A Tale of Three 20’s

Three 20-mile runs. I have never before done THREE of them in a single marathon training cycle.

In 2012, I was a novice runner, and my marathon training included one 20-miler, which I accidentally turned into a 22-miler and almost killed my friend.

In 2013, I was supposed to run 2 X 20’s during that cycle, but the weekend before the first one was scheduled, I ran an extremely danger-zone-hot Ragnar Race, which was epic in and of itself, but also so epic that when I was done I felt like I had just run a marathon. I took the following week as a drop-in-mileage week to recover, and did the other 20-miler later in the cycle with a very sore toe (which turned out to be a plantar plate tear). It wasn’t pleasant, but I pushed through.

This year, when I got my training plan from Coach Erin for the 2014 TCS New York Marathon, I did a spit-take as I glanced at the plan. One…two…THREE twenty-milers??  *looking around the room*  Who..me?

Being that my mantra of the past 6 months has been Calm the Heck Down, (only substitute a certain cuss word for “heck”), I pretty much just told myself that over and over. I’m going to abbreviate it CTFD. I think it’s going to turn into my mantra for life in general.

Twenty miler #1/September 14th: “Relief”

Considering I went to bed at 1 AM and didn’t hydrate properly (was in Manhattan for a play the night before) this run went pretty well. My main goal was to finish, test out my fueling, and try out the elaborate blister-reducing system I had planned for my feet.

I did loops in town from the Starbucks (restroom and water available!) of 6 miles-4 miles-6 miles-4 miles. I was really stoked to have my Ragnar van-mate Iliana join me for the first 10, my friend Chris join for 6, and my bud Lori join me for 14. It makes the time go so much faster when we’re jabbering away. Also, running friends help you CTFD.

It was a bright beautiful day...hence, the squinting.

It was a bright beautiful day…hence, the squinting.

I didn’t bonk (which means I fueled well), and I held back my pace (re: CTFD) to make sure my average pace was 11:09/mile (my goal for long runs is the low-11’s). One teeny blister showed up, but other than that I was happy. I knew if I could get JUST ONE of these suckas under my belt that would acceptable. Not ideal, but acceptable, as it had been in the prior years. The run wasn’t sunshine and rainbows, but it certainly wasn’t the ugly depths of hell, either. It did, however, make me completely useless the rest of the day.

marathon long run 20-miler

Pretty much stayed this way the rest of the day.

Twenty-miler #2/September 28th: “Shock”

I made it through the 6-4-6-4 loops again. And I felt pretty…good! Controlling my pace (again, C-ingTFD), my average was 11:10/mile. I wasn’t completely wiped out afterward, either. But you what I felt afterward? SHOCK. I was shocked that I felt so…good! I believe my quote on my running log to coach Erin was, “WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING?!”

TWO DOWN. I knew that if the wheels came off this training plan, I’d have two 20-milers under my belt. WHEW. I didn’t take a photo before or after the run, but I did take a recovery photo of The Icing Of the Cranky Toe whilst watching my son’s baseball game later that day. A day in the life of a mother runner…

marathon long run 20 miler

Don’t worry, it’s not reinjured. Just soothing the angry digits.

 

Twenty-Miler #3/October 12: “Confidence” 

I faced this one alone…on purpose. I wanted to test my own mettle, just me and my running tunes. I also thought “don’t fix what’s not broken” and stuck with my usual hilly 6-4-6-4 loop route. The last two miles needed to be at goal race pace, somewhere around 9:30-ish/mile. It was the kind of crisp, lovely fall day that makes you want to do a long run (oh wait, maybe that’s just me?), and I was also testing out my race outfit. I’m happy to say that after C-ingTFD, I did not make a bathroom stop, I fueled perfectly, my race outfit did not chafe in hideous places, my average pace was 10:53(!) and the last miles were 9:25 and 10:00. BOOM-SHAKA-LAKA-BOOM!

marathon long run

An eyes-closed selfie is my secret signal that I’m READY

Now I know why Coach Erin put three 20-milers on the plan. Not simply to put the miles on my feet, but to put the CONFIDENCE in my head. I feel READY. My race goal (TBA publicly soon) actually feels reachable. I could race tomorrow if I had to. Don’t get me wrong, I still have random twinges of anxiety about it, but all I have to do is CTFD, right?

Relief, shock, and confidence. Good things come in threes, they say. Good things, indeed.

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