I knew the Boston Store was about a mile ahead, and I just wanted to sit down. I stopped running, and we walked there. I sat down on the peeling plank wood porch of the old store, answering "I don't know" to every question posed.
A few minutes later, Martini called. I was in no shape to talk. I overheard him say, "Don't let him quit." I sat awhile longer. I ambled over to the water fountain and drenched myself. I needed to cool down. I returned to my seat next to my ever supportive biker companion. I ate some Sharkies. I drank some Gatorade. I drank some water. I sat and sat and didn't know.
We started the day a little after 6:30 a.m., at sun rise. The temperature was a comfortable 69 degrees. I wore a tech tank top under a tech long sleeve shirt to protect myself from the sun and to create a cooling layer. I just bought a Nike DriFit visor after a lengthy inner struggle over whether I could be one of those visor guys. (It served me well, but I'm still not sure.) My CamelBak got its second annual use as I decided my handheld water bottle would be too tiresome to carry for 32 miles (give or take).
The plan was to take walk breaks every half hour and eat every hour. I knew it was going to get hot, so I hydrated early and often.
I felt pretty strong for the first 15 miles, despite not being able to keep pace with Martini. He said his knee bothered him if he didn't keep his pace up, and I have never been as fast as he is. This was kind of annoying, as I wanted the three of us to share some sort of we're-all-in-this-together bonding experience.
I tried to understand that he was running his Summer Un-Solstice Challenge -- I had to run mine. However, around that 20-mile mark his pace was absolutely mind-fuckingly discouraging. I didn't even have the energy to tell him I was struggling. I just let him go. I was broken.
There were times that I knew I would cry if I thought too much about how awful I felt or how grateful I was that my biker companion was there to support me or how mad I was at myself for not being able to finish the run.
I had already skipped my track session for the week. My planned 43-mile week was shot. Doubt clouded my mind with questions. How far would I have to run Sunday to make up for this failure? What am I doing? Why did I think I could run this far? I don't know. I don't know. I don't know.
I couldn't tell you how long we sat at the Boston Store. My biker companion said the decision was mine. We could keep going or call someone for a ride. I was starting to cool down. My mind was refocusing.
I didn't know how far I could go, but I knew I wanted to find out how far I could go.
I remember reading in Jim Fixx's The Complete Book of Running something about how a runner's "wall" is 10 percent of the mileage he ran in the previous month, and then the runner will continue encountering a wall in increments of 50 percent of that previous wall's distance.
I ran 132 miles last month, which means I hit a wall at 13.2 miles and then 6.6 miles later at 19.8 miles. I would encounter another wall at 23.1 miles and another at 24.75 miles and another at 25.575 miles and another and another and another.
I know I read part of this, but I very well might have invented the rest of this equation in my delusional state. Whatever the case, it worked. I knew that the run would continue to crush me, but having a calculated way of anticipating the next challenge helped me carry on, from station to station until the end.
Every time I felt like I was overheating, I walked or found a bench to sit on and regrouped. Martini called again when we had about five miles to go. He was done. He said, "Congratulations" and encouraged me to keep going. I just wanted to get through my next wall and reach my next resting point.
The heat kept rising. The bike computer's temperature gauge read 0 degrees at one point, which meant 100. That's how hot it felt in the sun, regardless of what it was in actuality. I needed a popsicle and a cold bath afterward to cool down.
Running time, the Summer Un-Solstice Challenge took me 6:46:54, but we didn't make it back to the car until about 3 p.m. The rest of the day followed thusly: lunch, nap, dinner, sleep.
There is a discrepancy in the mileage. MapMyRun.com says 31.4 miles, but the bike computer says 32.5. Regardless, it was the farthest I've ever run, and the most I have ever struggled to finish.
Now, I refocus all my attention on finishing my training plan to run the Akron Marathon in less than four hours.
Big thanks to my biker companion for the unceasing support and remaining upbeat despite a sore ass, and to Martini for encouraging me to always push my limits.
"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."--T.S. Eliot
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