Today I ran my longest training run ever (excluding marathons and one marathon I did as a training run). By the end my distance was 23.15 miles. I had thought about doing 23 miles but had dialed it back to 22 early on. And look what happened anyway.
I ran in Marysville, into Everett to check on my cats (even though I would be back later, they needed food and water sooner), then back Marysville. This meant running the 3-mile highway stretch twice, which I was not a fan of...but at least it made the run productive.
I had a sort of big breakfast, with a whole grain power scone, some yoghurt, and about half of a big cup of coffee (about 375 calories total). I pretty much ate it right before I left. I wouldn't do that for a race, but I wasn't going to get up two hours early on a Sunday morning unless I had to!
I took Saturday off to rest my legs and it really paid off. Even though I had the usual slow warm-up woes, my legs felt really good, especially for the first ten miles. I even felt myself using a nice mid-foot strike (at least I thought I was).
Even with the warm-up, I was running 10:15-10:30 paces, mostly. A few slow miles left me with an overall average of 10:24 per mile. The slower or faster miles were fairly random--mostly I can't identify why any particular mile was 10:00 or 10:45.
I took a bathroom stop at McDonalds at seven miles. Actually I ran a couple extra blocks before doubling back to stop, so I could bump it up to seven! That also meant I passed nine miles before I left Marysville to head across the highway. I ate a Gu (chocolate mint) before I took the plunge.
The highway distance is a little less than three miles (about 2.75 I would guess). It wasn't too horrible, though, probably because my legs still felt pretty fresh. Pretty soon I was in Everett passing twelve miles! Things got a little rough around mile 15, though. Not because I was having difficulty running, but I had a mental setback. I had planned to stop at my house after 17 miles to take care of my cats. It became clear that if I continued on my current route I would hit my house at 16 miles, a mile short. So I had to deviate from my route in order to squeeze in that extra mile. I still had to run around the block to get to 17. (Of course if I'd known it was six miles back to Marysville instead of five, I wouldn't have needed that extra mile!)
I only had a little bit of "I don't want to leave" feeling at the house. I refueled with some chocolate dipped pretzels (seemed like a more appealing choice than Gu), and tended to the cats. By the time I left, though, it was almost 1:00. I started feeling stressed because I had estimated that I would finish at 1:30, and with (at least) five miles to go, there was no way that would happen. Rod was waiting to have lunch until I got there, and I felt terrible making him wait. (I probably over-exaggerated the significance of this, but after running 17 miles, sometimes your head is not in the right place!) I sent him an email telling him to go ahead and eat.
The next few miles I was slowed down by the weight of guilt. Again, I know I blew it out of proportion. It didn't help that in his message, "see you at 1:30," the time was highlighted. This was not his doing, it is an iPhone trick to allow you to easily transfer stuff to a calendar. But it makes truly minor things look BIG.
I know that running is supposed to help lift your spirits, and usually it does, but there is also a kind of gloom that can set in while running that is exacerbated rather than helped by the running. I think that there is a point where your body is so tired and beaten down that the endorphins don't have their usual effect. Obviously this can happen in a marathon, people often seem to get overwhelmed in the last few miles.
Anyhow, I managed to work through my dark moments (even running back across the highway), and regain my moderate pace. Mile 18 was 10:52 (tied for slowest with mile 17, right before I stopped), but mile 19 was 10:26, and mile 20 was 10:15. I noted that my overall time after finishing mile 20 was just under 3 hours 30 minutes (which would lead to a 4:30 marathon time).
Amazingly to me, I managed to kick up my effort level and finish the next three miles in under 30 minutes overall. Miles 21 and 22 (still mostly on the highway) were 9:52 and 10:16. The remaining 1.15 mile was all in town and I really pushed myself. I just wanted to be done! I did a sort of fartlek routine by a block pretty hard, then jogging across the intersection, and repeating. This worked well enough to give me 9:26 for mile 23, and an 8:45 pace for the last .15 mile. (I noticed that I was just under four hours at the 23 mile mark.)
I also learned that the distance from my house to Rod's is just under a 10K (6.15 if I stop at the garage, probably closer to 6.2 if I go around to the front).
Total time for 23.15 miles was 4:00:55, average pace 10:24.
Next Saturday I am doing the Birch Bay 30K as a final long training run. My experience last year was that the distance is a tiny bit longer than 30K, about 18.6 miles total. Although I might do a short warm-up, I have no real desire to stretch it to 20 miles. I've done three runs longer than 20 (20.65, 21.5, and 23.15), plus 17.5 and 19.25. I think I may have enough long runs in the bank!
Then, after Saturday, the taper begins.