Wednesday, June 9, 2010

20-Miler in Gainesville summer heat

It's the pinnacle of any marathon training schedule. It's the top of the hill. It's the week you look at during week 1 and say, "holy sh*t! I wonder if I'll be able to do that!" Or for marathon veterans, it might be the week you look at and say, "I can't wait until I'm rockin' that mileage again!" For Jenny and myself it was last weekend and it involved a 20-miler through around, over and across the city of Gainesville, Florida. That's right; home of my beloved Florida Gators!

To make things more interesting the weather forecast boasted a "low" of 77 degrees and humidity levels were 90+ percent so basically that's the best it's going to get no matter what time we set out to run. Being one of the highest overall mileage weeks, my body was down right sore and pissed off. Runner's knee in my right leg and an old lower calf/Achilles tendon injury speaking up in the left leg. Bottom line: TallguySurfing was nervous, anxious and driven all at the same time.

I convinced Jenny (who isn't human when it comes to running in hot weather) that we must get up at 4 a.m. and be on the road by 5:30 a.m. to give us at least an hour to 90 minutes of running time before the sun begins scorching us. I could tell this didn't sit well with her as it's nearly an hour earlier than we've ever gotten up for a long run. This strategy veers from the routine. She's nervous about getting started earlier than our norm and I'm nervous about getting started too late. We attempt to go to sleep super early, but really only get about 5 hours, of which the last hour Jenny lays there awake.

As planned we start running at about 5:28 a.m. from the Gainesville Health Center down University Blvd. and it's humid. It's so humid that the water vapor is clearly visible in the air beneath the street lights. By mile one I'm covered in sweat and we're going at a 9 minute pace. "Ugg, it's going to be a long run," I think to myself.

The conversation begins to flow as normal, but I'm not feeling very talkative. Looking back I realize how freaked out I was about the 20 miles before me and the higher level of focus occurring, which unfortunately was hindering my conversation skills.

We are both wearing hydration packs to allow for more fluid consumption and to not have to worry about how far until the next water stop. Mine is filled to the max with a full pack of Crytomax blended into it. They will be serving Crytomax at the Seattle Rock n Roll Marathon and want to make sure it agrees with my system in case I need something more than just water on race day. I'm also packing four GUs, including a Jet Blackberry with 2x caffeine for those last few miles.

Around mile 9 we are running through Hale; an upscale neighborhood with large and expensive homes. We stop at a tennis club. It's an upscale facility that I imagine the likes of the Stepford Wives or Desperate Housewives using at a more respectable hour. Since it's hours before anyone actually arrives so we have the place to ourselves. The water fountain is like that of a soda fountain with disposable cups, chip ice and cooled water. I'm in Heaven. I fill my Camelbak reservoir with ice. We discover the women's room is decked out with hair products, lotions and soaps. I curiously go to the men's room to find it barren and basic. Can you say "what the eff?" See pictures below. There are clean cloth towels ready for my sweat at courtside. This was the nicest water stop ever!

At mile 10, we met up with Tracey, whom planned to run part of the route with us (about 5 miles). As crazy as it sounds this relaxed me knowing that Jenny and Tracey could chat away and I could just push on through without having to worry about talking. I'm not going to lie. At this point of the run we are down on Archer Road west of I-75 heading east for 2 miles straight into the early morning sunrise. There is no shade and lots of traffic noise. I was not having fun at this point as I realize my shoes are actually squishing and squashing because they are full of sweat. Never in my life have I sweat so much that my shoes have become saturated this much. I've heard stories, but generally I'm not a crazy "sweater" guy. My feet feel heavy and my legs on par with fatigue. I ponder if I'll actually get blisters and if the new sweat saturation will help or hinder blister development. Tracey and Jenny are 20 feet ahead of me deep in conversation. We finally make it to a gas station at 75th and turn north. Knowing that we have passed the point of being the furthermost point from where we started helps my mental state ever so slightly. We stop at the gas station to use the restroom. My urine is a brilliant shade of yellow kind of like an elite Kenyan's shoes. No bueno. Back on the road and I'm slamming GU and sucking Camelbak like a big baby, but I keep to myself as I follow the two girls going north on SW 75th. At mile 15 it's time to say goodbye to Tracey as she needs to head back to her place and we have to head the opposite way. It was great having her company for part of the long run!

By now the temperature is surely in the upper 80s and while my legs are feeling pretty good all things considered, my cooling system is not happy at all. Jenny looks at me and tells me I look better than previous "hot" runs we've done. "You're fine," she says and urges me to keep going. This is good in my mind. At least she isn't worried about me. We hit a short 1-mile stretch of road with no sidewalk and little shoulder. The highlight of this section is an overpass bridge going over I-75. Jenny is NOT thrilled about this section and tells me we need to get over it quickly. She takes off (probably only at our original 9-minute pace that seems like a sprint now) and I'm left chasing the pony tail up the bridge. In my mind it's Mount Everest. By the time I reach the top she's already at the bottom on the other side. I stop and walk as a reward for my accomplishment of conquering this peak. The scenery of a 6-lane highway below me is not very rewarding so I begin running down the hill where I find Jenny waiting at the next intersection. Only a 5k to go from here!

During those last 3 miles I had to stop 4 times because of the heat. It went something like this:
1.) You feel your breathing begin to increase involuntarily almost to the point of hyperventilation.
2.) Your brain tells your legs to keep running, but the lack of oxygen (reaching VO2Max) overrides the orders of your conscience and primal instinct makes you stop and walk.
3.) Annoyed as all hell you either a.) cry, b.) curse or c.) grunt
4.) After a matter of seconds or minutes of involuntarily walking you are able to catch your breath, replenish your blood oxygen levels and your brain can force your legs to start running again.

This is not my idea of a good time. I'm so out of it that I don't even stop my watch as I have previously done at water and bathroom stops (I wanted to have an idea of pace while running on this run). With 1 mile to go we can see the gym where we started. This is almost cruel as we must turn away, run through a neighborhood, up and down another hill and then return to the finish. This is also good because the Seattle Rock n Roll Marathon course goes by the finish line at the halfway point and again with a few miles left. Finally, Jenny points to a brown sign and says that's the finish line. We both finish strong and a sense of joy overwhelms me knowing that I just ran 20 miles with my girlfriend! And, my legs are feeling pretty good. Without the beginning stages of heat exhaustion I think I would be perfectly fine running 20 miles. A new level of trust in the training schedule is achieved!

After 20 miles!

I'm drenched from head to toe and feel like I just got out of the ocean. There's not an article of clothing on me that can't be wrenched out. We head home, shower, meet friends for the biggest brunch ever at Flyin' Biscuit and then nap the afternoon away. By evening we're feeling pretty good. During the run we played a game. The runner that curses the most has to buy Seattle Manhattans at The Top to celebrate the 20-miler and beginning of taper later that night. English curse words count as 1 point. All curse words in foreign languages count 1 point for ever two since it takes more premeditation on these words. If you've read my entire post up to this point it's not hard to imagine that I'm buying us drinks. I owned this game and even dropped profanity in English, Danish, German and Spanish during the run!

Here's to the Seattle Rock n Roll Marathon, running our 20-miler without injury and beginning a slow 3-week taper! A round of "Seattle Manhattans" at Gainesville's Top bar and restaurant.


  1. Yeah, its ridiculous here as well. We literally been running at 11PM because its just too darn hot.

    great job on the 20!

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