My long runs are getting longer, and planning for them is getting tougher every week.
This week marks my first 15-miler, the longest I’ll have run since before I hurt my hip in 2007. Last time I trained for a marathon, I did so to cope with Steve’s first deployment. This was both an effective coping mechanism for me, healthier than drinking lots of wine and cheaper than shopping, and a nice way to avoid the inevitable clash between my training and real life — both for me and those around me.
Even last week’s 13-miler took some orchestration. My cousin had invited us over for margaritas on Friday night, and we had plans to be in Solomons Island until late on Saturday. I got around being a party pooper in either case by waking up extra-early on Thursday morning to complete my long run then.
I’m employing a similar tactic this week, as we’ve been planning a backpacking trip to the Shenandoah for Labor Day weekend, like, forever. I’ll wake up even earlier this Thursday morning to make sure I have all the juice my legs need for the run. Whatever’s left over, I can use hiking (or maybe trudging) through the mountains.
Fifteen miles is long enough that it’s time to start thinking about logistics days before the run itself — setting up what I’ve heard referred to as “the infrastructure of success,” or planning life around a priority event rather than the other way around. I picked up eggplant, tomatoes and peppers from the farmers market last week to make my favorite vehicle for carbo-loading, roasted vegetable lasagna tonight, giving me guaranteed leftovers in case things get busy later in the week. I’m figuring out a route that lets me stash water in an easily available place — most likely a 5-mile loop I’ll drive to and then do three times, unlike last week’s out-and-back route that didn’t include a single water fountain. And I’ve stocked up on energy gels after discovering last week mine were all long expired. Do energy gels go bad, you might ask? I doubt it. But they taste so bad to begin with, I wasn’t about to find out mid-run.
Finally, 15 miles is long enough to start making annoying requests of friends and family members. That backpacking trip? Steve would likely hike twice the distance we’re planning — about 13 miles over three days — if it weren’t for my 15-miler this week and the threat of 17 miles next week. I’m even nervous about the 13 miles, and have identified “escape” routes on our relief map of the park in case my hip starts acting up. Poor Steve must feel like he has a toddler rather than a wife — I can’t stay out too late or walk too far, and I always must travel with water and snacks.
I’ve gotta believe Steve takes these sacrifices like a champ not only because, well, he’s a champ, but because he knows that running — specifically, training for a big goal-race like a marathon — gives me focus and purpose, no matter how the rest of my life is going, and forces me into the healthier habits I wish I had, anyway. It makes me a better, happier, friendlier and more peaceful person, which has got to be worth a truncated hiking route and a few early nights — right?