Today I tackled my first stand-alone 20 miler of this training block. Although I’ve done a couple of 19 milers they’ve all been either interval workouts or miles I’ve tacked on to a race which means I’ve had a couple of minutes to rest before completing my run. So although I’ve done 20 miles in a day, I haven’t, in my mind, done a 20 miler. You feel me?
I had a busy weekend full of family and friends’ birthday parties and spent the night at my mom’s house in Chico. Normally I get really nervous about 20 milers– I mean it’s 20 miles. That’s a long way. But I was so busy making a kickass M&M cake, bread pudding, buying the cutest boots known to man, hanging out with my mom, celebrating the family and drinking wine that I kind of forgot to be nervous. I mean, I prepared (if by prepared you mean eat a lot) and went to bed early (if you call midnight early) and rested my legs (if by rested you mean walked all around the mall and downtown in cute but not supportive shoes)…
Normally I like to train really hard. When I’m working in a race I like to remind myself of all the hard workouts I’ve done, how terrible I felt, etc but you also need the good runs to remind you why the heck you do this! So this morning I woke up, drank some coffee, ate some toast and jetted out my mom’s door. She lives about 1/2 mile from the most glorious park you can imagine– the lower portion has a 5 mile dirt loop that leads to a network of hilly trails that are just gorgeous, heavily used and perfect for training.
I felt kind of junky the first 4 miles of my run but around mile 5, everything started to click. I ran the lower portion of the park and then headed about 3-4 miles up hill (some of it rolls but mostly it’s a gradual ascent) and then turned around. Miles 5-18 flew by! At one point as I was running along a trail that rims the side of a canyon (ps I forgot how fun trail running is– focusing on your steps really keeps you from getting bored) I thought to myself, “am I having fun? On a 20 mile run? Really?” But I was! I had a great time out there today! It was a gorgeous fall day, sunny and cool, the leaves are changing and there were tons of runners, mountain bikers and hikers enjoying the park. I loved it! Plus, I spent basically every spring, summer and fall of my childhood in the park and so it’s fun to reminisce about all the shenanigans that went down during my wayward youth! I remember struggling to WALK up one of the hills I ran up today which makes me laugh. I also got to see my coach JackAlberto out running which was a huge boost- can’t look weak for coach!
Today was, hands down, the best I have ever felt during a long run in my entire life. Not only did I negative split the run in a big way, but I felt like I could have run a marathon today. I only stopped twice (both times to refill my water bottle) and only needed 2 gus- one at mile 9 and one at mile 16. And truthfully, I only kind of needed those. I felt awesome. Plus, I had fun. I never got nauseated, never felt tired, never puked, never got achy, never cramped… just ran 20 solid miles.
When I got home, I continued to feel good. My muscles never stiffened up and although I’m tired, I managed to go on a walk with my mom and her dog, do some chores and have a normal day. This run is a huge confidence booster to me with CIM 6 weeks out. Yes, I ran it at 9:10 pace which is way slower than I hope to run the marathon, but I was able to run a 7:50 last mile and tackled some pretty huge hills. Also, did I mention that it was fun? So what contributed to my success?
1. I carried my own water. I don’t normally bring my own water, but it was necessary today. I’m finding that slowly sipping water every 5 minutes works well for me. Crap. That means I’m going to have to carry it in the race and I really don’t want to. But I hate aid stations and I’m not yet elite, so squeeze bottle it may have to be.
2. I didn’t stress out about this run. I was so relaxed when I woke up and only glanced at my garmin occasionally. I just ran how I felt, listened to my body, zoned to my tunes and enjoyed my morning.
3. I’ve been running a lot. I think today’s run is confirmation that my fitness and endurance are improving and that’s because I’ve been putting in the work. It wasn’t magic.
4. Last week I only ran 51 miles– a huge reduction which allowed me to recover and absorb some of my training.
5. I ran somewhere new– my brain didn’t automatically stop where I normally get tired or send tired signals toward the end of the bike trail. Changing it up is good!
I don’t want to put too much emphasis on one long run, but I’m ecstatic. It’s a great way to start my last 70 mile week. And I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I’m sad it’s my lat 70 miler. I’ve loved, loved, loved all the running I’ve done this cycle. Tapering is going to be so hard for me! I’m so happy to have a great run, in a beautiful place and to have fun doing it.There’s only one word for a run like this morning– spectacular. I was grinning like an idiot the whole time. Life is good people.