This weekend last year was my first 20 miler ever. The weather was great, we had a blast, and it was a run to remember. Going into it, I was nervous. How would my body react? Would I recover well? Would my fueling be on point? Everything turned out to be fine and I was surprised with how well my body managed the mileage. Not only was the weather completely opposite this year, but so were my feelings going into the run.
I haven’t been giving details of my training and I still do not plan to do so since I’m working with a coach, but what I will share is that my training is very endurance-heavy. This goes against what most people “believe” about training now, but I trust my coach and we have been very conscious to make sure I am recovering properly and doing everything I can to avoid injury. So while my training group headed out for their first 20 miler of the training cycle, it wasn’t even close to being my first run around 20 miles this training cycle and I actually had some miles to get in before they group run. I had no doubts that I would be fine which was so different than last year.
Saturday was hot. Still normal weather for September, but we’ve had some cool mornings popping up. We got going around 6:30 on Saturday morning and it was already 73 with humidity in the 90% range. Pretty typical for what we’ve been running in, but not the desired temps for hitting those really long miles. There was a nice breeze starting out which made it a little more bearable. We started at one of the store locations that’s at the top of a mile-long hill. This always raises some debate of running out further so the run is finished prior to the hill so it can be walked or just running the hill at the end. I’m always for running the hill at the end because I feel the only thing worse than running a mile-long hill at the end of a long run is walking a mile-long hill after finishing a long run!
The first half of the run wasn’t too bad. The sun was still rising, the breeze was blowing, and of course our spirits were still high. We took a picture at the Shoe and began the 10 mile trek back. Up until this point my heart rate was surprisingly low. I had stuck with the 10:15 pace group expecting it to be higher due to the heat, but it was hanging around in zone 1. Around mile 12 the sun was really beating down on us. That particular section of the trail doesn’t have any shade and it was brutal. We had accidentally sped up a little and I expressed to our pace coaches that I couldn’t decided if that made it worse or if I just wanted to get to the shady water stop ahead! At the stop I decided it was time to ditch my sweat-soaked shirt and tie it onto my water bottle to use as a sweat rag. I had water in my handheld and drank Gatorade at the water stops which worked well. I also took Honey Stinger gels during the run and managed to keep my stomach happy in the heat. I’m sure at this point my heart rate was picking up and we had started to sweep up runners from the 10 minute pace group (they have a tendency to run a little faster which is why I hang back with the 10:15s).
Unlike last year that was filled with laughs and slight excitement and feelings of accomplishment, this year I just wanted to get this run done and get out of the heat. The hill was the worst part. The group was stopping at the water stop right before the hill, but I chose to just keep on going and get it over with. The hill itself wasn’t bad – between my strength class and my Sunday park runs that didn’t bother me. The tough part was the sun beating down on me every step. I told myself I could slow down as much as I needed to in order to be comfortable, but my body seemed to be sticking to the 10:15 pace. I finally got to the top, finished it out in the parking lot, and headed back to the store for a bagel. The very best part was about 5 minutes after I finished when the head coach of the training group came strolling up with a cart full of cold chocolate milk from the grocery store across the parking lot. We all took turns pouring each other chocolate milk and being giddy like little children to be enjoying it.
The weather made this run feel miserable, but the reality was that my body was fine. I ended up averaging low in zone 2 which means I likely could’ve taken the run faster. My legs felt as they should after such a long run, but after stretching, icing, and compressing I was surprised to wake up feeling really good. No weird aches or pains or lingering soreness. For the first time in the entire training cycle I didn’t have any miles scheduled for Sunday. I slept in until 7:30 which is the latest I’ve slept in since I started training. I took it easy at my strength class, but still got it done.
It’s a good place to be when 20 miles doesn’t feel like a big deal and I wake up feeling good. Of course I took a wonderful nap afterward and kept things casual the rest of the weekend to recover, but it’s crazy to think how far I’ve come from last year in terms of how I feel about distance. The whole running-faster-for-26.2-miles still freaks me out because anything can happen on race day, but I like that I am feeling confident about distance now.
I did have one slightly funny thing happen to me on Monday. It was a beautiful morning and since it was a holiday I headed out around 7 am when the sun was up. I was really enjoying my run, not really paying attention to my watch besides checking my heart rate once in a while. I kind of zoned out and relaxed and just had one of those really refreshing runs. I heard my watch beep and turned around to head home. Afterward, I was eating a bagel and pulled up the run on my watch to check out my stats and realized I had only done 5 miles instead of 6! Whoops! I got so in the zone I forgot to keep track of my mileage. My coach laughed at this and said, “Well that’s what running’s all about!” I tacked the extra mile on my Friday run to get me to 45 miles for the week.
I’ve consistently been running 40-45 miles for the past 11 weeks and will continue in that range for the next 3 weeks. My mileage remains in that range for my first week of taper, but will focus on easy recovery miles for the majority of the week.
Just 5 weeks to go until race day. A lot can happen in 5 weeks so I’m going to continue to focus on recovery, eating well, and training smart. I have been making sure to get enough fat and carbs and my husband has been really creative in incorporating that into our dinners. Thursday night we had pasta salad, brussel sprouts, potatoes, and a homemade pizza bagel!
We had a cold front come through last night so it looks like the overnight temps will be consistently cooler now. I’m hopeful this will be the trend moving forward so I can start focusing on some speed on my easy runs without raising my heart rate.
I know some major fall races started this weekend and everyone is quickly approaching race day for many so I hope everyone had a great training week and/or a great goal race this weekend!