This weekend’s long run was 22 miles and it also happened to fall on the 22nd day of the month. Kind of awesome. It doesn’t take much for me to get excited about these little kinds of things.
This particular long run was on my mind for days before I actually had to do it, which is not an unusual occurrence for me. I’ve been training for marathons for years and the long run still has a way of spooking me as the weekend approaches. I start thinking about it on Wednesday or Thursday — remind myself to remember to hydrate Thursday and Friday, make sure I eat well and not too late in the evening on Friday, check the weather so I know what I’ll be up against, come up with a plan for how I want to execute it. The last couple of weeks I’ve done my long runs at a really comfortable pace, very conversational and just EASY, working on endurance and time spent on my feet. Every few weeks this cycle I like to make my long run more of a workout and practice my pacing – get uncomfortable and push myself in a different way.
This weekend my good friend (and fellow Potomac River Running coach) Adam and his buddy Aaron were planning on 22 miles with some serious pace work sandwiched in there – a 3 mile warm up followed by 3 sets of 6 miles, each set progressively faster than the last, and then an easy 1 mile cool down. These guys are training for Shamrock Marathon and this would be their last “burner” (as Aaron put it) before tapering for their race. When Adam told me they were planning on this, I have to admit part of me wasn’t committing to it – it sounded like a pretty killer run and I have another month of training to do than they do. So I told them I was for sure going to run *some* of it with them but that I really wasn’t sure I’d be in for the whole enchilada.
Saturday morning came and Adam had cut his finger really badly on a mandolin the night before – so badly that he wasn’t going to run at all and instead took himself to the Urgent Care while we were all out on the trail. It was a huge bummer! Aaron and his girlfriend Nicole both came for the run though, so the three of us stepped up to it together. Nicole is training for Boston also, but is an IronMan athlete and has been focusing on triathlon heavily lately so this was her first long run in weeks. She ran the first 9 miles with us and then decided to hold her pace from there.
We ran the first three miles really easy and chatted the whole way (7:49, 7:56, 7:55) and then picked it up for our first set of 6 harder miles.
The goal was to run them in the range of about 7:15. We ran them in 7:14, 7:12, 7:19, 7:12, 7:12, 7:12.
At this point I was feeling really good. Nicole dropped back and I told Aaron I would just go with it, take it mile by mile and see how I was feeling.
The second set we dropped our pace down, aiming for something in the range of 7:05-7:10. We hit them in 7:09, 7:01, 7:06, 6:59, 7:01, 7:12. The last three miles of this set were funny – we were running down some pretty sweet gentle hills for the fourth and fifth miles and looked at our watches and laughed – we knew we would be fighting those hills on the way back – and the sixth mile of that set had a steep UP hill. I was wearing my heart rate monitor (something I’ve been doing a lot more of lately) so I could see how steady my effort was. I wanted to maintain an even effort on those hills and stay in my zone 1 so I knew my pace would slow on the uphills and I was completely okay with that. I felt strong and confident that I could push myself for the last and fastest set of 6 miles.
As coaches with the =PR= group we only go out 5 miles in each direction on the trail, so when it was time to turn our pace up for the last set of 6 harder miles, it was also time to turn around on the trail. We ran downhill for the first mile and then up for the next two miles and then it was pretty steady. We were aiming for right around a 7:00 pace and the last set of 6 looked like this: 6:50, 7:07, 7:05, 6:55, 6:57, 6:46. I was fighting a side stitch on my right side since about Mile 12, breathing through it and trying to give myself mental cues to focus on other things and work it out. I wasn’t carrying water with me and had only sipped a cup of it around mile 10, so I thought there was a good chance my stitch was from dehydration issues (lesson learned!). I told myself to run relaxed, to run strong, to breathe, to open my shoulders to give myself space up there. It was working and helped a lot, but the stitch never went away and by the time we finished Mile 21 I was SO happy to be able to run easy again! We ran the last cool down mile in 8:08 and I felt like I was walking. It was soooo nice.
My heart rate averaged at 148 for the run. It is really cool to look at the data and how it correlates with how I was feeling and my perceived effort level. I stayed in my Zone 1 the whole time and during the periods of harder work my heart rate was at the higher end of that zone. This run was a huge confidence booster for me!
When I got home later that day I reflected on my run and on how my training has been going. I take it one day at a time, but am trusting in myself in a whole new way these days. I know I am strong and that I am being smart and listening to my body, giving myself what I need to accomplish this – from the inside and from the outside. Sometimes I face seeds of doubt around and within me – some of them come from comments from others (honestly, people who don’t even know me truly) and some of them come from my own fears and insecurities. I have learned to acknowledge those doubts and to listen to them, but not give too much power to them. I believe there is something to learn and a lot of growth to be experienced from facing those kinds of thoughts and feelings – from uncomfortable places – and I want to be self aware and thoughtful as a runner and especially as a person.
|my splits – in my Believe I Am journal|
When I got home on Saturday I took a hot shower, put my compression socks on and went to see the Lego movie with my family. It was AWESOME (besides the fact that I can’t stop singing the song “Everything is Awesome” nonstop!!).
The next day my good friend Meghan and I went out for a super nice 13 mile run together and my legs felt fantastic. We also took a great yoga class together after that! It was a wonderful weekend and it left me feeling so thankful to have such amazing people in my life.
On another note, this morning marks the first day of my participation in a 30 day writing challenge, inspired by my friend Kirk at Kale and Cigarettes. I don’t think of myself as a writer, but ever since my middle school years I found that writing was a really helpful tool for me. I kept journals throughout high school and off-and-on during college and beyond. I have noticed that when I am writing, when I am taking the time to reflect and process things in my life and opening up my creativity through the written word, I am just more balanced and clear-headed, more connected to myself. So when I saw Kirk’s challenge on Instagram I was inspired to give it a shot. I’m waking up earlier before my runs (this morning I was at my computer at 4:30!) each morning to spend some time writing. This will be really hard for me, but I believe it will be worth it!
I hope everyone had a great weekend filled with awesomeness and outside running!