Christian and I finally got together for some training, and it was glorious. We had wanted to organize what I called a "Mock Goruck run" which endeavors to approximate the conditions of the challenge - this based solely on deduction from the videos, pictures and blogs I've seen.
We agreed to meet at 8pm and to run from Union Square (42.358716,-71.146485) and run out to Castle Island (42.338213,-71.012793). Google Maps estimates it to be a bit less than 8 miles walking distance. We made it 12.
Note the Tough Mudder headband.
I was toting my four recently-acquired bricks, a hydration bladder full of delicious nuun-enhanced water, my camera, and an assortment of endurance foods. I'd put the weight at around 30lbs.
Here are the resultant data from the jaunt. I elected to display Speed instead of Pace, because it shows the impact of our sporadic sprints more distinctly:
The spike in my heart rate at the beginning was caused by an unplanned throwdown with an errant Pterodactyl.
The first dip is me waiting for Christian to show up, and the following generally represent stops for PT, jumping in the Charles and, finally, the brief break we took to soak in the glory of Castle Island on the water. Our average pace was about 12 minutes/mile, an estimate from averaging the paces from each individual run portion (1.53mi, 2.73mi, 2.02mi...).
Here is an overhead view of the run courtesy of Google Earth:
The overall distance of the run is impressive considering the fact that my previous unweighted distance record is just over 13 miles. I generally train alone, and the addition of a supportive buddy (who is just as - if not crazier - than me) was extremely helpful. The run was really enjoyable overall.
We stopped along the way to get our shoes soaked in the water of the Charles to make ourselves uncomfortable.
I am actually looking forward to being completely soaked before the run.
Our PT consisted of decline pushups, Spiderman pushups (declined as well), lunges, bear crawls through parks, flutter kicks, glute lifts, pullups on girders, handstands, cartwheels and juggling bowling pins in our teeth.
Exhibit A: Antics.
We made it out to the water and took a break of just under ten minutes to savor the achievement and snarf down some Clif Shot Bloks.
We were both feeling it in our knees, and had a similar tenderness in the right Sartorius, so we eased back into a shuffle for the run back into town.
The way back was dark and lovely. I experienced unadulterated hatred for one particular street which I hope never to see again. We made it through with few walking breaks until we were within bus range. Christian mentioned the possibility of taking a bus to one of the T stops. Silence. We shuffled past a bus stop, and then another. There was a beautiful, tacit agreement that we were not going to take a damn bus.
We made our way finally back to Park Street, our "finish line". We let out brutal war cries and loaded our spent bodies onto the trains home.
The ordeal was extremely motivating for me. I was strong, light, and had a great time punishing my lower body. Christian and I agreed that towards the end of the run we weren't winded, but our muscles were simply spent. My glutes were torched and my ankle began to gripe under the strain. I had no desire to stop, but I had to listen to my body to make sure I didn't get myself hurt.
I took away a great sense of accomplishment from this run; I feel ready. I felt the effect of having a buddy, and I can only venture a guess that this support is proportionately multiplied in a group. I am honored to have the opportunity to participate in the Challenge, and I am mentally prepared to give it my all.
I am still running almost every day, shorter runs (2-3 miles) with my Vibram TrekSports, longer runs (6-8 miles) with the New Balance 890s. My training will taper down soon, and I'll be stuffing myself with carbs as I did for Tough Mudder. Pete will be coming down to train on the 28th (high-intensity hill sprints), we'll be rucking off on Friday night at Cheers, and then it's on to the Challenge itself.
The day started out in a mundane way. I had no plans to run since I am waiting on a buddy to go on a weighted jaunt with me some time soon. I mulled around the apartment for a while, eventually putting on a movie recommended to me by my trainer, "Running The Sahara". The movie is basically about three ultra-marathon runners who decide to literally run across the entire Sahara Desert, from the West Coast of Africa to the Red Sea. Needless to say it was inspirational. I began preparations for a weighted run, but decided at the last minute to go for long-distance, unweighted.
Here are the data to provide a basic understanding of what I accomplished:
Yes. 13.22 miles. This is almost TWO TIMES the distance of my previous personal record (6.73 miles).
It was quite a journey. Take notice of the changes in elevation as well; this is mostly a result of me following my trainer's request of trying out Summit Avenue. I also ran the entire path; no stopping, no breaks, no PT, just straight mind-numbing running the whole way with a few sprints interspersed to keep things interesting. I ran it with my New Balance 890s, which performed famously. The spikes in my pace are, for the most part and as usual, me having to stop at intersections. The trend in my heart rate fascinates me.
Here is an overhead view of the run:
I think the best way to make sense of this messy red squiggle is to explain each phase of the run. I'll further complicate things by adding a bunch of poorly-drawn convoluted arrows in an attempt to illustrate my path:
I began at the green dot and ran down to Beacon Street. I ran two sprints along the way, holding a consistently fast speed for a few seconds, then I would slow to my normal pace. I followed Beacon until the intersection with Summit Avenue which stands diagonally from Beacon with its imposing gradient. Here's what it looks like from the bottom:
The incline only lasts about a half mile, but it's nasty and I loved it. This leg of the run is responsible for the spike in my heart rate at 15 minutes in. There is a small park at the top of the hill, and the downhill portion was pleasant. About halfway along the downhill portion I suddenly turned and sprinted back uphill for about five seconds, then turned again and finished the hill. I'm pretty sure I only thought to do this because some people were watching me run.
I turned off of Summit Ave onto Commonwealth and followed it for a long while. I was feeling great at this point and had no interest in stopping any time soon. I had not decided the path of my run or the distance before leaving, my only plan was to run Summit Ave. Having done that and still feeling strong, I followed Comm Ave until I reached Boston University's campus. I noticed the water on my left as I ran along Comm Ave and decided it might be nicer to be out there, and that this could be my opportunity to turn around. I was sure to make a mental note that though I was turning around that this in no way meant I was preparing to end my run. This was 2.3 miles from the Summit Ave junction with Comm Ave, and about 5.5 miles into the run, which I didn't know at the time. At this point I also decided that I would pay no further attention to my watch to learn how far I had gone; I would leave that until later when I felt like I might be approaching ten miles which slowly developed into a more solid goal as I progressed.
I ran along the Charles on a path called Storrow Drive. It was at this point that a headwind picked up that would fight me for the rest of my run. I continued along Storrow Dr until I reached the Boston University Bridge where I ran into a roadblock. My only option was to take a flight of stairs up to the bridge and work my way back down Comm Ave, so I did. I was apprehensive about the stairs, but they didn't seem to faze me. I ran back along Comm Ave, passing Boston University's campus again with the headwind stronger than ever. I continued onto Brighton Ave, about a mile from the BU Bridge. Brighton Ave kept me relatively engaged, and I broke out my Clif Shot gummies and did my best to eat one. They taste good, and it felt like it was the right thing to be eating for this sort of exercise (being already over 6.5 miles into the run). I choked it down and chased it with some nuun-enhanced water from my hydration pack (I am so thankful to have both of these things), and charged ahead.
The path became more familiar once I reached Harvard Ave since I used to do weighted runs in the area. I turned off Brighton Ave onto Cambridge Street and followed it to a familiar intersection. I continued along, feeling strong, until I icame to a road called Winship which leads to my apartment. I decided to look at my watch to see how far I had gone, and it would have read just over eight miles which was already about a mile and a half farther than my previous personal record. With the goal of ten miles firmly planted in my mind, I resolved to run up Winship, down Chestnut Hill Ave, and then run to Boston College's campus and back which would certainly have me finishing with at least ten total miles. And so I did. I continued along, my pace now a bit slower than normal (you'll notice the slight slowing of my pace as I run the entire distance which I find just as fascinating as the inverse trend of my heart rate). I made it down to Boston College's campus, and turned around to come back up Comm Ave again, towards home. Then something amazing happened.
I decided at one point to run a hard sprint through an intersection, and it felt fine. Good, even. This was, ironically, ten miles into the run. As I was coming down from the sprint I had a curious realization. I didn't want to stop. I was overcome with euphoria and involuntarily a big dopey smile came across my face. I mentally agreed with this wild notion, as if it had been proposed to me by someone else. Somewhere, I believe, I was competing with the fact that my friend Pete recently completed a half-marathon (typically just over 13 miles). My thoughts went to how I might extend the run and there it was: the reservoir. I was quite familiar with it from before, and it was along the way.
I turned off Comm Ave, and made my way down to the windswept path around the ol' Res. The reservoir's path is about 1.5 miles around and I ran it at a good pace. I was kept interested in the run by the other runners, people walking along the path, and various other things. I made it back to the entrance of the reservoir, and made my way up Chestnut Hill Ave, meaning to end the run and call it a day. Then, again, something amazing happened.
A ridiculous song came on my iPod which repeats the phrase "don't stop". This song has served me quite well on numerous occasions in helping me persevere through a difficult run, especially the trail-running I was doing last semester. I laughed out loud at the song, and its outlandish suggestion that I continue running. But I began to consider, am I really tired? Do I really want to stop?
So I ran some more, resolving to attain half-marathon distance. The skies became cloudy as I passed my apartment. I begged for rain and it came to me. I looped around and as I was making my way back up to my apartment, in the final leg of the run, it began to rain on me. A sweet, chilling, heavy rain that seemed to wash away my fatigue. It was glorious. I broke the 13-mile barrier and slowed to an enthusiastic walk, smiling to myself. I barely made it up the steps in my apartment building, and allowed myself a few minutes of peace before running out on an errand.
I burned at least 1670 calories on this run, so I've been eating A LOT today. I actually need to go grocery shopping tomorrow because I basically ate all the rest of my food.
I am supremely pleased with the run, my performance, and the record itself. I won't shoot for anything longer than this for some time, but it was INCREDIBLY reinforcing to know that I can do this. Today's run represents the strongest mental resolve I have ever experienced, and it's fantastically motivating.
I'm going to crush Tough Mudder and I will complete the Goruck Challenge. I have no further doubts.