Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Back-to-Back Long Runs...Well, Sort of....

Well, I am officially in taper mode now for my upcoming marathon.  It's a good feeling to be there, but at the same time I am worried that I didn't manage to do enough training for what will prove to be a very difficult event.

My last long run was a 20-miler, and I completed it on Saturday.  It's the first time I have run that mileage since my last marathon on October 2 of last year, and it was tough.  My training really fell apart this summer with my hamstring, and my long runs especially were what suffered.  Instead of having a sensible, consistent build-up to the 20-miler, I was doing what "I could manage."  That meant a lot of trail running - a couple hours here, once and a while three hours.  I spent a lot of time hovering around the 13-15-mile mark for my long runs.  As these final weeks approached, and I was finally! starting to feel better, I was left with just three more long run weeks.  I took a very scientific approach to them and opted to do the following:

Week 1 - 2-hour long run
Week 2 - 3-hour long run
Week 3 - 20 Miles (which I assumed would take me about four hours)

Not exactly your 10-percent rule, is it?  To make things even better, I ended up doing my 20-miler only five days after the 3-hour run because that is what fit into the schedule.  Not ideal.

So, how did it go?  Well, okay.  I headed out on the run with my hamstrings and lower back already sore from all the cleaning I had done the day before.  Don't ask me why I decided to do a day of heavy cleaning the day before a long run when, in fact, I've been ignoring most cleaning all summer, but that's what I did.

I woke up, and the plan was to run to the local running club's 14-mile training run.  The run there would net me a little over two miles, I would do the training run with the run/walk group, and then I would finish up running home adding any miles as needed to get me my 20.

As it turns out, the run there was fine.  I enjoyed a slow, warm-up-type jog and got there just in time to find the route reel instructions and hook up with the run/walk group.  We started out and for the first five miles or so, everything felt fine.  I felt a little funny running with this group, because although I know all the people in it, they clearly are running buddies while I am the outsider who drifts in and out of the group occasionally.  Ah well.

The run/walk worked out great for five miles or so, as I said, but after the first few miles I was informed that the group likes to ramp up their running interval speed in the middle miles before bringing it back down again.  Yikes! I wasn't quite prepared for that, but I seemed able to manage okay.  What was my undoing, however, were the hills.  The route that the course designer had put together included a fair amount of rolling hills leading to, along, and leading away from the river - a nice challenge for anyone doing 14 miles.  For someone doing 20 miles however, it was a bit much.  Maybe if I were a stronger runner, I could handle them better, but as it was by the time we reached the 14-mile turn around point (so about nine miles into my run), I was already falling off the back of the group.  I realized I couldn't keep up the pace and tackle the hills and go 20 miles too, so I let them go.

Once I dropped off the group, I almost felt a bit of relief.  It's almost like feeling like you have to be on your best behavior because you are in the company of others.  Suddenly, finding myself alone, I felt able to breathe a bit better and my running improved.  Well, either that, or it's because I wasn't talking anymore.  From miles nine to 14 or so, I felt I did fairly well.  Make no mistake, I was ALL ALONE and that was a bit of a bummer.  There's nothing like doing a group run and finding yourself trailing at the end of it to such a degree that you could be the only person out there.  The plus side, of course, is that getting to the water stations I felt I had them all to myself.

After about mile 14, things started getting tougher.  I was starting to enter into no-man's land, that land of mileage you don't visit very often.  In fact, really one of the few times I had visited it at all was only five days previously, and my legs were feeling it.  I managed to get myself back to where the training run started, but facing still another four miles, I didn't feel like sticking around or talking to anyone, so I just filled up my water bottle and went.  Those last four miles were torture.  I felt like I had hit the wall in a marathon.  I was sluggish, my legs didn't want to run when I asked them to, and I ended up changing my intervals from a 4:1 to a 3:2.  Even then, my slow-walking legs were not too thrilled to be put into running gear when the time came.

I finished the 20 miles in 4:03, with those last six miles taking me almost an hour and a half.  Serious wall-hitting there.  After stretching and an ice bath, I still felt mostly miserable all day Saturday.  By Sunday, though, I was already starting to feel better, and yesterday I managed a 5.5K row with little problem.  I'll be curious how today's run goes.

There were so many thoughts running through my head after the 20-miler that I don't think I can outline them all here.  The overriding one, however, was the thought that I fully intend to slow down after this marathon.  I know I have another marathon in January, but I am only going to look to finish that one in one piece.  I plan on hopefully keeping my base up after this marathon, keeping my early long runs in the two to two-and-a-half hour range, but I am going to slow WAY down and work on my aerobic, endurance base.  Speed will have to come later, after I prove to myself that I can go the distance.  I am really looking forward to it.


  1. Long training programs never go as intended. Injury setbacks always suck, but I think you've done the best you could and will do well with the race. I've come to learn that no matter what happens during training, come race day, it will all have come together. Enjoy your taper and kick butt!

    1. Thanks for those words of wisdom! I need them. I know that I did manage the best I could and regardless of the fact that I wish I had done better, what is done is done. I think I am just feeling tired from all the training; I am kind of burned out on it. I am looking forward to those weeks in a couple where I start to get antsy for a challenge. :) (Hope that happens like it has in the past. Then I know I'll be ready!)

  2. I fell you on the hills! We had almost the exact same run on Saturday, except mine was two miles shorter. I followed the 14 route our group had planned, and it included a lot of hills. Hopefully it will make me stronger in some way, but I really felt like crud all of Saturday and part of Sunday. The long runs totally wipe me out. I'm hoping that that changes as it cools off and I'm further into my training schedule.

    1. Good for you on doing 18! This is different from previous plans, isn't it? Where you maxed out at 16? Going long is hard. You're so strong, though, I know that things will get better. (And hopefully it won't rain!)

    2. Yes! I'm following Run Less Run Faster plan this time. I had an injury last season at the end of training, so I thought I would switch things up. Not sure if the injury was from my training plan, too many races or the wrong shoes, but I figured changing to this plan would at least eliminate the risk of a stress fracture, which is what I believe I had (although I never had an MRI to be sure). So far it's been good, but I'm really hoping that my body holds up better to training this season.

      Did you already run your marathon? Maybe it's today or tomorrow?? Have fun. Hope you feel the greatness of it as you are running!

  3. Great job pushing through and hitting the 20 miles! In the next few weeks I'll be hitting mileage on my long runs that I haven't seen before so this helps me know how to better prepare mentally for that.