Sunday, October 18, 2009

Running for...what?

You might wonder why someone who only runs half marathons is doing extra-long runs...for example, 17.53 miles today. I might wonder that too!

I think I have a few legitimate reasons. First of all, and most importantly perhaps, I am ever seeking ways to make my half marathons easier and better. I figure if I can run much, much further, the next 13.1 will be a piece of cake. Second, there is the urge to challenge myself. How far can I run before I can't run any farther? Maybe that's a bad way to phrase it. Let's try, how far can I run and still maintain a decent steady pace and not feel too wiped out? Third, the basic, "run more, eat more." Nuff said about that (ice cream later).

Finally, I will admit I feel a teeny, tiny sense of competition with people who actually do run marathons. Both those who actually train well and run well, and those who seem to pathetically undertrain but yet get out there and do it, even if their results are less than stellar. So I guess I'm trying to prove (just to myself, because who else would know?) that I could do it too. If I really wanted to.

So there you go, my deep dark (running) secrets. Who knows, maybe I'll run a marathon by accident.

Anyhow, my last long run (two weeks ago) was 15.75 miles, so I thought 17 miles sounded good for today. I did take the precaution of mapping out a route on Mapmyrun, so that I wouldn't run too far away from home by mistake, or end up short.

After all the rain in the last few days, today was finally dry, though cloudy. I took my time and didn't go out until around 10:30. First I fueled up with coffee and a piece of Upside-down Pear Cake! I filled my water bottle with tri-berry Nuun and packed an extra tablet, as well a tube of green apple SweetTarts Squeeze for a little fuel boost on the run.

My running route was simple. Through downtown, west to Mukilteo, back to Everett, and north on Rucker or Grand to 13th, then south on Colby to QFC and Starbucks. This measured 17.05 on Mapmyrun, and I figured it would be pretty close to that distance.

The trip from my house through downtown Everett was a pretty typical warm-up pace, 9:58 and 9:24 for the first two miles. At about mile 2.5 I hit the first big hill as 41st turned into Mukilteo Boulevard, giving me a bit of a slow mile 3 at 9:42.

I might add here that despite my apparent obsession with pace and splits, this was completely a long slow distance run. Except at the very end, where it took extra energy just to keep going, I never pushed myself to achieve a particular pace. My sole objective as far as pace went was not to try to run fast (and I did succeed at that).

Mukilteo Boulevard is exceedingly hilly. Ups, downs, and ups again. But I am quite certain (despite not having downloaded Garmin's elevation information yet) that the trip to Mukilteo is much more down than up (and the return is the opposite). So my next few miles were rather effortlessly speedy—9:14, 9:05, 9:24, 9:15. Those seven miles took me almost into Mukilteo and I hit my intended turnaround spot at 7.25.

However. I had skipped a bathroom stop at around mile 4 or 5, figuring that it was too soon to really need it (as I had stopped after one mile at Starbucks) and by the time I got to Mukilteo I really did not want to wait to get back there again (none of the little parks along the way appeared to have bathrooms).

I figured that there would be a bathroom around the ferry terminal, so I ran the extra quarter mile downhill to find it. Ahhh! Relief.

Of course that meant a steep uphill climb back to the main road, and that had a big impact on mile 8's time (9:54). My returning miles (on the still rolling but more uphill hills) were a little slower than my miles in; the next three—9:24, 9:29, 9:26 (totally acceptable).

Then I hit the longest hill of the entire route. I started up right after finishing mile 11 and it was uphill all the way to mile 13! Really, a mile-long hill. Not surprised to see a finish time of 10:16!

I happened to arrive at that gas station bathroom at the end of mile 12 and I wasn't making the mistake of by-passing it yet again (at least, I didn't think I was). I veered in and found the door locked. I waited a bit to see if someone was in there, then went in to ask for a key. The attendant said it should be unlocked, so I went back out to wait again—I even knocked on the door. Finally I just gave up and ran on. I didn't need to go that bad.

From there I only had about a mile left to the end of Mukilteo Boulevard and my return to Everett. And the end of Mukilteo Boulevard was the downside of that hill I had gone up at the beginning! Hurrah, what a treat. (Speaking of treats, I broke into my SweetTarts after mile 12. Yum.)

I hit 13.1 miles right at the intersection of 41st and Rucker.* Mile 13—9:16. Half-marathon split—2:04:45. Very okay for a non-race run.

I was a little bit ready to be done at this point, but I plugged on northward to finish my route. I was lucky that Rucker was slightly downhill for the next couple of miles because that certainly gave me a boost. I reached my turning point (and final potty stop), the hospital at 13th and Colby, just past 13.75 miles. Miles 13-16—9:16, 9:19, 9:22, 9:29.

I figured I had about a mile and a half left after the hospital (actually 1.75), so for the first time on this run I did put a little effort into maintaining my pace so I wouldn't fall apart at the end. Of course, it's notable that it took effort to maintain my effortless pace from before!

Somehow I did find my extra gear (albeit a very small gear) and finished the last stretch in 9:14 (mile 17) and 4:30 (.53 mile at 8:31 pace). Total 17.53 miles,** 2:45:40, 9:27 average pace.

I was very happy to arrive at QFC and Starbucks, though! I quickly bought a couple of things I needed in the store and then proceeded to Starbucks for a refueling beverage, treating myself to a Chocolate Banana Vivanno with an espresso shot. Very tasty! I was worried that my legs would not want to walk the half mile home but we managed. :)

After a long, hot shower and a bit of a legs up rest,*** then a delayed lunch consisting of a very delicious turkey sandwich, I took a jaunt to Road Runner Sports to look for some black running tights to wear with a costume for a 5K on Halloween.**** The Road Runner brand seemed to fit the bill, and the price was right too! But I more than spent my "savings" by also getting a pair of Nikefit thermal pants and a really great pair of Asics Thermopolis running pants. They are so soft and cozy, I would welcome some cold weather to wear them! Oh, I also got a Road Runner windbreaker/rain jacket with which I hope to combat our foul fall weather!

Yeah, I know. I shouldn't be allowed to shop on a runner's high.

*Where there is an Arco/mini-mart with no public bathroom. Boo to them.
**The extra half mile in the total is from the extra quarter mile to and from the ferry terminal in Mukilteo.
***That means reclining.
****There will probably be pictures, eventually.

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