Good news! I ran 18 miles yesterday, which is my longest run post-hysterectomy. Bad news: I ran those miles on a really tough route. If I were being honest, I'd say that's good because I finished and am stronger for having done it. I'm going to need a few more days of recovery before I really feel that way though. I mentioned in my last post that I met Jason Dinkel at FlatRock. He has been very encouraging and has been helping me stay motivated to run these last few weeks. We are doing the Storm the Dam marathon together in two weeks (not sure what I was thinking when I signed up for that!). Last week I was texting Jason and complaining that my trail would likely be flooded and I would have to do my long run on the road. He said I should come to Cassoday, KS and run 18 miles with him on the Heartland course. I get sick of running alone and wasn't looking forward to a run on the road, so I thought it sounded like a fabulous idea. I did no research about the course. I just knew it was a gravel road. I also knew it was in the Flint Hills, but that didn't really worry me.
As Sunday approached I kept an eye on the weather. It was supposed to be in the 80's and windy. Hmmm. I'm a wimp in the wind. Still, I went! I got up early and drove to Cassoday which is about 2 hours. When I got there we drove out to what would be our halfway point to stash a cooler with water and gatorade. Tony Clark is the RD for Heartland and he had told Jason we might encounter some bulls, so we thought we would have to drive further and do an out and back in the middle of the course. When we got to 9 miles we hadn't seen anything that worried us, so we left the cooler and drove back to the start/finish area. As we were driving out I could tell the wind was pretty strong, but I was determined. We started out going right into the wind on a little section of blacktop. Thankfully that didn't last long and we were on the dirt road.
The first 6 miles or so were pretty uneventful. We were doing run/walk intervals and I felt really good. I noticed there were a lot of hills but they seemed pretty gentle and I was happy to be out there. The wind was mostly blowing across us and we didn't have to run directly into it much. It was brutal when we did though. Eventually, rolling hills and 20 mph winds are going to take a toll though. Funny story here. The wind was so strong out of the south that it blew the sweat off whoever was on the south side of the road onto the person on the north side. It was really cloudy a few times and once I thought I felt it starting to rain. I said "Is it raining?" Ummm, nope. It's Jason's sweat hitting me. We switched sides because he felt bad so then I'm assuming my sweat was hitting him. Ahhh, the life of a runner.
I think it was about mile 7 that I started feeling the hills. They also got a little steeper at this point. By the time we got to the turnaround I was really feeling it. We drank a gatorade, refilled my pack and his bottles, and took off. UP A HILL. Really? We stashed the cooler at the bottom of a hill. We continued on and hadn't gone very far before my pack felt like it weighed 100 pounds. It was just killing me. We stopped and dumped some water and oh, the sweet relief!! Kept running, more hills. More wind. I was so bummed because I really wanted a good, strong run and all I felt was miserable. Thankfully Jason kept chatting and encouraging me. We still had 6 miles to go when I was just done. I wanted to cry because I was so disappointed with myself. I really felt like a complete running failure. This is the point in the run where I would normally call my wonderful husband and he would come rescue me. No chance of that here! That is really for the best though. I have to quit doing that.
You can see the Cassoday water tower off and on for a few miles at the end. It's torture! You know it's there and that's where you will end up, but I swear a few times it felt like we were moving away from it rather than toward it! We finally made it though. It felt so good to be finished. We walked a lot more than I wanted to and at the end I wasn't sure how I was going to manage 26.2 in a couple of weeks. I'm still not sure. I'll do it though. Race day helps a lot and hopefully the course will be a little less challenging. If not, at least I'm better prepared than I was before I did this training run.
Next stop: Storm the Dam Marathon!!