I was a little relieved when Saturday finally showed up this past week. I had been looking at the day from afar, analyzing, considering, thinking, and I may have been a little anxious as well. My 20 mile training run was to be done on this Saturday, and unlike all of my other 20 milers before this one, I had something to prove to myself.
Usually, when approaching the longer runs in my marathon training (anywhere from 15-20 miles), I do not feel any pressure at all. I'm usually running with a few friends, I have aid along the way, and the goal is to simply cover the mileage. The last month or so, however, I have been approaching these longer runs a bit differently. In order to run a faster marathon, to be prepared physically and mentally, I wanted these longer runs to be faster as well.
I decided to do these runs alone and to remain focused throughout on the pace. I ran a 15 miler, an 18 miler, and another 15 before it was time to approach the 20. And then the doubt began to creep in. Can I really run 20 miles under a 9 minute pace? I'd never done it before. And my fastest marathon to date was around a 9:07 pace. Still, I meant to try, and I hoped that my previous long runs were a good sign.
My friend Shannon was coming to run the first 12 with me. This was to be her long run in her half-marathon training. She knew I was pushing my pace down and she promised she would be okay if I needed to run ahead. I suspected she would have no trouble keeping up, but I promised to run my pace no matter what.
I was a little concerned that I might want to talk with her instead of pushing the pace, but as it turned out we were able to do both. The 12 miles we ran together seemed to fly by and we held an average of 8:44 pace. When I dropped her off at my house, I was sad to see her go. I took a sip of water and gatorade and then headed back out again to complete the last 8.
For some reason it got hard quickly. My pace began to drop to 8:50-9:00 and despite my efforts, I could not get it to go back down. I was tired, plain and simple, and I began to despair a little bit. I tried to figure out why this run seemed so much harder than the others. The temperature was much warmer than what I'd been running in, reaching 60+ degrees before the run was over (although I must admit, I loved running in short sleeves and shorts with the sun on my skin!). I did not fuel at all, and with the warmer temps, I think that played a role. I had not taken a day off since the fast 15 miler the previous Saturday, and I could tell my body was beginning to revolt against this lack of rest.
Still, when I finished the run my average pace was 8:50 and I was very pleased. I wish I hadn't run out of steam for the last bit, but it hadn't seemed to hurt the pace too badly and the goal had been achieved. I'd wanted to run 20 miles under 9 minute pace and I'd done it.
I did a slow, watch-less 3 miles on Sunday afternoon, and while my legs complained a little, it felt good to move. Today I am planning a slow and easy 5.4 miler (to give me an even 220 for the month). Tuesday through Thursday I will rev it back up, but Friday I will rest. Saturday will be a 10 miler (maybe) and then I will REALLY rest. I never thought I'd have an issue with taking time off of running, but I do. I want to run every day. Still, I know getting rest is a major part in a strong training plan, and I've got to incorporate some if I want to be fresh and ready on race day.
Ah, race day. I remember the disappointment of St. Louis. And I remember promising that I would stand at that start line once again That I would lace up my tennis shoes and prepare to meet the road once again, ready to race that 26.2 miles. Two weeks and I will be there.