNation shirt.
(Speaking of which - I am SO close to my fundraising goal for the American Cancer Society to run the NYC Marathon. I appreciate any donation at any amount – it all makes a difference. http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/DetermiNation/DNFY11EA?px=36945259&pg=personal&fr_id=62209 )
What I didn’t realize when I signed up how much of this team would be more me, too. Sure, I figured I could network and enjoy some team perks. But I didn’t consider how much of the team aspect would be valuable to me, how much it would empower my long runs and drum up excitement. And I know that as the months of training go on, there will be more events, more runs, and right before the race (and the morning of) I will have all this team support I never knew before!
OK, sappy sentimental over. Nitty gritty of the week begins now:
Week 5: June 16 – June 22
- Monday – Hip exercises + easy 4 miles (43:00)
- Tuesday – Refine
- Wednesday – 1 mile warm up, 5 mile tempo (1:01 – Tempo FAIL)
- Thursday - 8 miles easy (1:22)
- Friday – Plyos
- Saturday - 12 miles (1:55)
- Sunday – OFF
Total (running) miles: 30
Summary of Week 5 running:
This week kicked my butt. After a slow, easy 4 miles to kick of the week, I took Refine on Tuesday. I didn’t think the class was any more intense or challenging than any other class, but for some reason (maybe being off the week before when I was at the Cape) it affected my tempo run the next day in a way I never experienced before.
As many ailments as I usually feel while running – stomach, ribcage, neck, etc – tired legs is rarely one of them. And the few times my legs have felt tired during a run, it hasn’t really affected the run very much. But on Wednesday, I had my first true tempo run: 1 mile warm up, 5 tempo miles (~8:20-8:30). It was 80 degrees and humid when I left at 5:30 am – and that was the least of my problems this day.
The real problem was my tired, heavy legs. They hurt with every single step. I’ve never felt anything like it. I knew I’d be sore from Refine, but I’ve run after class and never felt anything like this. My legs were beaten up, useless. My warm up mile was 10:56, and then it was time to start the 5 tempo miles (8:20-8:30 is the goal):
1 - 8:45
2 - 8:55
3 - 9:09
4 - 10:30
5 - 10:00 – this is a guess, my watch got messed up
Miles 1 and 2 were among the most brutally painful miles of my life – and I’m including the marathons I ran with a knee injury in there. I actually had to stop every half mile to collect myself. My legs were just not right and I felt so frustrated and powerless. The heat and humidity was making it all so much worse.
When I finished mile 3 at marathon pace instead of tempo pace, I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed a break. My legs were done. I quit trying to tempo and just took it easy for mile 4. And the crazy thing – my legs didn’t hurt any less during that slower mile. It was just as bad.
At first, I wasn’t even sure if I would do the last mile or just call it a day. But I decided to give it a try and I even managed to pick it up. Knowing I’m near the end really changes everything because running is so mental! I picked it up as much as I could, but I don’t have an accurate split because my watch went crazy and said I finished in like 7:36 or something. My guess is 10:00.
I finished this run feeling defeated, not knowing how I’d ever run another marathon, sure my sub-4 goal was unattainable. Obviously that’s not the case, but it had been a couple weeks of bad runs. I needed a good one. Later in the week I had a humid but not terrible easy 8 miler (I LOVE EASY RUNS) and then the amazing (and finally perfect weather) 12 miler I talked about above.
And now it is a new week. I already ran twice (spoiler alert: I NAILED today’s hard run!) and I’m back to Refine tomorrow, where hopefully I won’t be quite as beat up from it.
I’ll leave you with this dog. He is a Portugal fan.
My dog, though? USA:
Have you ever been part of a team? How was your experience?