In December 2004 I let a good friend talk me into training for the June 2005 Anchorage Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska. She argued that it was for a good cause, I agreed, signed up and started training (and raising almost $5,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society) right away.
Back then I was working the occasional 12 hour night, but mostly days, in the ICU. Fitting runs in around my schedule got a little tricky sometimes, but pretty much worked out if I planned ahead. Of course, as John and I got engaged in April '05, things started to get pretty busy, and that planning didn't always happen.
What does all of this have to do with my longest run? I'm getting to that.
I had just finished a stretch of nights in the beginning of May, went home and crashed into bed around 9 a.m., and then got up around 1 or 2 p.m. I knew I needed to get a run in, but was too tired to put much effort into it. I decided to go the the Boulevard, which anyone from around Portland knows is the mostly flat 3.5 mile trail around the Bay. Just what I needed. I didn't bother eating or drinking anything before I went, because I would be back home soon anyway. No need to fuel up for such a short run.
I started out pretty slowly, slogging thru my run. About halfway thru, though, I started to perk up. It was pretty warm, but not baking, and an occasional breeze came in off the water. I came to the end of the 3.5 miles and thought, I'll do it again!
So off I went, in the opposite direction, thinking that this was pretty good. I would get some miles in when I hadn't even planned to, so my mileage would be right where it should be for the week.
I needed to do my 16 mile run this week.
Darn it! I hadn't planned my week out well, it was already Thursday and when was I going to fit in my longest run yet? I had never run 16 miles before, but it was a hugely important part of my training, and I needed to get it in this week.
At 6 miles or so I was feeling pretty good, and I had an epiphany. I could do my 16 mile run today! Right now, in fact. I would just run around the Bay four times, plus 2 miles. There were three water fountains for when I got thirsty, so I would be all set.
Off I went, changing directions again, back the way I had originally run around, heading out for my third loop. Partway thru that loop I started to think, I'm all set for water, but I haven't eaten anything for at least 12 hours, that can't be good. At the very least I'm probably sweating out all of my electrolytes.
The nurse in me started to picture what could happen . . . I deplete all of my sodium and potassium stores and collapse to the ground at mile 15, in full cardiac arrest. There are no medical personnel around, and by the time I get CPR it's too late. I end up resuscitatated but in a Persistant Vegitative State. I'm Maine's Terry Schiavo, forget the marathon, forget getting married, forget any kind of life!
At this point my imagination had gotten pretty carried away, and I knew I had to come up with a solution to my no fuel problem. I didn't want to stop running, I was on a roll. I had water, but at 8 miles was only halfway to my goal and had no gels with me.
What to do to avoid certain death?!
And then I had it. I would just replace the electrolytes I was losing! (Please remember I was a bit sleep deprived from working nights, hadn't eaten in a while, and my brain might not have been thinking at its best.)
Having come up with the perfect solution, I continued on my run. And for the next 8 miles, each time I stopped for water, I made sure to get a good swipe of sweat off my forehead, and then lick off every little bit of salt off my hand. I don't know what all the other runners/walkers/bikers at the Bay thought of the strange girl licking her own sweat, but I do know I lived to tell about it.
Two weeks later I had to do my 20 mile run; I placed water bottles ahead of time, brought gels with me, and ate a whole banana halfway thru. I was proud of myself when I finished it, but my strongest memory of that period of training is of that 16-mile run, and how I cheated death by being my own personal salt-lick.