As explained in previous blog posts, my training has not been any kind of "ordinary" the past several weeks. Thankfully, I am not obsessive-compulsive about stats or going by the books. Allowing myself some freedom and flexibility keeps me sane (somewhat).
I ran my second 20-miler this past weekend. Since it had only been a mere eight days since the other 20-miler, I kept it very easy with my mileage between these two long runs. I knew my body would not only need some recovery time from the first run, but it also would need a little rest in preparation for the second go-round. And, let's just say my strategy worked well.
I have run most of my long runs this summer with Barb, a friend who is also training for the IMT Des Moines Marathon. We have another friend, Doug, who is running the same marathon, and he invited us to run these (second) 20 miles with him.
Eager to get out of our town and run some different roads, we headed to Newton (20 miles west of Grinnell) and met up with Doug at 7:15AM. He had a 20-mile route mapped out and a fuel belt with several water bottles at the ready.
We ran about two miles from his house, and that got us to the outskirts of town. Before I knew it, we were on a highway south of town, headed east. I didn't know it at the time, but we would not be seeing much of civilization for several miles.
It was very liberating to run a different route, in a strange town. I don't do much highway running, so this also was a new adventure for me. We spent a great deal of time in the gravel on the shoulder of the highways, saw a lot of road kill, and even had a group of six deer cross our path in between corn fields.
I had my watch to monitor the time, but really had no specific mile marks to gauge my pace. And that was OK. It's good to let all those details go once in awhile, and just run. These long training runs, after all, are not about speed.
It wasn't until about the seventh mile that we stopped at a convenience store. We used the restroom, refueled, and refilled the water bottles. We were keeping a pretty consistent 10-minute pace. Did I mention the temps were only in the high 40's when we hit the road? Although it was overcast, and somewhat windy, I never felt uncomfortably cold. I did play several rounds of "Gloves On/Gloves Off" throughout the morning, though.
We ran a couple more miles, and came upon another convenience store. We decided to make another quick pit stop to refill the water bottles. Also, some of the clouds had cleared, and the sun was now shining brightly...and I had left my sunglasses in the car. I checked out the sunglasses on display in the store, hoping to find a cheap pair to get me through the remaining 11 miles. There were some fashionable Duck Dynasty ones (with a camo pattern on the frames), but I wasn't ready to part with $15 for them. Doug assured me we'd be running due north, so I decided to risk it and passed on the sunglasses.
Back on the road, we headed north on (yet) another hill. I lost count of the number of hills, but there were plenty. Only a couple were challenging, but there were numerous "rolling" hills on our route that morning. I train on hills regularly, but most of my hills are in town...not out in the wide-open countryside. That's also OK. We will have some hills on race day, and we very well could also have wind.
Around mile 13, we turned to head west and took a quick walk break and refueled. This run, overall, was feeling great. It's amazing how fast the miles seem to go when you're running them with friends. Laughter and chatter do wonders for long-distance running! Even the typical aches, pains, and initial stiffness seem minimized.
At approximately the 14.5 mile mark, there was another gas station/convenience store. Doug informed us that this was the last "pit stop opportunity" of the morning, so he refilled the water for the final time and we used the restroom. We could really feel the wind out there. The bright sunshine at mile nine had not lasted long, so it was a wise decision to not buy the Duck Dynasty glasses.
We ran about another mile west before turning to head south along a major highway. In my opinion, this was the longest and most challenging stretch of the entire 20 miles. The traffic was pretty steady, so we were constantly weaving back and forth from the road to the (bumpy) shoulder and we were on a gradual incline. The road also had a slight curve to the southeast, so you could never actually see the top of the hill. I just kept my eyes to the road in front of me and did my best to keep my breathing under control.
Finally, we made it to our last interchange, and turned east. We had gone almost 18 miles, so we were on the home stretch. We took a quick walk break and had some water, before continuing towards our destination. We were officially back on city streets! Even though the terrain was a little less challenging, we still had a few remaining hills to conquer, as well as the persistent wind to battle.
The final two miles went relatively fast. I was feeling a bit fatigued, but the only physical annoyance was the impending blister on my left foot (near the "bunion" region). Even though I had thoroughly mole-skinned the area, it still felt like it was on fire. My hips, glutes, and legs all felt fine, though.
We made it back to Doug's house in 3:22:12.....almost the exact time I had run my 20-miler last year. I was very pleased with that finish time, especially considering all the hills we'd climbed and the wind we'd fought against to finish those 20 miles.
It's been three days, and I feel great. I've run twice since then (each time only two miles in distance, but at a very tempo-like speed). I am being careful to continue hydrating, and have been stretching and foam rolling.
Despite the craziness from the past couple months with all my aches, pains, and stiffness (and the drama in figuring out which shoes to wear), I have a very good feeling about my marathon in 11 days. I have no aggressive goals to qualify for Boston, or even snag that coveted sub-4-hour finish, but I have every bit of confidence in knowing I will cross the finish line. That's victory enough for me.
Woot woot! IMT Des Moines Marathon, I'll see you in 11 days!
Woot woot! IMT Des Moines Marathon, I'll see you in 11 days!