26 miles – Hurts so Good

Yesterday’s long run carried me 26 miles.  For the first time, it finally occurred to me why it’s not so common for people to run that far for regular leisure.  While basking in my enlightened moment and pushing painfully through mile 24, I also realized I was truly in love with distance running even though I found myself questioning whether I had pushed myself too far too fast… again.

During the last 3 miles, the real aches and pains made themselves at home – my quads rhythmically aching, Achilles screaming with each step, and my knees wanting to buckle with each push-off.  All this “suffering” just to prove to myself that I could make the distance.  No medals or cheers at the end of this 26 miles, just my own knowledge that I was capable of not just doing it again, but doing it faster.  I finished with a time of 4:01:51, and now I am certain I can achieve 3:40 with just a little more work.

The soreness and tenderness of my quads and knees really began to set in 4-5 hours after the run.  I stayed hungry all evening and ate whatever I wanted.  I wasn’t really that tired, just sore and lazy later in the evening, so I did nap on and off and ice my knees.  Surprisingly, this morning I don’t really feel much sorer than I did last night.  I filled up this morning on a big bowl of chocolate-cinnamon proatmeal and have a day of shopping planned.  We shall see if the fatigue and DOMS finally hit me while I’m out and about today!

My plan now?  Take 2-3 days off from running and heal up good.  I think I’ll do a couple days of split-routine upper body weight training just to keep myself busy and throw in some yoga on the 2nd or 3rd day depending on how fast or slow I recover.  Then if all goes as planned, I’ll start some slow recovery runs and walks on the 3rd-4th day followed by recovery jogs of 3 miles the rest of the week.  Then I’ll reevaluate my strategy for the next week.  In the meantime, I’ll assemble a game plan to focus on cutting back my finish time.

“I Felt Like a Distance Runner”

Running 15 miles seemed unfathomable not that long ago. Now, that distance seems like a great and relaxing way to spend a Saturday afternoon!  My previous longest run was 13.1 miles, and, yes, this was on my treadmill.  I was ready to take it to the great outdoors!

I had different estimates on the length of the actual trail distance.  On average, it seemed to come out to be 14.5-15 miles.  I knew I wanted to do it in a straight run instead of out-and-back.  The trail is basically flat and follows the river through small rural towns and neighborhoods as well as wooded countryside.

My husband and I took two vehicles and dropped one off at one end of the trail, and he drove me to the other end.  I set out excited but with a slight feeling of uneasiness as to whether my lower leg issues were going to plague me or stop me completely.  The good news was that I would have regular opportunities to call the whole thing off if I couldn’t make it.  There were plenty of places to arrange a pick-up whenever I came to one of these small communities except for in about the last 4-5 miles which is a fairly isolated stretch at the end.

There were very few people on the trail for the most part until I came within a mile or so from the towns.  Every once in a while I’d cross paths with the lone distance biker.  To my amazement, I only saw a few runners, and they were only right on the very fringes of the neighborhoods.

This was the very first time I actually didn’t listen to music until I was in the last 5-6 miles.  The sound of water gushing and roaring was everywhere along the trail.

Around every bend laid a waterfall or stream.  I crossed over numerous quaint converted train bridges.  The river was really stunning with its green-blue overtones and mini rapids glistening in the bright spring sunlight.  It was just a gorgeous day for a long run.

I fussed with myself to hold my pace back constantly, but eventually after about 5 miles, I decided to just run however my body wanted to.  In the end, I ended up finishing sooner than I had calculated, so it paid off to just let myself go.

At 6 miles in the trail was blocked off for construction.  Well, turning back was out of the question.  I came to run this trail all the way, and that was going to happen!  I jumped over the construction tape and went about my merry way.  I only encountered 2 bikers on this very long and isolated stretch of the trail.  Eventually I found the offending obstacle to be a completely washed out section of the trail.

About 10 miles in my legs were feeling fairly fatigued, but I had no trouble brushing it off.  The only real issue I had was the increasing soreness on the bottoms of my feet.  Luckily, that didn’t start until about the 12th mile and didn’t become unbearable.  I kept in touch with my husband, calling home at fairly regular intervals to ease his mind and also to give myself a break and walk a little.  At mile 12, I proudly told him I’d call him from the car. 😉

I continued on the trail, traversing a long bridge spanning the river and crossed into a wooded area.  I was almost there!  I ran through a dense neighborhood and began looking for the park where my car was.

Now, I had never been on this trail before so I wasn’t completely sure where it came out at.  I found myself standing in the middle of town on a main street.  Well, this didn’t seem right!  I tried to check my GPS, and it apparently decided to take the day off.  I phoned my husband, “Errr, I think I’m lost and I’ve already been 14.5 miles!”  Apparently, while I was in the zone I missed the turnoff on the trail that led to the park.  My husband checked the map and guided me about a mile back on the trail to my “exit.”  I thought, “Finally, I’m there!”  Little did I know, the last mile was going to be the hardest part of my journey!

The street that led to my car was about a mile long, and it harbored some mean steep inclines for legs with miles on them.

At first I planned to walk the hills, but I got fired up again on my last wind and went for it and ran through it.  Low and behold, I finally spotted my little yellow car, legs and butt burning!  I walked circles around the car for a while, legs being confused as to why we stopped, and checked my Garmin – 16.11 miles in 2 hr 49 min.  Really?  Oh yeah.  A mile more than I had planned.

It felt good.  It felt even better when I got home and indulged on all manner of carbs and a few beers that evening.  The next day, I amazed myself at pumping out 6.5 miles on my treadmill while I replayed the events of the run in my head.  Finally, I felt like a distance runner.

This Saturday… at least 13 miles planned!  Next month, I’m planning to do a 20 miler.


Feeling Those 60 Miles

Yesterday’s run, the beginning of a brand new week full of promise, was the most physically difficult run yet.  About mile 6, I felt like my legs were 20-lb weights.  I had all sorts of random aches and pains in my legs, and the soles of my feet were sore.  After struggling through 4 more miles, I stepped off my treadmill and could barely walk.  Everything hip down felt like crunchy peanut butter.  I walked around bowlegged for a while and stretched.  It then occurred to me that I was on the threshold of my current physical potential.  The next thing I thought… disappointment.   But how could I possibly feel that way after doing close to 60 miles over the past 7 days? Last week’s mileage was actually about 20 miles more than I’ve ever done in a week.

It was a long week with long hours.  I was feeling it mentally and physically this morning.  My body and my mind wanted to do nothing more than sleep today.  Granted that’s not what I did.  I did do upper body weight training and did 2.5 miles of incline and speed intervals on my treadmill.  My run felt pretty good, and I was totally into it by the time I was half a mile in.

I’m considering the fact that I’m going to have to back off on my mileage this week or at least for a few days and let my body recover after really beating the hell out of my legs the past 2-1/2 weeks.  I want to build up some serious endurance, but it won’t happen if  I can’t even do the miles, and right now, my body is saying it can’t.  My sister had suggested a week of long runs possibly followed by a week of short runs.  I think that’s going to be the right flavor.  I think it will rejuvenate me.

So, goals for this week?  I’m thinking 25-30 miles will be good.  Focusing more on hillwork and speedwork this week.  I really enjoy doing both of those.  I’ll still probably incorporate a long run or two, but I think I’ll keep it under 10 miles.  I might find myself a race to work towards; I haven’t done a race in a couple months.