Because I bocce balled ...
... and the next morning, I did my first 20-miler.
20.55, to be exact.
The 20-miler had been looming in my mind since I decided to train for a marathon. It's the pinnacle of training, the last big mileage log before The Day. And, frankly, as Ramon puts it, "ees twentee freakin mi-yells!" So it was big. 20 miles big.
The night before, Barb and I joined my TNT mentor Shari and other TNTers for a pasta/carb load dinner and bocce ball at Il Vagabondo on the UES. None of us was really sure how to play bocce, but we think it was red against green and the teams tried to get their balls closest to the marker:
No offense to my Italian brethren but seriously? Bocce? Zzzzzzzzzzzz. I imagine a bunch of ancient dudes sipping espresso and swapping tales from the old country. And one game probably takes an hour. We zipped through it in about 30 seconds and we still have no idea who won. But at least we all looked cute holding up the balls for a picture:
So the next morning.
Remember last week when I was nervous? This week? Apoplectic.
I called on my marathoning friends for their best advice. Some were practical and well-grounded. Lauren encouraged me to embrace the pain. Jarrod reminded me to pay attention to my breathing and my stride. Daleen told me to drink a Coke. Some offered a "you go girl!" which is sometimes the best thing I can hear. And then there's Gina. Gina is a high school friend with whom I lost touch until the Great Communicator (um, Facebook, duh!) brought us back together last year. She's done the Nike and she's a big TNTer in California, so I've looked to her for inspiration over the past months.
Oh wise sage Gina say: "No one is going to carry your sorry ass back to the start. There is no other way to get back to your coaches except to put one foot in front of the other." (She also later added to this that I should not only be shopping at Lululemon to look cute while I run, but also to enjoy road rash should I fall, since I would look hot showing off my cuts and bruises with a slinky dress later that night.)
Before we took off, I kept telling myself that 18.5 had been a great feat and if I just got close, I'd be happy. But I have the misfortune to hang with other overachievers, so every week, it's like Elkin and Barb and I are all hopped up on testosterone and practically chest-bumping each other to up our mileage. Elkin picked up Barb and Joanne and I and we all drove to the base of the GW again on a gloomy, cloudy, drizzly ...
... and cold Saturday morning.
I have no pictures to share from the run because after my Gu-on-the-camera-lens incident last week, I figured my Canon has had it up to here with me and I would be totally pushing my luck to snap pics in the rain.
It was cold and wet and the rain had left piles of debris along the pathway. Although it was great because the park was closed off to cars and there were less cyclists to yell at us, it was like dodging landmines, which after 20 miles, zaps a lot of your energy. But I felt stronger, maybe even a little faster, possibly because of the rain.
Last weekend, we got about a quarter of the way up the hill that ends the Palisades Park path. At the top is a ranger station that marks mile 10 from our start at the base of the GW. So basically, you make it to the ranger station, you're doing 20 miles. We chugged to a clearing last weekend, huffing and puffing. We looked up the hill and chuckled, thankful that we were now turning around to go back home.
But yesterday, we had to finish that damned hill. Nearly a mile long, this baby was never-ending. And this thing was so high that when we were nearly at the ranger station, the trees were shrouded in fog. Okay, this is not San Francisco. They don't get much fog out here. Unless you're at like 10,000 feet. Which is, I believe, how high we were.
When we reached the ranger station, I nearly wept, knowing that we had a great downhill and that for some reason, the path is much easier heading back than heading in. Easier mentally, yes, but also physically. But Javier was next to me and when he saw some of the advanced TNTers running past the ranger station, he encouraged us to keep going about a quarter mile to the highway entrance around the corner. Damned Javier.
Thus the 20.55.
The turnaround was awesome. It started drizzling more and I felt totally invigorated until we hit Ramon's fueling station at mile 4. As soon as I stopped, I felt the effects of all those downhills. My knees were aching and my hip joint felt creaky. I didn't need water, I needed an oil can. But we pressed on and I inevitably hit my wall about a mile away from the base of the GW. Stupid hills.
And this is when Gina's advice became my mantra. I started yelling at myself. I may have used the p-word. But I told myself that no one else was going to get me back. That one foot in front of the other was the only way. I reminded myself who I was running for. (Not me, btw. If you don't know, that means you haven't donated, so stop reading now and go to my TNT homepage and give me money, dammit.)
And I don't think I am revealing too much to say that we all started talking to ourselves at about the same time. I heard Elkin chattering away behind me, yelling something about "state." I thought he might have been reciting the Constitution but he said later he was reminding himself to keep his mental and physical "state". It was a bit surreal; the four of us pounding along through the dark and creepy forest, the only sound being our slushy footsteps, the dropping acorns, an occasional waterfall and "STATE" and "P---Y" being yelled sporadically. It was like an M. Night Shyamalan flick with porn.
But my mantra worked like a charm. Javier and I picked up the pace on the bridge and on the other side we were jubilant, finishing 20.55 in about 3:15. And that's when "the annoying girl who always takes pictures" (I'm convinced that's how other TNTers identify me) pulled out the camera:
Get it? 20. As in miles. I thought it clever.
But I'll admit, 20 miles got me very emotional. And somewhat delirious.
(The other way around, genius).
We all lingered on the lawn a little longer than usual. We had aches and pains we hadn't had before and I think the thought of all those miles hadn't totally set in yet. And while we're on the subject of the lawn, let me explain how the meeting place thing works, since it's fairly cool. Each time we meet - Tuesdays and Saturdays - TNT mentors watch all of our bags, no matter where we run. It's a great benefit for us, but I would imagine somewhat boring for the bag watchers:
But at this location, it's a totally different ballgame. These girls had to be on high alert the whole time. You see, it's under a bridge. And for those of you non-city folk, that translates into "crime-infested, dirty junkie encampment." In fact, as we were stretching, a nice police officer (who, I'm told, checked in on our girls a couple of times as they sat there) came over to announce that we had better watch where we are laying:
Until then, we had all just been pointing out the inordinate amount of dog crap to one another, but I think Mr. Officer's words were, "there are a helluva lotta needles in this park so watch where you're sitting." So that (and then the realization that the dog crap may not have been dog crap) was enough for us to pack it up fairly quickly:
(Oh, and we were all in such a hurry at that point, Babs thinks she tossed her house keys out in that nice plastic bag she had packed to keep all her gear dry. Oops!)
Of course, no Saturday run is complete without pictures of us sweaty and posing:
And this is us with one of our kickass coaches, Sandy:
I have come to love Saturdays more than any other day in the week, not only for what I am capable of accomplishing, but for what comes after. Javier and I contemplated when we would start drinking: (This signifies five martinis at 5:00. Which could be anytime, since it's always 5:00 somewhere.)
When I limped through the door around noon, Mike had not only already ordered a huge breakfast for me, complete with french toast, bacon, eggs and fresh fruit (of which I ate, oh yes, all ...), but he had drawn a hot bubble bath for me and filled the bathroom with candles, relaxing music and my rubber duckie. That's not code for anything, it really is a little yellow rubber duckie. He looks cute in the bath.
I hobbled into my bed for the the better portion of the day, watching crappy movies and college football. Mike waited on me hand and pedicure-challenged foot. I only got up at 5:00 to mix a great pitcher of martinis for us and then broil two perfect ribeye steaks. We drank a bottle of red wine with dinner, had Junior's cheesecake for dessert and I promptly passed out on the couch in the middle of the USC-Ohio State game (Good game, crappy outcome. I will never cheer on the Trojans. You cannot make me.).
Next week, we don't have a long run. Instead, we have a half-marathon in Queens. I'm a little nervous about that one. Not the distance, but the sheer competitiveness of it. A real race.
But I'll don my Lululemon and trash-talk myself to the finish. After all, no one is going to carry my sorry ass to those 5:00 martinis.