Last year during the Hood to Coast, we had a team meeting before the race where the entire team got to meet each other. Some I knew already, others were new faces. Still, no matter who you talked to, the popular topic of conversation was training. Everyone seemed to be trying to gauge where they were compared to everyone else on the team training-wise. I didn't want to make it seem like I hadn't been taking my training seriously, so everytime someone would ask me how much I had trained for the race, I would say the same thing - "Oh, you know. I ran about ten times or so." Whether I actually did ten runs before last year's race or not is debatable, but 10 seemed like a high enough number to me at the time. Of course, in reality (and as I soon found out), running 10 times before a race like the Hood to Coast isn't going to get you anywhere near the shape you need to be in. Going into this year's race, I vowed to break that hallowed "10 runs" marker in an attempt to not feel close to death when the race is over as I did last year. And today, with 6 weeks left before the race, I'm happy to say I've run for the (actual) 10th time.
For my tenth run, I decided to do something a little special- run farther than I ever have before. Having not run in a week (again), I decided it was time to go all out and see if I could run the distance of my first leg of the race- 7.4 miles. Using mapmyrun.com, I charted a bunch of runs from my house and finally settled on one that measured 7.25 miles. I know, it's not 7.4, but it was close enough for me. Having never run over a 10k before, this would take me a mile farther than my longest run to date. There was only one problem- the cramp monster came along for the ride.
I went into the run fully recovered from going to the fair a second time over the weekend (and this time, deep fried butter WAS on the menu). Having eaten well enough over the past few days, I was hopeful that the run today would be grueling but cramp/other weird pain free. As soon as I hit the 1/2 mile mark, I realized that this would not be the case.
As I got the the first big hill, the cramp monster struck- a double whammy to the left gut and right shoulder. Luckily, I made it to a stoplight just in time and got a minute or two of rest to work out the cramps. When I began to run again, things felt normal...or so I thought.
At around the 2.5 mile mark, the cramp monster bit again- a beast of a pain right in the right gut this time. Grimacing and trying to work it out as I was running, I made it to another light and got another needed rest. When the light turned green, I started off again and things felt better. But I hadn't gotten the best of the cramp monster yet.
At around the 4 mile mark, there is a stretch of about a mile that is one of the worst uphills I've ever run (third only to the Tough Topanga 10k and the hill on my last leg of the Hood to Coast last year). I was waiting for the cramps to come, but they never did. The hill was tough, but I was able to push myself up it and before I knew it, I was through the toughest part of my run. Seemingly, the cramps were done.
I ran up the next street and made the long home stretch down Nobel feeling really good. I was nearing 10k distance, but my legs were feeling like I had only run a mile. Surprisingly, the hill hadn't sapped me of every bit of energy I had left. "I only have a mile left. I can do this," I thought. And then, of course, it hit me like a semi. I could feel it right under my right shoulder blade and it was an absolute toad of a cramp. Damn you, cramp monster! It stayed with me for another half a mile until I reached the final hill. Then, mercifully, the cramp monster decided I had had enough. All that was left between me and the end of my run was one last hill.
I went it this run hoping very optimistically to do it in an hour. However, after all the cramp attacks, I was sure I was nowhere near that mark. But when I looked at my watch, I found that I had four minutes to make it up the hill and get home. I could do this.
I don't know where it came from, but somehow I was absolutely charged up with energy. I barely felt the strain of the slope and destroyed the hill like I've never taken down a hill before in my life. One of my friends from the team has always told me that his motto is: "Hills are your friend." I never really thought of them as anything but my nemesis until today. Today, I pretty much owned them and it felt good.
I reached the end of the run and checked my watch- 58:42. Run 10 is done, and what a run it was. Cramp monster, go bite someone else.