So This is BONKING....

I now think I fully understand the term "bonking." I bonked not once, but twice today on my last (Thank You, God) 20-miler.

I started the run with a group of about 10-12 people from my running club. Everyone except for about four of us was running between 10 and 13 miles. The four of us were training for the full, so we had to do 20 today. They all started out pretty fast. I tried to monitor my pace in those first few miles, but I really had two choices:

1) Go too fast and keep up with the group, but pay the price later. OR
2) Run alone in the backwoods of Tennessee and get eaten by dogs. (I had run this route before and there are 3 VERY aggressive dogs on it. And I forgot my mace.)

I chose Option 1. When I hit the six-mile point in about 59 minutes, I knew I was running somewhere between 10K pace and half-marathon pace. I was nowhere near marathon-training pace, so I knew the end of my run was NOT going to be good. I finally came to my senses, grabbed a handful of rocks (to pelt the dogs if necessary) and put them in my pocket, and started running my pace. I was bringing up the rear, but so what? Somebody has to.

Around the 10-mile point, I recognized the house where the three scary BIG dogs live. I found a large tree branch on the ground and, looking like a complete idiot, started running with it in my hand. So I now had rocks and a tree. It wasn't long before they ran out, barking their heads off, and seemed to try to take a bite out of the runner about 30 yards in front of me. She stopped and told them, "No" and "Go home." They were literally close enough to take a nip out of her, but they finally retreated and began to lay in wait for the next runner--me.

I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I hoped the old saying, "dogs can smell your fear" wasn't accurate. With the same aggressive behavior, one of the three came after me. I held up my tree and yelled at him the same way the other runner had. The tree made him think twice, and he didn't come out nearly as close to me as he had the other runner. It's a good thing because I would have fainted. And they would have eaten me. (All three dogs had necks the size of my waist.)

I was comfortable at a 10:15 to 10:45 pace for the remainder of the first 13.1 miles. I even passed a couple of runners! (It's good to NOT be last.) I finished the half-marathon point at around 2:16. At the 13.5 mile point, I had two friends waiting to run with me the last few miles. That was really motivating. I had run most of the 13 alone (unless you count Cujo?) and I was ready to be around people. I stopped by my car for a minute or two, got my 1/2 peanut butter and honey sandwich and refilled my fuel belt with Cytomax, and we were off for the last 6.5.

I started out all chatty and at a good pace, and then BAM! At 16 miles, I hit a mini-wall. One minute I was cruising along at about a 10:15 pace, feeling fine, the next minute I was dragging at an 11:30 pace with great effort. I walked for a few seconds and took my 4th and last GU with caffeine. (Honestly, I was surprised the fatigue and lactic acid build up didn't hit until mile 16. I KNEW I had to pay the price for those first 6 miles being too fast at some point. At least it wasn't at 11 or 12!)

I recovered around 17 and 18 somewhat. I thought, "Maybe that was just a little rough patch?" My friend Lana and I were having an interesting chat about running club stuff and it took my mind off of everything for a bit. But it was short-lived. BOOM! At 19, the wall reared it's ugly head again. This time it was bigger and harder. I seriously started bonking. I would take little walk breaks, and my friend would jog circles around me (literally). But I knew that was the only way I was going to finish. By mile 20, I was doing the "dead man's shuffle" when I wasn't walking.

Having started out at a 9:45 pace for mile 1, I looked at my Garmin and was sad to see myself finishing up that 20th mile in..... 12:46.

Not exactly the way to do it on race day in three weeks! On race day, I'll be more careful not to start too fast, be more consistent, and run smarter. I know I can do it---I ran my last half-marathon like that. Today just wasn't my day. At least there are no dogs in downtown Nashville. ARE THERE???

Final time: 3:37:57 Those 4:45-and 5:00-hour pace groups are looking better and better!

HEEELLLOOO TAPER!!!!!!!! I think I love you.


Lisa said…
That is a horrible feeling! Do you think it was just going out too fast? Did you eat enough? Drink enough? Sleep enough? I know sometimes you just have a bad day, but it is good to think about it so you can avoid it on race day.

Sorry about the dogs. That would be stressful to run on edge like that.

I can't believe you are tapering! Enjoy it!
Stacey said…
I have totally been there! Bonking is NOT fun! Make sure you get really good sleep 2 nights before your race..I know that whole week will be hard for you to sleep, being your first marathon, but that will help. It really is good for you to have experienced this at this point in your training, now on race day you will know more what to expect and you will be able to get through it!
I had to laugh about the dogs, (I know it wasn't funny) but I had the image of you running with your rocks and tree....good thing you had the tree! Enjoy your taper and good luck! Can't wait to hear about your race.
I bonked big time both my 20-milers but I think it was a great learning experience but race day was totally different (better) and I bet it'll be the same for you! For one thing, you will (with any luck) not have to run the race with three rabid dogs chasing you. Mace? Rocks? Sticks? You Tennessee runners are TOUGH!!

Congratulations on completing a gutsy 20-miler.
Bill said…
Definitely good lessons to learn today instead of in three weeks.

Remember the key to marathons - start slow. Then throttle back. ;^)

Actually, that's the key to finishing strong. A slow start, then start picking up the pace after the halfway point. A nice negative split is the goal, which should lead to a solid finish.
Tina said…
Those bad, mean dogs! But the thought of you carrying a tree - that's funny! During the marathon, if you feel like quitting (I hope this doesn't happen) remember today. You didn't quit! You finished!
StangLuvr said…
Congrats on finishing your 20 miler!!! I have not ran since TK 1/2. I hope to start back on Monday with an easy 3 miles to test the IT band. You can lose alot of will power when you miss 3 weeks and drop out of the CMM 1/2 too. Well, back to building a good base mileage when I finally get back to running.
Bethany said…
The most important thing is that you never gave up!!! I was LOL about the dog story, not that it was funny but I can just imagine you running with that stick in the air ready to bust a dog on the nose...

Great Job!
I totally do the same thing about dogs. I usually run with pepper spray but when I forget it, I will pick up a large stick and have it aimed and ready for the dogs. (I know which houses they run out at) The bonking is never fun and it can be SO SUPER dis-couraging, but like Stacey said.... you now know better what to expect on race day. You are so ready and I think that if you watch your pace the first half, you will have a great race day.
Those dogs sound terrible! Glad nothing bad happened.

I think you probably learned a lot from bonking on your run. You know you can push through it and you know not to start out too fast. So, that's good! Yay for your taper!
Velma said…
Great job making it through the 20, and welcome to the taper! Don't you wish that people would be more mindful of their dogs!!!

I like the skirt. I may have to get brave and get one myself :)
Anonymous said…
Maybe it's because I'm a beginning runner, but I think you did great. I am sure you will do awesome on your race. Of course up until today had never heard of bonking. I'll also have to remember that stick trick for any dogs in my way, lol.