Have Dental Floss, Will Travel

Mapping the world, one waxy strand at a time…

8.2 Miles to Marathon Glory

18 miles, in the bag!

This morning, Natalie and I met at the Conshohocken train station for a run along the towpath that connects Manayunk to Valley Forge. I had a few reasons to worry.

First, I was still reeling a little bit from the dismal 16 miler two weekends ago.

Second, I was pretty sure I wasn’t 100% yet after last weekend’s race.

And third, Brent and I went out for a celebratory dinner last night to a new Benihana that just opened not far from us (he’s been excited about this since he saw the first signs of construction. I learned yesterday that this ‘may be [his] favorite chain restaurant.’ Who knew?). Not only did this mean that I would be eating something out of the ordinary the night before a long run. Somehow, I decided that it would be a good idea to pair that new food with a drink. I rarely drink on regular nights, and never have before an 18 miler. I had the saki sangria and hoped that the 60 ounces of water I downed as a chaser would be enough to cancel out the effects of the alcohol.

So, I was a little bit anxious when we headed off at 8:30 today amidst the packs of runners, bikers, and St. Patrick’s Day pubcrawlers seeking to get an early start on their debauchery. We started off around a 9:00 pace and ran comfortably toward the city for our first out-and-back of the day. We made it back to our cars 7.5 miles later, gu-ed up, and then took off in the other direction. We were going to run toward Norristown, one train stop (and four miles) to the west, but quickly decided to veer off on an extension path that the park service built a couple years ago to connect the strip malls of Plymouth Meeting to the wonders of the tow path.

This little four-mile diversion was quieter than the main trail, but also followed a trash-ridden dry creek bed, the outer edge of a golf course, and a six-lane highway. Not that the tow path is a picturesque wonder – until you get toward Valley Forge National Park, you’re generally running by condos, new construction, and rear entrances of gas stations – but this Plymouth Meeting extension was pushing it even for us. We turned around at the Ikea, ready to get back to our usual biker-clogged route.

Natalie took this picture of me as I finished up the last tenth of a mile out-and-back while she stopped for a water break. It makes it look like I was running far out ahead of her the whole time, but I definitely wasn’t!

Natalie was a total rockstar this morning. Five weeks after having a baby, she gutted out a quick 14 miles – her first real outside run in months.

We got back to the train station at mile 14 and I was still feeling strong. Such a relief to follow a crummy long run with a great one.

As Natalie sat down to stretch, I pulled out my IPod Shuffle to set off for the final four, only to realize that I had uploaded a playlist that consisted of three NPR podcasts and disc one of the Teach Yourself German CDs that Brent and I got in preparation for our summer adventure. This would have been just fine for a normal IPod, but I had forgotten that a Shuffle does exactly that – shuffles through the tracks in random order.


I stashed the headphones and took off back toward the city, pushing the pace a bit and feeling groovy. I turned around at the two-mile marker, and quickly came upon the park ranger that I had passed on the way out several minutes earlier.

“How many miles?” he asked as I said hello.

“It’ll be eighteen when I finish,” I called back. “One and a half to go.”

“Eighteen?!” He yelled back incredulously.

I smiled all the way back to my car, taking it up another notch and finishing the final half mile at a sub-7:00 pace. The ranger’s reaction reminded me that what we all do isn’t normal. That it takes commitment. And strength. And probably a little bit of nuttiness.

On my way home, I stopped at 7-11 for a bag of ice, intent on finishing up my morning with one of Aron’s infamous ice baths. I turned on the cold water, exchanged my running clothes for my blue montbell parka, and waited. When the tub was filled, I emptied the 16-pound bag, took one last deep breath, and stepped in.

By the time I lowered myself into the frigid water, my whole body was shaking. The dogs came into the bathroom and kept me company, Lupine shivering himself in sympathy (or perhaps anxiety, after witnessing my reaction). I settled in and watched the clock, waiting for the ten minutes to pass.

Around minute 8, I thought about quitting. But then I remembered the park ranger, and my commitment to being ready for the Jersey marathon. And I remembered Natalie. If my friend could finish a fourteen-mile run five weeks after giving birth, I could grit my teeth for a ten minute ice bath.


13 responses to “8.2 Miles to Marathon Glory

  1. N.D. March 14, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    awww! that’s sweet! you write it so much better than I do! great job today- fantastic on the last 1/2 mile! It was great to run with you!!!

  2. Amanda March 14, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    Hi, I just found your blog. Great job on your run!

  3. RunToFinish March 15, 2009 at 12:31 am

    you are a rockstar and dude so is nat! I looooove telling people how far I’ve run and getting that you are crazy look, it makes me feel all giddy!

  4. Angela and David Kidd March 15, 2009 at 12:31 am

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Great job on the 18 miler! And you are a brave soul eating Benihana and drinking sake before a long run! You must have a stomach of steel.

  5. Jess March 15, 2009 at 3:10 am

    Wow awesome job on your 18 miler! I love getting reactions like that from people when I tell the how far I’m running. It’s great for an extra bit of motivation.

  6. I Run for Fun March 15, 2009 at 3:47 am

    Great run…just a week after that adventure. You rock! I love those looks people give…it’s part of the fun.Thanks for the article. Must have been a fun workshop.

  7. Kim March 15, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    Holy Goodness…your friend IS a rockstar! 5 weeks after birth and running 14 miles…WOW!I too take ice baths and actually was so worn out from a run one day-that I fell asleep in my ice bath!

  8. FoodsThatFit March 16, 2009 at 4:38 am

    Awesome run lady!!! I am impressed!

  9. aron March 16, 2009 at 5:08 am

    awesome job on the run!!! AND the ice bath 🙂 wow I cant get in when the ice is already in there, I have to dump it in after… thats tough!!! LOVE the rangers reaction 🙂 I love it when that happens. So fun you got to run with Natalie too!!

  10. Ali Wish March 16, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    yes yes yes! go you and your strong finish too! that’s great. ready for 20 in two weeks???

  11. Nobel4Lit March 16, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    Awesome stories! I’m going to try my best to be one of those 14-milers after birth people. Bring it on! Ha ha!

  12. X-Country2 March 16, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Gutsy gutsy all over the place. Great work ladies!I’m sure you know this already, but the shuffle has a little button that you can flip so things play in order instead of random. :o)

  13. The Happy Runner March 16, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    Awesome! Way to finish up speedy and strong, too!

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