Listen to the Ali on the Run Show!
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A Tale Of Two Runs
Yesterday was kind of a rough day for me.
Nothing particularly tragic happened, but I felt awful all day, work was sheer madness and I was feeling very overwhelmed. I skipped my morning run in favor of some extra sleep, and I was hoping I’d feel better by the evening so I could squeeze in my run.
Coach Cane wanted me doing a mildly challenging workout yesterday. I knew it would be tough, but I was confident I could do it…if only I hadn’t been so dizzy, so I’m-about-to-vomit, and so stuck in the bathroom all day.
By some miracle, both my 5:15 and 8:00 appointments were rescheduled, so I had plenty of time to get out and run.
Unfortunately, I still wasn’t feeling up to it. I didn’t want to skip the workout on account of being a baby, so I laced up, headed out and resolved to “do my best.”
In the past, I was never an advocate of “just doing my best.” It was never about being my best, it was about being the best. Over the past few months, though, I’ve had to rethink my crazy competitive ways. I’ve learned to be a bit nicer to myself, and I’ve learned that I won’t get far in life by beating myself up in the face of failure.
And so the plan yesterday wasn’t necessarily to nail my paces — three counterclockwise loops of Harlem Hills (the hard way!) at 10-mile race pace (we’ll go with 7:45s) — it was to get out the door and not give up.
Despite having the best intentions and what I thought was a manageable attitude toward this run, I took a major beating, physically and emotionally.
I started my warm-up jog to the park.
I stopped to use the bathroom at Starbucks.
I continued my warm-up jog, still not having reached Central Park.
I had to stop and walk, and then hobble toward the tennis court bathrooms.
At this point, I gave myself a pep talk: “Just get through the first loop, and we’ll see what happens from there.” I figured that if I could do one loop, I could do three loops. Half the battle is mental, right?
The loop starts on a downhill, which is glorious, and I kicked my pace up to a sub-7:45 without a problem. I’d love to say “without breaking a sweat,” but I started sweating as soon as I left my apartment. So I will not lie to you: I did, in fact, break quite a sweat.
I got to the bottom of the hill and had to come to a sudden halt.
As I cursed Crohn’s disease and this damn never-ending flare-up situation, I turned around and did a weird sort of limp-walk toward the Harlem pool bathroom. I made my way down to the super-sketchy bathrooms, only to find that there was no toilet paper in sight.
That wasn’t going to work.
And so I took a few deep breaths and started to run again.
I had to walk up Harlem Hill.
I’m pretty sure that wasn’t part of Coach Cane’s plan.
I picked it up again on the next downhill (running in this direction you get two big downhills and one big uphill in between), and settled into a 7:45 pace again.
But at this point, I knew the planned workout wasn’t going to happen.
Instead, I made my way back to the tennis court bathrooms — which I ended up visiting several more times over the course of the evening — and made a new plan.
I wasn’t ready to give up on running completely since the pain kept coming and going. There were moments of ache-free bliss, and then there were spontaneous pain wars in my intestines. So my new plan was to still cover the distance Coach Cane had in mind for me — roughly 7 miles — trying to maintain marathon goal pace.
My total running time was 1:01.
My total time in Central Park: 2 hours.
I was only running for half the time I was out. The other hour — 59 minutes, to be exact — was spent walking and bathrooming.
That is not what I call “ideal marathon training.”
I wanted to be proud of myself for not giving up entirely, and I do feel that way, but this run was tough. It was especially upsetting for me because at times I felt so good! After the first few stops, I thought I was good to go. I thought I had, literally, gotten it out of my system.
As I walked home from Central Park, I checked my email. My mom spent the past two days babysitting Tyler (Michaela is officially off maternity leave and is back at work, which happened so fast), and she had sent me a bunch of precious photos and videos of my little buddy.
I watched a video of Tyler smiling and being cute as I walked, and I just lost it.
I was upset because I miss Tyler. I hate not being around him more.
I was upset because I thought about all the training runs I’ve done so far to prepare for the New York City Marathon, and not one of those runs has been stop-free. Every single one has included a stomach interruption…or 12.
I was upset because last year at this time, I felt so good. I was training for the Hamptons Marathon, I was surviving on barely any sleep and I felt like I was kicking ass in every part of my life.
Now I feel like I’m living oppositely. If oppositely is actually a word…
I shed a few frustration tears as I walked home, and promised myself that as soon as I got back to my building, I’d stop. I did my best, I gave the run a shot, it was over with, and I’d move on just fine.
I got a little worked up once I got upstairs, but I didn’t cry. My best friend Becky (yes, I will always refer to her as “Best Friend Becky,” even though you may know who she is by now) texted me to say that her wedding photos were online.
I looked through them, and I just felt sad. I was clearly still being stupid-emotional and couldn’t shake it, but I felt homesick and I missed my family.
Eventually I showered, forced myself to eat some dinner (I didn’t have an appetite all day — clearly a sign that something is wrong) and then watched as I made my primetime television debut.
This morning I woke up when my alarm went off.
I said my “Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit” (do it) and I popped out of bed, ready to start the month of August on the right foot with some happy miles.
Yesterday’s run was behind me. I was ready to get back out there.
Today’s plan was easy: six miles at marathon goal pace +:30/mile (that’s 9:15s).
I felt slightly better this morning than I did yesterday, so I was feeling positive.
In the first four miles, I think I made four bathroom stops.
I was annoyed, but since this was just a regular run, I wasn’t too worried about it.
And then the rain came.
It was just a drizzle at first, and I figured it would pass. I still had two miles to go, and I was on the south side of the park — as far from my apartment as I could get.
Then the drizzle became hard rain.
Still not a big deal. I’m not afraid of rain. I like it.
I was near the Boathouse bathroom, so I hopped in there to grab a wad of toilet paper to wrap around my phone. Stupid me for running with my phone this morning. I thought a little TP wrap would keep it dry, but that didn’t work.
Because then the hard rain became a washout downpour.
I had never run in anything like that before.
I looked out from the Boathouse with another runner girl who had stopped in, and we both just laughed. It was getting late and I had to get home, so I did something I swore I would never, ever do, all in the name of protecting my precious iPhone:
I took my shirt off, wrapped it around my phone, and ran home in just my little shorts and sports bra.
For a long time, I said there were things I never wanted to do:
- Run a marathon.
- Run in just a sports bra.
- Complete a triathlon.
Well we know how the marathon thing turned out, and now I’ve broken my second promise to myself as well.
It was kind of amazing, honestly. I bolted home in the pouring rain and I was so, so soaked.
I loved it.
I loved it so much that I forgot about yesterday’s disastrous day.
The park had totally cleared out, but there were a few runners still making their way around the main loop. We all smiled at each other as we passed, and kind of laughed, acknowledging that yes, this is totally crazy, but also wicked cool.
I ran up Cat Hill, and toward Engineers’ Gate, never once worrying about whether my stomach flab was hanging over my shorts or my love handles were jiggling with each puddle jump I made. I aimed for puddles instead of avoiding them, and I loved that my shoes were about six pounds heavier because they were so drenched.
As I ran out of the park, doormen outside their buildings laughed and clapped.
Thank you, kind sirs, for your applause. I look forward to your personal support on November 4.
I couldn’t stop smiling.
And go figure: As soon as the crazy rain started, I didn’t think about my stomach at all, and I didn’t have to make a single bathroom stop from that point on.
It’s amazing what a little rain can do.
Today I loved running. I didn’t care about training for a marathon. I didn’t care about PRs or fueling or negative splits (I hardly even know what those are). I just loved putting one foot in front of the other. It was so fun.
That is the story of my two drastically different runs in 12 hours, and the time I did another thing I swore I’d never do.
I stand firm on the triathlon thing though.
WHAT ABOUT YOU? Anything you swore you’d never do and then — oops — did anyway? Here’s another example: I swore I’d never eat Velveeta shells and cheese again after all those times it used to make me sick, but oops, it was one of my final “I still live alone and can do whatever I want” meals before I moved in with Brian. Whatever.