Four weeks ago, our 15 mile training run was the most difficult one I’d had so far. The 17.5 mile run two weeks later was much easier. Last week, my short solo Thursday run was also one of the worst I have had. What these two bad runs had in common was the timing of my cycle. I’m sure I don’t have to elaborate further on that.
So coming into my 20 mile training run I was a bit worried that it would be another difficult one. I decided to take control of the things that I could control like hydration, sleep and nutrition. For a couple of days before the run I did my best to be well hydrated, eat well, take my vitamins and get plenty of sleep. I also bought a new water belt that could hold four bottles instead of just two, along with more noms and other supplies.
For my breakfast before the run I had two eggs, a large banana and a bunch of peanut butter (smeared on the banana). For during the run, I mixed the Stinger Honey Gels (I use the gold) into two of my water bottles, and filled the other two with plain water. For my noms I brought along a pack of assorted Sport Beans and two packs of the Stinger Chews (one Lime-Ade and one Fruit Smoothie). I started sucking on a jelly bean a bit earlier in the run than I usually do (only about 30 to 40 minutes in) and I had a jelly bean or chew in my mouth most all of the time from then on. I don’t chew them, just to be clear, so they take a while to dissolve. I alternated between the plain water and the water with the gel mixed in, and finished the first of the honey-waters around half way.
I also used my foam roller on my right IT Band (the one that gets tight) once or twice per day for several days leading up to my run. Most of the time I also rolled my left IT Band at least once on those days, even though it doesn’t feel tight.
Now, I have no way of knowing if this strategy was what made the difference, but I do know that I had a much, much better run than I did the previous Thursday, or 4 weeks before when we did our 15 miles. Around mile 14 or 15 I could start to tell that certain muscles were getting tired and my feet were certainly feeling the pounding they were taking, but I didn’t feel bad and I didn’t feel like I was struggling. Around mile 17 I started to really pay attention to how much distance was left, but I still didn’t feel bad. I did get a bit of a mental boost after 17.5 miles, knowing that every step after that was farther than I’d gone before.
Our route was a bit unusual in that it was sort of a 10 mile out and back followed by another, different 10 mile out and back. That might sound sort of boring to a lot of people, but I don’t mind that sort of thing at all. And honestly, it was really cool to pass the other pace groups once on each leg of the run. We cheered each other on, exchanged high-fives and I think generally improved each other’s experience. We were also cheered on at several points by one of our class leaders, who met us repeatedly along the route, and by runners from the traditional running class as well as a number of random strangers we ran past. I have to tell you, if you see a group of runners out on a training run, give them a cheer. It honestly feels great and they’ll really appreciate it.
Finally, I also tried something new after my run. Jeff Galloway and a number of others strongly recommend a cold bath (just tap cold is supposed to be fine) after a long run. I don’t have a bathtub so I hadn’t tried this before but some very kind friends of mine allowed me to use their tub after this run, and boy was that a good idea. The cold bath itself was not the most comfortable experience I’ve ever had. My feet, in particular, had a hard time with the cold water. But today, I’m so much less sore and stiff than I have been on previous long runs that I’m sure a cold bath will become part of my post-long-run ritual as often as I can manage. One thing I will say is that I think it might be easier to sit in the bath and run the water in, as I did, than to climb into a cold bath, particularly for the feet. Less shocking, that way.
So mentally speaking, 20 miles is the penultimate milestone for me. 23 miles (our next long run) doesn’t have the same mental impact so it’s our final long run of 26 miles that is the next significant training run in my mind. That run is scheduled for June 10th and I will run around the block to get my extra .2 miles in if we finish short of the full 26.2. Following that 26 mile training run, we have three consecutive recovery run Sundays, and finally the Marathon itself on July 8th in just 68 days.
I feel much more secure now in my ability to run this marathon. 26.2 miles isn’t much more than 20 and I’ve already run that far!