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14 Sucky Miles & Many Mistakes

Posted Feb 20 2012 10:23am

Yeah that’s right, Saturday’s long run was sucky.

Since I started getting into distance running, each weekend brings an exciting challenge. Whether I’m training for a marathon or a half marathon, I look forward to my Saturday run, because it’s usually some sort of double-digit definition for fun.

Coach Cane ‘s plan for me this weekend was 14 miles. Normally in my brain I would think, “Only 14 miles? Easy! Cutback week! No big deal. I can run 14 miles on an empty stomach and then function all day without a hitch.” OK, Ali. Keep being cocky. That’ll get you far in training…and in life.

But since the whole hip pain thing kicked into high gear this week, Coach Cane told me I could “drop it down to 10 if needed.” Maybe that’s what I should have done. I don’t know.

And hey Coach, have we met? My name is Ali, and if you tell me to run 14 miles, I’m going to run 14 miles. Also, I’m not very smart. Pleased to make your acquaintance. Tally ho.

After many emails back-and-forth on Friday, Coach Cane asked, “Want some company for your 14 tomorrow?”

You bet I do!

And that’s how I ended up running 14 miles through Central Park with my wonderful coach on Saturday.

Let’s backtrack a little.

After work on Friday, I was too tired to make dinner and didn’t want to spend money going out. So I went to bed without eating dinner. Let’s call that Mistake #1.

Mistake #2 would be waking up Saturday with a cold and thinking long running was a good idea. But in my mind, I could have postponed the run and then woken up on Sunday feeling even worse. So why put it off?

(For the record, I woke up yesterday with a sore throat but feeling much better than I did Saturday. Oh well.)

I took my time getting ready, as I always do: sit-ups, some water, bathroom things, checking the weather, and eating the breakfast of champions, thanks to a little Valentine’s Day delivery from Mom On The Run.

Oh so delicious and not at all nutritious.

I slapped my Garmin on my wrist and it was like, “Sorry, Ali, I’m dead.” I spent about three seconds trying to get it to work, but it wanted to sleep, so I headed out without a tracking system.

I ran toward Central Park — the plan was to meet Coach Cane on the west side of the 102nd Street Transverse — and felt fine as I ran slowly in that direction. Not much hip pain, and it actually felt good to loosen things up a bit.

Mistake #3: My outfit choice. It was basically this:

Minus the bib. I did not wear a bib on Saturday.

The jacket? Fine. Shorts in February? Also acceptable. Even the legwarmers? Sure. Coach Cane expects that.

But the headband? Oh, the headband.

The first thing Coach Cane said when he saw me was, “Are you wearing a tiara?”

I very sheepishly removed the headband, asked if he wanted to borrow it (he didn’t), and shoved the glittery piece of elastic into my pocket. I made a mental note to leave the flash at home next time.

Coach Cane said he would run with me for about 10 miles. That would put me at a total of 12 including my warm-up, so then I’d just have to run home once we parted ways and I’d be done. Easy enough, right?

Apparently not.

We started to run, and it seems as though Coach Cane and I have exact opposite views on what constitutes a “fun” route in Central Park. I like the main roads and the Reservoir.

Oh Reservoir, you are my happy place. You're flat and fabulous.

He likes the Extended Bridle Path.

I friggin’ hate the Extended Bridle Path. You start out and it’s lovely and seemingly all downhill. So guess what that means on the way back? Uphill, at least in my mind.

But he was in charge, and so I followed.

Actually, I didn’t follow, which brings me to Mistake #4.

Coach Cane had the watch and Coach Cane was supposed to be leading. He was “pacing me” on my long run.

So why was I running in front of him most of the time? I should have been following behind, not keeping a few steps in front of him. He didn’t point this out to me until the end of the run, and I wish I had taken note earlier. If someone agrees to pace you, stay next to or behind them. Not a few paces ahead. Coach Cane made some joke about “pacing me from behind” and I felt stupid.

Mistake #5, you ask? Well that would be constantly inquiring about what mile we were at and what pace we were doing. I tried not to ask too often, because I knew that would be irritating, but when I couldn’t breathe and felt like I was dying, I secretly hoped Coach Cane would be like, “Yeah, Ali, that’s because we’re cruising at a sweet 6:30 pace, doesn’t this feel great?!”


As we ran, my legs felt heavy. It was like I was dragging them behind me. I felt the effects of no pre-run dinner, and I was cursing Central Park for not having functional water fountains in the winter. I was dehydrated for sure, and I couldn’t breathe too well. My hip was the least of my concerns.

I couldn’t just let go and relax and enjoy the run. I should have soaked up every single minute I got with Coach Cane. How many people get the opportunity to run one-on-one with their coach? I was lucky, but I felt like shit, and that was all I could focus on.

Perhaps the most embarrassing moment during the run was after I had asked Coach Cane — twice — if I could “stop and stretch my hip.” The first time was after a slight uphill climb on the Bridle Path. The second time was as we cruised around the Reservoir. I was exhausted and we were only at mile nine.

I “stretched,” and he totally called my bluff.

“If you keep wanting to stop and catch your breath, don’t tell me you have to stretch. Let’s just slow down.”

I felt like a moron, honestly. I was embarrassed that he saw through my plan, and realized that I do this way too often on runs. I wear my watch and I don’t like to see the pace slow, and so I stop, pause my watch, catch my breath and then keep going.

“The clock doesn’t stop on race day, and we have to prepare you for that,” Coach Cane said.

Clearly Mistake #6 was lying to my Coach, telling him I needed to stop and stretch, and getting awkwardly busted.

I couldn’t get out of my head on this run. I’m not used to having tough long runs. Throughout Hamptons training and then Las Vegas half training, every single long run went perfectly as planned. So to have a tough run — alongside the one guy I want to impress — was sad and a bit humiliating.

Of all people, Coach Cane understands, I’m sure. He knows every run won’t be a good one, and he knows we have good days and bad days. I just felt like a wimp.

That’s probably why, when we split ways on the 102nd Street Transverse where we had started nearly two hours earlier, I stopped running as soon as Coach Cane was out of my sight.

The second I stopped, my hip began to hurt. I walked for a minute back toward the east side, and then ran again, albeit very, very slowly. I have never been so happy to be Garmin-free. Those splits would have crushed me I’m sure.

As I ran/walked my way back home, I neared Engineers’ Gate and saw Brian — out for his first post-knee injury thing long run! — coming my way.

And then, this should come as no surprise, I started to cry.

I saw him and kind of lost it. I was embarrassed I’d had a bad run in front of my Coach and I was frustrated that my hip hurt. Honestly, I just freaked out a little, and had a good curbside cry…in front of all the passing runners. I’m so hardcore.

Brian and I chatted for a bit, and then he finished up his run and I hobbled home. I got really cold and desperately thirsty. I stopped at the New York Road Runners office near the park to stick my face under the bathroom faucet because I wanted water so badly.

I felt pathetic. And I was acting in accordance to how I felt.

I finally got home and I tried to ice my hip, but I was so cold that I just needed to get into a shower. I stood there for about 30 minutes, thawed out and then spent two hours being horizontal on my couch.

A productive Saturday for sure!

Mistake #7 was not being honest enough with Coach Cane. He was out to help me, and I tried to be tough instead of telling him that things were going on. I didn’t want him to think I was weak because I had a “little cold,” but it was taking a toll on me.

I worry so much about what Coach Cane thinks of me, which is stupid. Saturday night, though, I got a text from him thanking me for joining him on the run, and that improved my mood beyond belief. Also because the text included a picture of Simon:

HI SIMON!!! Seriously, you are the cutest human alive.

I iced and foam rolled quite a bit on Saturday, and yesterday I hit the roads again to see how I would feel.

And I felt so much better.

I ran six miles, my hip didn’t hurt and I was relaxed. Weird.

I also saw horses on the Bridle Path, which seemed cool and fitting, since that’s what the path was initially for, right? Not for us sweaty people.


Mistake #8, not just on Saturday, but in life: I over-think things and put too much pressure on myself. But you knew that already. I cry when I’m worked up and I don’t reflect on things until about 24 hours later.

I’m looking forward to my doctor’s appointment tomorrow so I can have a professional check out my hip. In the meantime, I’m besties (according to the teen magazine I work for, the cool kids are using that word) with my ice pack and my foam roller. I’m running slowly, but I’m still running, because I can.

Today’s plan is five slow miles. I kind of like this “slow” thing, at least for now.

Also, I’m excited for my next long run, because I bet it’s going to be good. I got the tough one out of the way, and that means I earned a solid one next, right? Correct.

Running, you crazy beast. You keep me on my toes. And on my couch. And I love you.

And Coach Cane, I think you’re great. Thank you for running with me and getting me through those miles.

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