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learning the hard way

You know how your running buddies, coach and pretty much every article ever written about running advises you never to try anything new, different or experimental the day before a race or an important training run?

There's a reason for it.

I stupidly chose yesterday -- the day before my planned 18-20 miler -- to check out Santa Rosa's only Ethiopian restaurant. It made sense at the time: The restaurant is a few doors down from the running store, and I needed to pick up Honey Stingers for my run. Why not have lunch in the neighborhood? After all, I love Ethiopian food, and it would be nice to get my injera fix without having to drive all the way to San Francisco.

The food was good. (And so pretty! Doesn't it look like an artist's palette?) It wasn't too spicy (which I was actually really happy about), but it still had a lot of flavor. I was glad I went. The rest of the afternoon and evening passed without incident.

And then I woke up this morning.

Apparently, it really is possible to spend an hour in the bathroom doing something other than blow-drying your hair and putting on makeup. Every time I thought I was done, nope, there was more yet to come. Let me tell you, it was not fun.

After that experience, I thought about postponing the run, but the forecast said rain all day tomorrow. I was left with no choice: Do it now, or risk failing to get out the door later because of pouring rain. I had to get it done.

I was worried I was already dehydrated, so I tried to eat salt tabs and drink lots of water. This worked at first. I was tired, but everything seemed to be functioning OK -- maybe moving a little slower than normal, but otherwise OK. I ran across town to Shollenberger (I have such a soft spot for this place since it was where I first started running seriously), did a few loops out there, watched the bird people ogle the ducks through their tripod telescopes and started running back.

Just before Mile 14, the stomach cramps began. At this point, I wasn't far from home, so I just kept going. I figured if worse came to worse, at least I was near a bathroom. The cramps eventually went away, so I refilled my water bottle, ate a Honey Stinger waffle (now I'm wondering if this was a mistake too -- again with the trying new things) and went on.

At this point, I only had 3.5 miles left before I hit 18. I kept telling myself, That's nothing. You run more than that all the time. You can do 3.5 miles in your sleep.

I barely managed those last few miles. I crawled along -- yup, survival shuffle in full effect, folks -- until Mile 16.5 or so, and then I had to take a walk break because my stomach hurt so badly, like I had a sideache on both sides of my body at the same time. Desperate just to finish the workout, I tried to run around the track -- which I usually find comforting because the distances are measured and I know exactly how much I have left to go -- but the pain got worse. I felt like I could barely breathe -- like someone hit me in the stomach with a crowbar. For awhile, I actually thought I was going to vomit.

I ended up walking most of the last mile. It was pathetic. I felt like a loser. And I really should've known better. I mean, come on -- I know this. What was I thinking?

So lesson learned. From now on, I'm sticking to to my pre-run pasta. Nothing but pasta.

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