As a group of runners passed me, I waved and attempted to say, "Good morning!"
Instead, drool slid off my lower lip and I barely managed, "Goo morin" followed by some very unattractive panting.
"Are you OK?" one woman asked, as she tried unsuccessfully to hide her disgust for my inability to control my spit.
"Fing," I slobbered, smiled and waved her on, trying to figure out where I had come in contact with Novocaine.
I almost started laughing out loud, but I didn't want to raise even more suspicion about what was in my water bottle. I continued shuffling forward, up the hill, all the while wondering why exactly I was doing this.
Two weeks ago, I got an e-mail welcoming me to the Park City Marathon.
"What? Did I actually sign up for that? I know I was thinking about it. But I don't remember actually doing it."
Yes, I know it sounds implausible, but I signed up for the Park City Marathon way back in April. Then I submerged myself in triathlon training and general goofing around and absolutely FORGOT!
Once I confirmed, I was indeed signed up for the sold-out race, I quickly decided to run it anyway. After all, I didn't want to waste my $65 entry fee. Who cares if the longest distance I ran all summer was 9.5 miles? Kick biking, paddle surfing, swimming, cycling, soccer and just chasing my kids around — that all counts as training, right? Besides, I had a week and a half to get in "marathon shape."
I had a plan. I'd eat better and train like a maniac. I ran in the morning, and I went to the gym and rode the bike or worked out on the stair-climbing machines for the first four days. Then I rode jet skis and stayed up late for three days. This was followed by a six-mile run on the Wednesday before the race. I rested Thursday and Friday and ran the marathon in 5 hours and 30 minutes on Saturday. I did manage to improve my diet, although I will admit to three bags of movie popcorn. (Is it really possible to watch a movie without extra butter? I'm not even sure I want to find out.)
Race day arrived, and I showed up with a positive attitude and a fanny pack full of items I was sure would get me through 26.2 miles.
I have often wondered whether long training runs serve a real purpose. On your first marathon, I think it's critical. When you've never run more than four or five miles, it's good to know how 15 miles is going to feel. It's even better to know how 20 will feel.
But at this point, I know I can do it. So I've been a slacker on long training runs. I mean, they take planning. They take forethought. They take time.
I got a little Scarlett O'Hara rationalization going and was always going to do a long training run — tomorrow.
It wasn't until about mile nine that I started to wish I'd done those long runs. The aches and pains were familiar, and I knew I could keep running, but I had to slow down significantly to do so.
And Park City's Marathon boasts hills — a lot of hills. So even under normal circumstances, my legs would have been on fire. But Saturday, they were numb after about mile 14. That is, until I stopped — for any reason. And then I felt like the tin man, sans an oil can.
I do think cycling has made my legs stronger. While I could barely walk Saturday night, with the exception of my iliotibial band (outside of my right knee), I was not sore at all.
I latched onto a couple of runners from the Locomotion Running Club at about mile 19. They were doing the Jeff Galloway method in which you run four minutes and walk one minute. And more importantly, they were doing it at my pace.
Starting up from a walk each time was tougher and tougher. This is when I realized the value of those long runs. It didn't need to be this hard for me. I do believe the cross training has made me more fit. But if I really want to keep running marathons, I can't give up the long runs completely.
Although, I'm not sure even being dedicated to the long run can cure the slur that invades the speech of most runners about halfway through a marathon. I guess that's why most of us have a sense of humor instead of common sense.