First of all, the disclaimer is that I am not training the recommended way that one trains for a marathon. I increased the length of this long run by almost five miles from my longest run to date, since I skipped my 17-18 miler. I wish I coulda/woulda trained a little more, but at the same time, it may have done me in and caused another injury.
Anyway, yesterday was the long run - the 20. The most mentally grueling, dreaded, scary part of marathon training. I decided that 18 would be good enough, but I really wanted to hit that 20. To me, running 20 miles would be the ultimate test of whether I would really be able to complete a marathon without nearly killing myself in the process - something I've struggled with doubting for the last few weeks.
I went downtown to start the run, because I live uphill from everything, and there's just no way to do a 20 mile run solely in my suburb without doing multiple loops, and I hate loops. It's a total mental thing with me; I think, "I already ran this once, I'm not doing it again!!" So running 20 would mean leaving my neighborhood, and having to end the run with 2-3 miles of uphill to get back. Wasn't going there with a 20 mile run.
I passed the running spot group on my way downtown, running the same way I was about to run. It must've been the fast group, because they were all booking it. I saw Coach Joe and Coach Sarah and nobody else that I recognized. Yup - fast group! Parked the car, took a deep breath, and took off. At turtle pace. Go back and watch the Tosh.0 clip I posted. Slow Motion Girl - it was my goal to look like that. (Well, not necessarily in terms of gorgeousness, definitely not in terms of boob bounciness, but in terms of running speed!) It felt good and easy and while I felt slow (especially when there were a lot of FAST runners out that morning) it was easy to feel nice and relaxed. Plus, the weather was PERFECT.
I'll spare you all the details, but the highlights - it wasn't awful. It got harder as I went, but I kept the same 11 and change pace for the majority of the run. The main problem was boredom. That's just a long time to be doing anything, and I had nobody to talk to. The sun came up and got a bit hot. I found myself talking to bunnies along the trail without realizing it. At one point, I realized I was singing along with Pink and hadn't even noticed. My hydration/nutrition plan seemed to work great - sip of water at every mile, shot blok at every 3. I'm wondering if I wouldn't benefit from a little more nutrition - maybe add some gels, too, or gatorade instead of water - but I'm not sure if I was feeling tired from running or more from being bored!
13.1 miles in (2:28), I stopped at UDF to refill my water bottle and get some ice. I shoveled it into my bra in front of two somewhat amused men, one of whom warned me that I would probably go into shock. I would say post-13 was the most difficult part of the run. I slowed way down. The heat could've been partially to blame. At any rate, I kept telling myself to get to 3, get to 3, and then at 3 I wanted to be DONE. So I switched to a 5/1 Gallowalk. It helped a lot, although it got super annoying staring at my Garmin. Time was going sooo slowly. I finished my 18 mile route, got to my car, and almost almost almost decided to be done there....but I really wanted that 20. So I took a little bit of a break, switched out water bottles (I'd stashed a frozen one in my car - smart move, since it was thawed but nice and chilly!) and took off in the opposite direction through the downtown parks. My last two miles were actually easier than the previous two, even though my ipod died at 18.5. I was able to run a little faster and go a little longer between walk breaks. For the last half mile, I just kept repeating, "Get to 20, get to 20, get to 20!"
End result was that I didn't feel half bad. Sore and tired for sure, but better than last week after the half, which tells me that maybe I could've gone a little faster. I think that on race day, when I'm not all by my lonesome, I'll be better off mentally. Hopefully it'll be a little cooler. Plus, I'll walk at the water stops, and I think that'll conserve some energy - I was drinking while running and didn't actually take a walk break at all until 3 hours in.
At one point, I wanted to do a 4:30 marathon. I think I could, easily, if I had gotten more training in. This time, I'm primarily trying to finish, but I'd like to do it in under 5. My plan is to try to run with the 4:45 pace group for a while and re-evaluate around mile 20. I think that's doable, and that will give me some people to commiserate with. I'm also feeling better about my ability to do this. I was told (by one of the all-knowing advice-givers on the internet, of course) that I would probably re-evaluate doing a marathon after I attempted to run 20 miles. NOPE. I have no reason to - it felt pretty good. Physically, it felt better than I thought it would; mentally, it felt worse, but the mental part is easy to fix.
The plan after this is to get some new shoes, hopefully some that are better for my areas of injury proneness. I noticed recently that my current setup is overcorrecting my weakness - I usually roll my feet way in, but now, I'm actually running on the outside of my feet, and I don't think that's good either. I'd also like to be able to wean off the calf sleeves without hurting myself. All this is to be addressed post-marathon, as I'm not changing a single thing beforehand!!
Come January, I think I'll try training with the Pig group again. Hopefully as long as I keep running during the fall, I'll be in a good place to step up the run frequency and mileage. My speed improved a lot last time I ran with them; I may go for a slower improvement this next time, but I should be able to really PR when I do the Pig in May. This time, I'm just setting up my time to beat!!