Today proved a difficult - and painful - discovery: no amount of long slow distance runs, tempo runs, or intervals can prepare you for 14-hours on your feet; in a booth; standing. That's what happened today, and, sadly, that's what will happen again tomorrow.
I'd liken the time I've spent thus far at my job's annual conference to running a marathon. There's the optimism at the starting line. A freshness to the morning and bounce to your step. The coffee's been brewed and consumed. The mood is high.
Time moves quickly, the miles and minutes turning over like a flip book. You just think this day or this race is going to whiz by. A healthy dose of reality begins to settle in, though. There's a slight twinge in your calf (this actually works well for both scenarios), but you trudge on. A quick glance at the watch reveals that the pace has fallen off a bit and those easy minutes and miles aren't coming quite so easy any more.
Half way. If you haven't eaten anything yet, it's time to dip into the stash. Energy gels, jelly beans (in my case today, pickings were slim: halloween candy, cookies...really nothing with any nutritional value. I mentioned coffee brewed...that served as my breakfast. I could have killed for an apple or even some pretzels!) This is about the time that I mentioned how quickly the day was going by to which my boss replied, "our booth is open until 7." It was only noon. It was here that I died a little bit inside.
Mile 17 or four hours to go. Twenty miles is so close and you've cruised passed half way. That twinge in your calf if gone and instead replaced by stiffness in your knees. Sure, seven hours have gone by, but you feel you've aged seven years, and you've got the frankenstein walk to prove it.
Mile 20 or two hours to go. The glycogen stores are completely gone. You've heard about the wall and now you've run smack into it...and you're losing. You want to stop, you want to sit, you want the torturer to strap you down to the rack and stretch your spine just so your lower back doesn't feel like it's being scrunched in a vice...perhaps I've said too much. You look at your watch thinking that the mile marker must be getting closer...it's only been two minutes.
The point is, the crankiness has begun to set in. People you know and love probably wouldn't recognize you, and chances are, you wouldn't want them to...because that means you'd have to interact with them.
The legs are heavy. The mind is weary. Every step is agony. Each sentence formed requires you to dig into the depths of places you never knew you thought you had just to put together a coherent thought.
The finish line is in sight. There's pain, but you know it can all be over soon. In fact, the end looks like relief. It looks like bare feet laid up on a couch not coming any where close to touching the ground. It looks like a nice tall glass of beer.
And good Lord how that big soft bed is going to feel when you slide under the cool covers.
Finally, you break the tape. You cover the table. And by God it's over. The sweeping euphoria washes over you. Do you smile? Do you cry? Do you have a choice?
My choice is to get up tomorrow and do it all over again because this week is an ultra. I'm doing my best "Michael Wardian" and pulling back-to-back marathons.
The plus side is that we've located a grocery store and tomorrow, there will be fruit, there will be yogurt, and, yes, friends, there will be kashi. And now, I sleep.