The stuff they don’t tell you

Ok, I’m sure that’s not true – runners will talk about anything and everything.

But I’ll tell you the unexpected stuff I faced during the Thunder Road Marathon (and training for said marathon.)

First, the blood.

Yes, blood. Okay, not a lot of blood. But when I got back to the hotel room after the race and I started peeling off my clothes to get into the ice bath (yes, I said ice bath. Yes, that was torture), I saw random little cuts all over me. My heart-rate monitor had scratched an imprint into my skin, complete with a circle where the battery goes. My sports-bra had scratched cuts on me (and yes, my sports bra is soft!). I had random cuts on my waist and on my back. And it felt like a jellyfish sting when these cuts hit water – it hurt so badly.

I even took a picture of these cuts for you, but I decided that was too gross.

I also had, ahem, places, that were rubbed raw from running. I won’t go into the details here, but lets’ just say they are unmentionable places and if you want to get into distance running just ask me and I’ll tell you privately. And I asked Kevin if he had that issue and he was all, “Oh, I totally figured that out after my fourth long run! Duh!” so apparently it’s common and I just didn’t have the pleasure of experiencing it until race day.

And let’s just say Aquaphor isn’t just for babies.

Second, the feet

Your toenails have to be just the right length or you’re in trouble, buddy. If they’re too long they’ll slam into the front of your shoes and then they’ll turn black and fall off. If they’re too short, well, ow. Everyone knows too-short toenails hurt. I had to ruin my pedicure (which was on its last legs anyway) the night before the race by trimming my toenails.

Also, I’ve always gotten compliments on my feet – they’ve been called “pretty” many times. But I don’t feel like they look so pretty these days. Is it my imagination, or are my toes not quite as straight as they used to be? At any rate, I know they weren’t pretty at all as I sat in my ice bath and looked at how swollen the toes were.

Also, my shoe size has gone up by about half a size. Jenn at TrySports told me that sometimes people’s feet get bigger when they run. I absolutely did not believe her (sorry, Jenn! But that sounded crazy!) so I Googled it. And oh my goodness, it’s true. But before you discount running, know that it’s other exercise too. And age also makes one’s feet bigger. And I figure if I have bigger feet but the rest of me is smaller, that’s not so bad. It does seem possible that it’s due to arches flattening out, and I have high arches, so more room to flatten out I suppose. I’ve gone from a size 6.5 to size 7 in dress shoes, and from size 8 to size 8.5 in running shoes.

Third, the bathroom

Okay I really almost didn’t bring this up. But it is something that long-distance runners have to think about, at least on some level. And if you’re terrified of port-a-potties like I am, then it’s really something to think about.

A few months ago I was out to dinner with Jeff and Susan and Colleen, and Susan turned to me and said, “So are you going to poop your pants during the marathon?”

And Colleen said, “Ew!”

To which I explained that no, I would not poop my pants during the marathon. That some hard-core competitive runners might, if they needed to save that time to win the race or qualify for Boston or something. But that I was a middle-of-the-pack runner, and if I needed to do that, it would be worth the time lost to actually stop to use the bathroom.

Colleen said, “I just assumed you’d get that over with before you run. I mean, you’re only running for what, 5 or 6 hours?”

I explained that holding it for 5 or 6 hours would be absolutely miserable. And that running sometimes makes you have to go.

And Susan said, “Imagine you have to poop. Now run.”

I tell you that conversation to illustrate why people have to think about this stuff. No one wants to have to take any bathroom break during the run. But you have to be hydrated which means you have to figure out that right balance of drinking a lot but not too much. And you have to eat so you don’t pass out, but you don’t want to eat too much or the wrong things, because no one wants to deal with that on the race course.

Me, I followed the directions per my nutrition book and Hal Hidgin book. Stop drinking about an hour before you run, which gives you time to pee it out. You can drink a cup or two at the start line – and then the water is in your stomach, not your bladder. Then you run and you sweat it out before you ever have to pee it out.

Make sure you eat 3-4 hours before the run, but your body really takes 8-10 hours to really process what you eat. It’s all about scheduling, eating the right things, and drinking at the right times.

I did what I was told, and I got lucky with no bathroom breaks at all. And I didn’t see anyone else poop their pants either, but anyone hard-core enough to do that crossed the finish line way before I did.

Fourth, the sick

Last night I was working and I suddenly had a feeling like I was getting sick. Noooo, I thought. I made sure to get lots of rest last night. This morning Kevin emailed me to tell me he was running a fever and was wondering if I was feeling okay.

Running long distances breaks down your immune system. I read in my marathon training guides to make sure I get a flu shot because with the immune system breakdown combined with the flu going around would be a bad combination. I dutifully got my flu shot (as I do every year anyway). I did not get my swine flu shot because it wasn’t available to the public until very recently, but I have been paranoid this whole time that I would get sick right before race day.

Now that I’ve sufficiently scared you away from doing any long-distance running, let me restate that I’ve lost about 10 pounds during this running process, and I have not had to sacrifice on the eating front. Let me also tell you that Crystal and I had a conversation yesterday about how running makes us stronger when it comes to survival skills – so if that scary person starts chasing me in a back ally somewhere, hopefully I can now outrun him. My energy levels are high. I am probably adding years – healthy years – to my life.

I’ll take big feet, any day.