My “nine-eleven”

Week 43/52 recap

5 hills – 5 with 10 Strides – 20 EZ

My regular 5 mile route, when I am not hitting up Struble Road for hills like I did this week, goes right by the house of a local bus driver. His morning driving schedule includes some of the buses I take into work. This past week I rode his bus and he mentioned that he has seen me running by some early mornings. I affirmed that my schedule was getting more intense and my 20 miler would take me by his place. I said that I would have about 5 miles to go as I passed his house.

He chit-chatted about a bunch of other things on our ride so what he said to me as I disembarked was something that took me a while to figure out what he meant. He waved and said, “Good luck with your nine-eleven.” I nodded and probably looked confused as I got off the bus. It was nearly September and I racked my brain to think what I was doing on that date. Or was he racially profiling the younger Asian man who got off with me? The young fellow was looking for a store near where I live and I had told him I would show him where it was. Why would I need luck with that? Did the driver feel that everyone without lily-white skin was some kind of terrorist threat? No, he said it in a genuine clear way like he was really wishing my luck… on my 20 mile run – DUH! Nine plus eleven is twenty. I swear, I had never heard it called that before.

My past handful of long runs have not gone all that well with the exception of last week’s 10 miler. I had been ending up dizzy after them and was doing my best to get my electrolytes and fueling strategies down. My feet hand been really sore and I was dealing with bruised toenails and blisters. I realized I had built up so much mileage on all of my shoes and I needed to purchase new ones and weed the dead pairs out as fast as I could. All of these challenges had me wondering if seeing the marathon through was a good idea. Having a 20 miler coming up did sort of feel like an immanent attack; I was dreading my “nine-eleven.”

I slept poorly and the morning of my 20 miler morning started quite early because I wanted to beat the heat. Thankfully it was a very pleasant morning and I saw a catbird flitting from tree to tree in the pre-dawn light. Just as I was about 2 miles into my run, probably when I started to break a sweat, I felt my bare upper arms brushing the sides of my body. I realized I had applied anti-chafing stick to everywhere BUT my upper arms, the one place that chafes without fail on runs over 10 miles.chapstick

The memory of how much a chafe like that stings and takes so long to heal caused me to let out a stream of whispered swears. Because I had zig-zagged past my house on the first mile, I knew Jim was already gone to set out my hydration caches (I LOVE THIS MAN). There was no reason he would have left the door unlocked so even trying to hold my arms away from my body for the rest of the 14 miles until I went back past my house to get some Vaseline would be unacceptable. It wasn’t a real emergency but I was pretty upset.

I know I probably slowed my pace even more as I thought about what I could do. I had always thought that my dear Green Tea Mint Chapstick (whole story dedicated to it here) was a magical salve and had toyed with thinking of it as an emergency anti-chafe. Well, here was its chance to prove it.

The Green Tea Mint Chapstick I carried in the back zipper section of my skirt had already been accidentally left in a skirt, laundered and (yes indeed) sent through the drier. It did solidify but was kind of off center so it made it easy to chip off a hunk to squish between my fingers then smear on the inside of my upper arms. I hoped that might avert the crisis.

Temps stayed low and I enjoyed the sunrise as I ran the bike path to Boalsburg and back. I re-applied my Green Tea Mint Chapstick anti-chafe every time I needed it on my lips, about every for miles after I refueled. Regarding refueling, one of the things that had kept me from sleeping soundly was worrying about fully committing to a new fuel, Generation UCAN ®. My coach, Angie Spencer of Marathon Training Academy, has had great luck with Generation UCAN ® and I really liked the results I had on my 10 miler the week before. Twice that distance with new fuel is a whole other level of commitment.

I carried a few back-up gels in case I started to feel like the UCAN wasn’t settling right with me or I needed some kind of boost but I never even thought of using one. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t make me any faster and the final miles were hard but it fueled me in an even and steady manner without the up and down energy curves or mild stomach upset I had with Hammer Perpetuem. I am very pleased with Generation UCAN.0830140914-00

I did get slow and tired on my final miles. My feet, although a little sore and beat up, were much better with “new” shoes. I had worn them for about 3 runs prior to log a total of 17 miles on them. It was crazy more than doubling the mileage on them in one run. No blisters and my knee-joint doesn’t seem to be swelling the way it does when my shoes are dead. I can’t ask for much more than that after 20 miles.

So, yeah, I am a lot slower than I was a couple of years ago. My stride is a little truncated and I go through shoes more quickly but I have built back really well with my SI joint and lower back arthritis. I am no longer dreading my training nor the NYC Marathon. It will all be a lot of work but not the kind of end-of-the-world scenario that I was spinning it into. My 20 miler was but a stepping stone, not the nine-eleven I had worried it might be.

Oh! As for my upper arms, the Green Tea Mint Chapstick worked! Jim met me at mile 18 as he will on the NYC Marathon course and I begged some emergency Vaseline but I had no chafe at all. I know the race course will have first aid tents every mile after mile 3 but this was a great fix for this demi-emergency. photo

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