Posts Tagged ‘long run’

Six more weeks exactly until Boston! Yesterday I got in my second 20-miler of this training cycle. It rained in the early morning but I knew it was going to be a good run when the rain stopped the second I stepped out my door at 7:15 a.m. Perfect running weather — dry, overcast, and 61 degrees for the entire run.

Distance: 20 miles plus a quarter-mile cool down walk

Time: 3 hours, 20 minutes plus 6 minutes of cool down walk

Pace: average 10:00 minutes per mile (6 miles per hour) not counting water stops and stoplights

Water stops: three (one at a park, one at a high school, and one at an elementary school)

Ounces of sports drink consumed: approximately 75 ounces (about half a gallon plus 1.25 cups)

Other runners I saw: 3 total, but not any until about mile 18.5! And then two of them passed me and I was a little bummed and kind of wanted to say, “But I’ve already done 18.5 miles!” Silly I know, a training run isn’t a race. Actually I hoped they’d stop and tell me what they were training for because I often see this woman running in the morning and I know she’s got to be training for a marathon. But she had her earbuds in and I didn’t want to shout after her.

Animals I saw: 4 — 2 very healthy coyotes who were more scared of me than I was of them, one rabbit, and one tiny snake.

Calories burned: approximately 2,434 according to MapMyRun.

Calories consumed in the form of powdered Gatorade: approximately 360.

Memorials I saw to cyclists and motorists killed on the route: 3 ūüė¶

Elevation gain: 1,266 feet

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 10.26.02 AM

Putting in some serious hill work in preparation for Heartbreak Hill at the Boston Marathon!

Times I thought about Boston while running: eleventy billion

Number of podcasts I listened to: 3 (Another Mother Runner, Runners Connect, Run Buzz Radio)

Number of cities I ran through: 5

Number of donut shops I passed and had to resist stopping in for a maple bar: 2. I’m not kidding. I had $5 in emergency money¬†in my running pack.

Mile at which it started to get pretty difficult to keep running: 16

Mile at which I really wanted to be done: 18.5. That’s when my husband and 13-year-old passed me in their car on the way to a tennis match, and I wished they could have scooped me up and driven me home. My husband reports that I looked hunchbacked at that point (a sure sign of my being tired). But of course I’m really happy I kept going and finished strong.

What’s your favorite donut? What’s your favorite podcast or other choice¬†to listen to?¬†



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Three more weeks to go until the REVEL Canyon City Marathon on Saturday, November 7! Training for my sixth full marathon has gone relatively well. I took a chance on a new training plan (the “Own It” marathon training plan from Train Like a Mother) and while I think it’s gotten me ready to tackle the distance, I discovered that my body¬†really, no-I-mean-it-I’m-not-kidding, does not like to run five days a week and really, yes-I’m-sure, prefers to run three days per week and ride a bike for an hour or two on the other days. My legs simply felt tired throughout the training and there have been several days where the plan called for a tempo run of eight miles and I just couldn’t do it. I could run eight miles, but not at a 7:45 pace. With that feeling and the onset of shin splints, I’m pretty sure I became the textbook case for overtraining. But that’s a lot of what I love about marathon training — each round teaches you something new about yourself, and amazingly, there is always something new to learn. Now I know what this 44-year-old body can handle and I will make a different choice next time (training for Boston starts four weeks after Canyon City!)

In spite of the overtraining, I had a fantastic 20-miler last weekend. My family and I drove up to Crystal Lake Recreation Area in the San Gabriel Mountains and stayed Friday night in a cabin there so I could preview the REVEL Canyon City Marathon course early the next day.

Sunrise over the San Gabriel Valley

Sunrise over the San Gabriel Valley

As I started out on my run at 7 a.m. and I took in the spectacular views, I got the same feeling that I get every time on race day: I am so lucky to be here.

The stately yucca stalk stands out like a sculpture in the early morning sky.

The stately yucca stalk stands out like a sculpture against the early morning sky.

I love the downhill profile of the marathon course. The top half of the course declines even more rapidly¬†than the bottom half (see my REVEL Canyon City Half Marathon recap from last year), losing 4,200 feet over 13.1 miles. Instead of feeling like it pounded my quads though, I felt like I was cruising down the mountain. (Don’t get me wrong, I was plenty sore over the next few days, but my legs felt great throughout the 20 miles and I hardly felt winded by the end).

Much of the run down the canyon remains in the shade even as the sun comes up.

Much of the run down the canyon remains in the shade even as the sun comes up.

The course hits a couple of rolling hills around miles 16 and 19 and those were tough but presented a welcome change in the muscles I was using. I switched from focusing on maintaining a steady pace to maintaining a steady effort and just kept trucking up the hills, knowing that the downhill payoff would come again soon.

The welcome sight of water in the San Gabriel Reservoir, although you can see how the waterline has dropped significantly due to the drought.

The welcome sight of water in the San Gabriel Reservoir, although you can see how the waterline has dropped significantly due to the drought.

I completed the 20 miles in 3 hours exactly and I felt fantastic. It had just been such a joy to run down that beautiful canyon. And look who greeted me at the end:

The best sight ever -- my three girls running towards me at the very end of my 20-mile run.

The best sight ever — my three girls running towards me at the very end of my 20-mile run.

My husband and girls had driven down the mountain just in time to pick me up at the 20-mile mark.

We stayed another night at the cabin and soaked up more of the amazing sights. The next day we took a short hike out to Crystal Lake.

Crystal Lake, one of the few naturally-formed lakes in Southern California. It is fed by snow and water runoff.

Crystal Lake, one of the few naturally-formed lakes in Southern California. It is fed by snow and water runoff.

While my legs felt great Saturday afternoon after the run and on the hike on Sunday, by Monday morning I was experiencing a major case of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The DOMS either means it was a bad idea to run 20 miles downhill in training or it was the perfect way to build up those muscles with four weeks to go until the marathon. I guess we’ll see on race day! I’m feeling really good now with three weeks to go. Tomorrow I’ll run 17 miles and then taper will officially begin.

Downhill running: love it or hate it? Love it! Bring it on, Canyon City! And heck yeah, bring it on, Boston!

P.S. For any of you out there running REVEL Canyon City, the Glendora Ridge Runners are doing a preview run on the course tomorrow, Saturday October 17. They have said that all are welcome, not just club members, so check out the Glendora Ridge Runners Facebook page for more details.

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Yesterday I completed the final 20 mile run in my training for the Santa Rosa Marathon coming up in three weeks. It was particularly important to me that the run go well, given that I cut my previous 20-miler short at 18 miles due to the heat here in SoCal that day. I am trying to be smart and not overwork my body just to check off the mileage on the training plan. That’s major progress for me because I get a lot of satisfaction from crossing off those workouts!

The weather yesterday did not offer a lot of promise — 75 degrees when I started at 6 a.m., and so humid that it reminded me of running in Hawaii but without the gorgeous views to inspire me. In fact it felt more like I was running through the pool locker room at the YMCA, it was that humid and uninspiring!

I determined to do my best and to fuel properly to avoid bonking. Gatorade is the sports drink offered on the marathon course so I’ve been practicing using that on my long runs. I carried a full two liters of Gatorade in my new Nathan Intensity 2L Women’s Hydration Race Vest:

(Happy early birthday to me! Thanks Mom and Dad!)

I drank every single drop of that two liters of Gatorade by the time I reached home 3 hours and 16 minutes later, and I didn’t bonk! That’s 20 miles with an elevation gain of 1,300 feet, completed at an average pace of 9:50 per minute. To give myself that extra boost of confidence I so desperately needed, I completed the last mile at 8:55, proving that I still had something left in the tank after a solid run. The only bad news was that I sweated so much in the humidity that the sweat pooled in my new shoes, and when I got home, I peeled off my socks and wrung out about a half cup of sweat, much to the amusement and disgust of my 9-year-old!

I celebrated the successful run by having some friends over for a pool party and potluck lunch. One of Mike’s and my high school friends came into town from Ohio and we took the opportunity to gather seven classmates together, 25 years after graduation!

How was your weekend? Did you exercise?

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Time I got to sleep last night: Midnight? Later? I tried not to look at the clock. Darn insomnia.

Number of times I was woken up in the night by my husband or my 5-year-old: At least twice. Good thing I love them no matter what.

Time I tried to wake up for my run: 5:30 a.m.

Time I actually woke up: 6:30 a.m.

Time I got out the door: 7:30 a.m.

Temperature when I started the run: 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

Temperature when I finished the run: 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Number of times I cursed myself for not going to bed earlier and not getting up at 5:30 to beat the heat: Too many to count.

Number of water bottles I carried with me: 2 — one 21-ounce in a fuel belt and one hand-held 12-ounce.

Number of stops for water refills (water mixed with sports drink powder): 3 (one park, one high school, one elementary school).

Total fluid consumption over 4 hours: at least 80 ounces, likely more. That’s about 3/4 of a gallon of fluid.

Number of times a total stranger gently honked his car horn and waved in support: 1. Thank you sir!

Number of hours of audiobook I listened to: 4. (The book is Anne Frank Remembered, one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. It’s the story of Miep Gies, one of the people who helped hide Anne Frank and her family).

Time to complete 20 miles: 3:14:44.

Minutes to walk mile 21 to cooldown at a hobbling walk: 20.

Minutes spent refilling water bottles and stopping at stop lights on the route: 26.

Number of cities passed through: 5.

Elevation gain over those 21 miles: 879 feet (also known as “no joke” and “4 serious climbs”)

Average pace and speed: 9:44 minutes per mile, 6.16 miles per hour. Not bad for the heat and elevation gain.

Approximate number of calories burned: 2,400.

Calories I consumed at dim sum after the run: many, many delicious calories!

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Why hello, Taper! I am so happy to see you! It’s been 13 weeks of intense training and I must confess I am ready to scale back the running for a few weeks until marathon race day. Yesterday I completed my fifth and last 20-mile run for this training cycle. I’m calling it a huge success. Twenty miles in 3:06:55. The training schedule called for 20 miles at an 8:50 pace. I hit several of the miles at that pace and all the 14 complete downhill miles I averaged 9:00. I had to run back up the trail for nearly 5 extra miles to get in a full 20 and even with those uphill miles I averaged 9:20 overall (6.4 mph). For those people who understand or even care about the elevation gain and loss, here are the stats from my Garmin Forerunner 110:

Elevation Gain: 534 ft
Elevation Loss: 1,436 ft
Min Elevation: 142 ft
Max Elevation: 1,052 ft

I ran Aliso Creek Trail again because it’s the one that best simulates the Mountains 2 Beach race course elevation gain and loss. This time though I didn’t continue all the way to the beach. I started with this:

Aliso Creek Path trailhead

Aliso Creek Path trailhead

and ended with this:

Latte from Cafe Anastasia in Laguna Beach

Latte from Cafe Anastasia in Laguna Beach

I highly recommend Cafe Anastasia for brunch. If you go, try the Eggs Laguna:

Eggs Laguna

If you have time, wander down Ocean Avenue to Main Beach Park:

Sunset at Main Beach Park in Laguna Beach. Photo by Eric Bennett.

Sunset at Main Beach Park in Laguna Beach. Photo by Eric Bennett.

but first stop at Casey’s Cupcakes for one of these:

Casey's cupcake

Did you run over the weekend? Did you go anywhere fun?

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For my fourth 20-mile training run in this cycle, I sought to mimic the downhill grade of the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon course. I wanted to test out my knees and see how they’d handle an elevation loss of 1,000 feet (which is even greater than the M2B course). So, I plotted a route from Cook’s Corner (an old roadhouse in South Orange County) down the Aliso Creek Trail to Alicia Parkway, Crown Valley Parkway, and Pacific Coast Highway all the way to Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point, California.

I woke up at 6:30 a.m., enjoyed breakfast with my husband, and headed out the door after good luck kisses from each of my girls. In my haste to get out the door before it got too hot though, I forgot my second running pack, the one that had my three gels and my extra Fluid sports drink powder! I had 40 ounces of Fluid with me, but that wasn’t enough for 20 miles. I had to stop at a Stater Brothers grocery store near the trailhead and scrounge up some more fuel. I lucked out and found these sports drink mix packets by Gatorade:

Thank goodness for this find!

These powder packs fit perfectly in the elastic in my FuelBelt hydration belt!

I’m not a fan of red dye 40 but other than that I’d say it’s a decent product (no corn syrup!) and I liked the Fruit Punch flavor. It was only $2.99 at Stater Brothers for a tub of eight packs (enough to mix eight 20-oz. water bottles).

Right at the start of the trail these two looked at me like they thought I was crazy for running in the heat, and I pretty much agreed with them:


I stopped at every nearly every drinking fountain along the run. I also kept an eye out for restrooms. The first porta potties were LOCKED so I was particularly happy to see this park at mile 6:

Aliso Creek Bike Trail in Lake Forest

I kept up the pace well until after the 13.1 mark and even stayed strong (if not as fast) all the way through several of the hills as I ran on the roads at Alicia Parkway and Crown Valley Parkway. It got tough as I had to stop at each stoplight though. Every single time it got harder and harder to get going again. Thank goodness at mile 17.5 my husband and girls met me with a gel and some more Fluid (and more kisses and hugs). It was awfully hard to complete those last 2.5 miles after that, but this sight cheered me on my way:

American flag

Finally I saw Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point:

Salt Creek Beach Dana Point

I finished 20 miles, not at as strong a pace as I started but a gosh darn good pace for the heat of 2 p.m., and I met up with my family on the beach. I did a quick “ice bath” in the ocean, warmed back up in the sun, and then helped one of my kids jump rope with the long strands of seaweed she found on the beach. Afterward we shopped at Gelson’s supermarket for popsicles for the way home and steaks for dinner. We bought grass-fed organic beef. As my husband drove me back to my car at the top of Aliso Creek Trail, we passed a sign for local grass-fed beef. I’m afraid those cattle in the first picture … could be future Gelson’s steaks.

Did you exercise this weekend? What did you do? Are you a vegetarian?

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It pleases me immensely to report that my scheduled 18-miler at 9:20 pace is in the bag, D-O-N-E in 2:47 at an average pace of 9:17. My confidence needed that boost after a rough week of less than stellar speed work and tempo runs.

In retrospect I should have planned my Friday night meal better. I am a big believer in using your long runs to practice race conditions and that includes choosing a Friday night carbo-loading meal similar to what I plan to eat before the marathon race. I generally like chicken or fish plus brown rice or pasta. Somehow I got lucky this time and even though I didn’t pay attention to my Friday night meal (in the excitement of my uncles and cousins coming over to visit I grabbed a meal on the go that consisted of my mother-in-law’s roast beef and my pantry staple of whole grain crackers with some Gruyere cheese), I didn’t bonk on my weekend long run.

Carbs are not your enemy

I did do one thing right though. Before bed, I went through my long run checklist and got everything ready. Coffee ready to make, oats soaking in the pan, clothes in a pile, sunscreen, iPod Shuffle charged, Garmin charged. I also filled my water bottles with Fluid sports drink. This time instead of running one way toward the beach and having to carry an extra water bottle in my hand, I planned to divide the run into three 6-mile segments. Three miles down the trail and three miles back to my car to get another full sports bottle. Three miles up the trail and three miles back. New sports bottle. Take gel. Run another six miles.

That system worked quite well although I must confess that as I was leaving my car for the third segment of the run, I had a little trouble staring down those last six miles. I don’t like to stop for water along a race course (I carry my water with me) and I don’t like to stop for water during a training run either. Once I stop it’s hard for me to get going again. Mind over body and somehow I got my legs trucking again and hit the pace for those last six miles.

Now, lest you think I’m getting taking myself too seriously or getting too big for my britches in light of my successful long run, I leave you with a completely unrelated, humorous story at my expense. Last week I attended the kindergarten roundup meeting for the school district. Somehow my “baby” will be old enough to attend elementary school in the fall. She’s ready. I’m not sure I am, but that’s another matter. Anyway, after the meeting I went up to the superintendent for the district to ask her an important question about how to get an intradistrict transfer from our home school to the school where my older two daughters go. It was only when I got home, and my husband asked, “What’s that on your shirt?” that I realized I was wearing this little memento from Teddy Bear Week at my daughter’s preschool:

Blue ribbon courtesy of Billy Frank Alexander.

Blue ribbon courtesy of Billy Frank Alexander.

That’s right friends, I’m the Most Loving Bear and proud of it, no matter what the superintendent thinks!

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Yesterday morning I finished off week four of Mountains 2 Beach Marathon training with my first 20 mile run (the plan calls for four 20 mile runs — am I insane to follow such a rigorous plan? Feel free to discuss that in the comments). Anyway, it was an EPIC run. I’d say all 20 mile runs are epic runs, but this was epic with a capital EPIC because I ran all the way from Anaheim in North Orange County to the Pacific Ocean at Huntington Beach.

This map from 1921 shows how the trail follows the Santa Ana River from Anaheim to the ocean. Photo courtesy of Orange County Archives.

This map from 1921 shows how the trail follows the Santa Ana River from Anaheim to the ocean. Photo courtesy of Orange County Archives.

I chose the Santa Ana River Trail because its gentle downhill grade to the ocean mirrors the Mountains 2 Beach course grade from Ojai to the ocean at Ventura.

It's all downhill from here!

It’s all downhill from here! The Santa Ana River Trail looking west from Yorba Regional Park.

Over the course of 20 miles from Yorba Regional Park to the Pacific Ocean, the Santa Ana River Trail loses 280 feet in elevation. It doesn’t feel downhill though, and with several road underpasses and bridges over the river, it manages to squeeze in 72 feet of elevation.

The first several miles of the run I felt great yet intimidated by the sheer length of the workout before me. At mile 2 I couldn’t keep myself from doing the math: “You’re a tenth of the way done.” Mile 4: “You’re a fifth of the way done.” What had I gotten myself into?!

The weather cooperated with temps starting in the low 60s and rising to the high 70s three hours later. I carried one 20-ounce water bottle in my hand and another 24-ounce bottle in my fuel belt. There are several drinking fountains along the way but not nearly enough to rely on alone. With the dry SoCal air, I ended up needing approximately one gallon of Fluid sports drink and water!

Passing mile 10 and the halfway point gave me a boost in spirits but my energy started to wane a bit. I still hit my desired 9:35 pace but my effort to get there increased. I planned to take a green apple PowerGel with caffeine at mile 13. Before that though, I got just the injection of energy I needed. A cyclist riding up the trail saw me toughing it out and called out, “Keep it goin’ girl!” I called back a grateful “Thanks” and rode the wave of his kindness for the next mile. It amazes me how a few simple words of encouragement from a stranger can make all the difference! I have to laugh though and wonder what it is that makes strangers know I need that encouragement. Remember the man who lifted my spirits when I bonked on my first ever 20 mile run? Yesterday I did not bonk on the run, thank goodness, but somehow people still knew I needed the boost. Had the cyclist passed me on his way down the trail an hour ago and recognized me on the way back? Did he see my Garmin and know I was in for a long haul? Did I have a grimace on my face or the hunched back I cannot seem to avoid when I get tired, no matter how hard I pay attention to form? Was I flinging sweat left and right? Or did I give that cyclist a jealous look that said, “I want to hop on your bike like it’s Brad Pitt!” Whatever it was, he recognized a need in me and I am so thankful he made the effort to say some kind words.

At about mile 16 the breeze picked up as I approached the ocean and it became harder to hit the 9:35 pace. I used my struggle to practice what it would be like at the marathon. I pulled out all my mantras, this time throwing in what the stranger had said: “Keep it goin’ girl!” I thought about what it would be like to hit that 20 mile mark, having met my pace goal for the day. By mile 18 I was having to dig deep and fight it out. And then it happened again! A female cyclist passed me from behind and called back, “You are hauling! Go girl!” I nearly burst into tears! Instead, I managed to say, “Thank you! I needed to hear that!” More words of encouragement that helped me pick up the pace and knock out 20 miles at an average of 9:34, with the last mile at 9:06.

When I hit 20 miles I threw my arms up in the air and yelled like I just didn’t care: “Twenty miles!” There was no finish line photo, no arch of balloons over the line, but I celebrated anyway. And when another kind couple saw me walking rather stiffly on my cooldown walk and asked if I was alright, I assured them: “Yes! I did 20 miles!”

I’d done the 20 miles in 3:11, and I walked for another 40 minutes. In retrospect I should have had Mike pick me up after I’d walked for about 10 minutes. That last 1.6 mile walk to the beach might have been the hardest part of the workout! I desperately needed more water, and I texted my husband to make sure he and the rest of my support crew (three cute little girls in beachwear!) would be waiting at the parking lot at the end of the trail. I’ve never been so thrilled to see the ocean and to see my family waiting there for me! We walked (well, I hobbled) down to the shore and I kept on walking, right into the ocean for an “ice bath.” I could barely stand the cold on my feet but it felt glorious on my calves and thighs.

Today I feel surprisingly good. My neck and shoulders are sore, which tells me I’ve got to work more on correcting that hunchback form! My knees are a little sore, which tells me it’s a good thing I am training on the downhills to prepare for Mountains 2 Beach. Mentally, I am relieved to have met my pace goal for my first 20 miler of this training series. Spiritually, my faith in humankind has been boosted by the good-hearted strangers who made it possible.

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If you have a long run of 60 minutes or more coming up on your schedule, make sure you plan ahead for it! Failure to plan the night before a long run can result in a miserable run or even a missed workout. I find it takes at least 30 minutes to gather everything I need for a long run, and I’m far more likely to have a successful workout if I take those 30 minutes the night before to get ready. Here’s what you can do to ensure your long run goes as well as possible. (You might only need a fraction of the items listed. I’ve tried to cover all the bases).

Long Run Planning Checklist

Click here for a free printable version of this long run checklist

_____ Gather and charge any electronic devices:
_____ Cell phone
_____ GPS watch and/or heart rate monitor
_____ iPod or other music source
_____ Headphones
_____ Also load any music or audiobooks onto your device
_____ Digital metronome or app on smartphone

_____ Plan your route

_____ Set your wake-up alarm

_____ Fill your car with gas to get to your route (or ready your bike, bus pass, etc.)

_____ Organize your fuel:
_____ Pre-run food and coffee?
_____ Fuel belt
_____ Sports bottles or hydration pack
_____ Filled with water and/or sports drink
_____ Gels, chews, beans, any food for consumption on the run
_____ Post-run snacks and recovery drinks

_____ Set out your running clothes and other gear:
_____ Shoes
_____ Socks (Compression socks? Calf sleeves?)
_____ Underwear
_____ Running tights, pants, shorts, skirt or any combination of those
_____ Sports bra
_____ Shirt, tank top (plus arm sleeves? Jacket? Vest?)
_____ Gloves, sweatbands, Handana
_____ Sunglasses
_____ Headband, hairbands, bandana, bobby pins
_____ Cap, visor, or cold weather hat
_____ Toiletries and post-run clothes (Toilet paper? Feminine products? Towel? Shampoo? Face wipes? Medications or special needs?)

_____ Gather any sun and body protection you use:
_____ Sunscreen and lip balm with SPF
_____ Body Glide or other product to prevent chafing
_____ Bandaids
_____ Blister protection – 2nd Skin or Moleskin etc.

_____ Groom yourself:
_____ Trim your toenails (not too short! No cutting calluses!)
_____ Shave legs, armpits, anywhere you shave

_____ Think safety:
_____ Tell someone when and where you are going, and when you expect to be back
_____ Consider a reflective gear, knuckle lights and a headlamp
_____ Pack pepper spray or the like

Do you pack anything else for a long run? Have you ever forgotten a key item on your list? When I had to get up at 6 a.m. to leave at 6:30 a.m. for a 7:00 a.m. half marathon training class, I got very good at planning for a long run. When that class ended though, I sometimes forgot to plan ahead. The worst thing I’ve forgotten so far is sunglasses. For me, planning ahead the night before is less about not forgetting something and more about getting out the door right away for an early morning run. One time it took me nearly an hour to get ready in the morning, and by that time my family had started to wake up and “need” me (if I’m out the door before they’re awake, Mike and the kids manage just fine. But if my youngest sees me before I get out the door, I’m toast! That early morning run might become a midday run in the heat or worse yet, might not happen at all.)

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Yesterday I ran 20 miles for the marathon training plan. Woo hoo, another distance record for me! Only, it did not go so well. Somewhere around mile 14 I wished I were done. By mile 16, I’d officially hit the wall. Bonked big time. What had been a decent pace under 10 minute miles fell off a cliff to 12, 13, 14, and even 15 at one point. I could have walked faster. I refused to give in though. Mentally I felt fine, and I tried as hard as I could to will my legs to move faster. I swung my arms vigorously, but my legs didn’t get the hint. My hips were sore, sore enough to mask the pain I’d already been feeling from the existing groin pull. My legs felt like lead. I simply could not force them to pick up the pace. I shuffled along, determined to make it the full 20 miles. I had to get back to the car no matter what, and I might as well get there as fast as I could.

At mile 18.8, a man approached on his bike in the opposite lane, and as he neared me, he called out sympathetically, “You’re doing great!” I thanked him, and promptly burst into tears! I was NOT doing great, but it was kind of him to say so. Thank goodness he didn’t hear me crying to myself as he rode away! I had to wonder what had given me away — did he know I was powering out the last part of a long run because of my compression socks (a dead giveaway for a distance runner) or because of an agonized look on my face? Some combination of both I suspect, but he definitely recognized my sheer determination to finish a tough run. At any rate, it was lovely of him to speak up.

Cheered on by the kindness of a stranger, and cleansed with a few cathartic tears, I managed to kick it back up into the 12-minute mile range for the last mile. When I hit 20 miles on my Garmin, I threw my hands up into the air and yelled out, “20 miles!” to no one in particular. I wish I could have worn a sign for the rest of the day: “I ran 20 miles today, can you believe it? Oh, you saw me walking funny and wondered why? Now you know!”

After a cool-down hobble/walk, some stretching that required a lot of grunting to get my legs into position, and a torturous climb back into my car, I drove straight to Jamba Juice for a celebratory smoothie. On the way I grudgingly ate a peanut butter and honey sandwich on whole wheat, but it was the juicy goodness of a Five Fruit Frenzy I craved.

Jamba Juice smoothie

Ah my love, thank you for helping me recover. You tasted like heaven. (Photo from Jamba Juice).

An all-fruit smoothie — strawberry, banana, blueberry, mango and peach. Perfection. (Man, I wish I were getting paid for this commercial. Sadly, no, I just love me some all-fruit smoothie).

After preschool pickup and the drive home, I hopped in an ice bath. Who am I kidding — I wasn’t “hopping” into anything with my sore muscles. But I gingerly climbed in and lowered myself down, and huffed and puffed at the cold. Tip: never combine an ice bath with a smoothie recovery drink. Instant brain freeze (I speak from very painful prior experience). I like to sip hot chocolate in my ice bath. You?

Where does all that leave me? Now that I’ve recovered a bit from the bonk death march, I’ve had a chance to think over what went wrong. I thought I’d nailed the nutrition on the run — a mix of four PowerBar and Gu gels, one every four miles, plus two 20-ounce bottles of Fluid (the electrolyte drink offered on the marathon course) and at least two bottles of water. That seemed like almost too many gels, if anything. Correct me if I’m wrong — I’d love to hear if you have ideas to tweak that.

In reading about bonking and hitting the wall, I realized my rookie mistake. I didn’t carbo-load the day(s) before the long run. I knew all about carbohydrate-loading before a race, but for some reason it just did not occur to me that I ought to be paying attention to that before a 20 mile run. Duh. Believe me, I will never make that mistake again.

So, not the confidence boosting 20-miler I was hoping for, but I learned something and am all the more determined to have a great race day. I will use my taper energy over the next three weeks to fine-tune my nutrition and plan my carbo-loading for the days leading up to the race. I will remember that what didn’t kill me made me stronger. The conditions on race day will be different — over 2 hours earlier in the day, and much cooler weather (I hope). I can do it!

Favorite recovery drink? Ever make any rookie mistakes? Do tell.

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