This past weekend I was schedule to run 24 miles. I am proud to say, I did...and it was awesome.
But lets back it up a bit. After skipping my long run, and basically not running the week before because my sister was in town, I told myself I needed to get my butt out there. So on Monday, usually my rest day, I did 5 "easy, light, smooth" miles. Pace: 9:28 m/m. On the slower side for me at that distance, but I felt great.
On Tuesday, I put my game face on early in the morning and went out for a little more than 6 miles, this time in the dark during a torrential downpour. The rain was coming down in sheets and though I was wearing a headlight, there were some moments when I could barely see in front of me. Pace: 9:22 m/m. Considering the conditions, I'm happy with that (also happy I didn't fall flat on my face). Wanna feel hardcore? Run in the rain. Let me tell you, it was awesome.
|Random fact: I look uncannily like my bro is this pic.|
On both Wednesday and Thursday I went out for 5-mile runs on my lunch break, running my favorite hilly route. I ran 8:36 m/m and 8:38 m/m, respectively. These were good times for me, but I was more pleased with the fact that the hills didn't seem as intimidating as they did when I first started running them earlier this year. Progress: check.
Friday I took off.
Saturday rolled around and I rolled out of bed ready to tackle this long run. Truth be told, when I left my house I was still unsure whether I would run 22 or 24 miles. I was definitely feeling good enough to run 20 miles, so I knew I could probably tackle 22. But 24? I was going to feel it out.
It was an insanely beautiful day.
It was an insanely beautiful day.
It had been a few weeks since I'd run my trail, and to be back running on it really felt like I was "home." Plus, the autumn colors, crisp autumn air, and all around "autumn-ness" of the day made it so enjoyable to be out there.
I recognized another frequent runner at the parking lot, and we exchanged hellos. He started out before me, and was completely out of sight by the time I started my run. Little did I know he would essentially be the one to determine how far I ran that day.
The first 9 miles were uneventful. A biker stopped me at about mile 5 to ask for directions. She was trying to find a local park where she was supposed to meet someone. I tried to help as best I could (I know the trail but not the surrounding neighborhoods) and continued on my way. About 2 miles down I ran into another lost biker who happened to be the person she was looking for! I pointed him towards her direction and wished him luck. It kinda felt like a well-intentioned but poorly-planned date. I hope they found each other.
A little past mile 7 I ran into the runner I had seen in the parking lot. He had met up with a friend and exclaimed when he saw me, "I was wondering when you were going to catch up to us!" I laughed and then stopped to fix my silly sock that had been giving me problems the whole run (ugh!). He and his friend continued on and I caught up to them at mile 9 when they turned around to head back. "Only 18 for us today," he told me. "How many are you doing?" Realizing I hadn't actually decided how many miles I was running that day, I blurted out, "24!"
And to my surprise, I didn't feel scared or even nervous about tackling my longest distance to date. In fact, I felt excited. The nine miles had flown by (more than they have in the past), and knew I could do 24.
So on I went and reached a new segment of the trail since I had never run this far before. Rather than veer left like I should have, I continued straight and found myself on a trail that was no longer paved but all mud instead. ALL MUD. To boot, I was supposed to run under a large overpass. I stopped, unsure of how I should proceed, when two runners came up behind me, so engrossed in conversation that they were completely obviously to the new state of the trail. They skidded to a quick halt, then decided rather than go under, they would go over and just cross the street above. Brilliant! (Clearly, I lose brain cells when running).
I followed them up and over, and being the chatty runners that they were, they just started talking to me. Which was the most awesome thing ever. Finally! People to run with without crashing their conversation! They were training for the upcoming Army 10-miler, and had about the same distance to go as I did before their turnaround. Not only did they offer some much welcomed conversation on my long run, but they also knew where they were going. I would have gotten completely lost without them.
We ran for maybe 4 miles before my stupid sock started acting up again, and I had to stop to fix it. By the time I was ready, they were gone. Super bummed. But they helped me through such a critical point of my run. Thank you S. and B.!!
It was about this point that I realized I only had 9 more miles to go. I couldn't believe I had already run 15 miles! I was having so much fun on this run, I had covered more than a half-marathon without realizing it. Still, 9 miles is no joke, and the last 9 were definitely more difficult than the first 15 (though thats to be expected).
Around mile 18, I stopped to refill my water bottle (I LOVE my Amphipod water bottle, though one of these days I should probably try the DJ's camelback), and to give my legs a bit of a shakeout. My hips were killing me; I should probably talk to a PT about it but thats not going to happen until after my marathon. Also, I had been taking a GU gel (we use the Just Plain flavor) every 5 miles, but decided to take another at mile 18. Not sure if that was the culprit, but I had stomach issues through mile 21. This was the first time I had stomach issues during a long run. Not fun.
Looking at my splits, the last 6 miles were definitely my slowest. I was feeling it in my legs by then. But never at any point did I want to call it quits. Even though my legs were sore, I was still smiling and loving just being out there. In fact, when I hit 24 miles, I seriously thought, "Well, I'm feeling pretty good. Why don't I just run the whole dang distance?" But I decided not to press my luck; 24 miles was plenty good.
I can so do 26.2 miles! But my race seems so far away...so, um, how about next weekend?
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