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.

16 Miles Brought the Happy

Well, here we go. I’m getting into big fat milage now. There’s less than 50 days to the marathon. Time for a big fat 16 mile run.

I wasn’t sure I was ready. The prior week’s runs were challenging, and the week itself was an overachiever’s dream. 5 miles + 5 strides on bizarre run on Tuesday, a killer track workout Thursday, and 6 miles on Friday night just for sh*ts and giggles. And I’m not saying that because it was impromptu but because by the end I felt kind of sh*tty and wasn’t giggling at all.

But 16 miles- as much of a mind game as anything. When I did 14 last Sunday, the mental hurdle was low-ish. I knew that if I could do 13.1 (which I’ve done 4 times, including here and here) then 14 wasn’t such a stretch. But 16? My usual Yeah! Let’s do this!  was a little more like Sure, I’ll try.

I had the butterflies. I’ve also got a sore left hamstring and an index toenail that’s hanging on for dear life. But I also have friends that will relay this run with me, and they are just about the awesomest group of gals ever. I just…keep…moving…forward…

6:30 AM – dawn. Laced up. Hydrated up. Dorked up with my fuel belt. Inhalered up. (Cool dry air – YAY! Asthma trigger – BOO!)

marathon training long run

All reflective and ready to roll.

Ready for the 3.5 miles by myself. Man I was babying that hammie, going super-super slow, like almost 12:00/mile slow. But I knew I needed to save all my energy for the whole of the run.

I hate getting up early, but I like getting runs done early – therein lies the rub. But then, some mornings, I get rewarded with view like this:

marathon training long run

The ducks seem unaware of their artistic presence.

Nice and zen-like, eh? I just plodded along, waiting for the stiffness to ease, the creaks and twingies to go away. Usually it takes about a mile. It was taking a bit longer this time.

marathon training long run

The long road ahead.

I saw some creatures along the way…

marathon training long run

Hello, deer. Really glad you aren’t coyotes.

Running by concave driveway mirrors is a great way to startle yourself like a fool in dawn’s light.

marathon training long run

Does this mirror make me look fast?

Right around mile 3.5, I picked up these two troublemakers.

marathon training long run

My running buds Amy and Mary (holla Mary!)

Amy and Mary were aiming for 9.5 miles today. We’re all going to run the Ridgefield Half Marathon on October 7th.  Read! Write! Run! Teachers representin’!!

My hammies finally started loosening up at about mile 5, just in time for this fairly large hill:

marathon training long run

My shadow has betrayed me. I swear I’m not wearing palazzo pants.

So, we ran up into Main Street. I took a brief walk break at the top of the hill (I’ll admit I dislike walk breaks, but it had to be done). We started up again after a minute or so and we started talking teacher talk as only teachers can do (if you know of or are married to a teacher you know whereof I speak, and speak…and speak…) and before I know it, we’ve reached mile 6.5 which is the pickup point for this gal…

marathon training long run

Picking up the speedy one in the middle of the run – smart? or suicide?

Our fast friend Jen-with-one-n always has a smile waiting for us! And she should smile – she had just completed her first triathlon the week before! Yes, first-time triathlete!  Give it up for Jen, ladies and gentlemen!!

Jen’s a little faster than us, but the route flattened out a bit and we picked up the pace. The miles ticked by as we continued the teacher talk (Jen’s a teacher too) and I just kind of fell into what I call Run-Forrest-Run mode. I just kind of tune out of what my legs are doing, and let my mind roll with the conversation or just mull things around a bit. It’s a nice place to be, kind of like a pre-runner’s high stage for me. Then, of course, I had to pee. We’re on a semi-rural road that I run regularly, so I hit the “pee spot” – a lovely patch of pines in a small field. YOU GOTTA DO WHAT YOU GOTTA DO, PEOPLE.

marathon training long run

Sorry, mega-mcmansion owners. I’m sure there’s more coyote pee than human pee in your field anyway.

Then Jen’s 4 miles were over, we air-kissed her goodbye, and headed back into town. Back into Run-Forrest-Run mode. After a quick pitstop for one of the other gals (I wish I could’ve held it that long), we are back down the hill heading to the drop-off point. The pavement flattened out and I high-fived my buds. The sun got higher and I’m at mile 13. Just…three…more…!

marathon training long run


Now it’s just me. All things considered, I felt ok. The pace hovered around 10:50 for much of the last few miles – perfect for a long-ass training run. I felt my toes getting squished and pummeled in my shoes, but it was tolerable. The evil hammie was making its presence known but it was cooperating. Off I go.

There’s more traffic at this point, so I concentrated on making eye contact and being alert. I had one earbug in, so I could rock out that last three. Don’t stop, don’t stop, don’t stop…thank you Foster the People. Here’s the home stretch…

marathon training long run

Almost home.

The last mile I started feeling really, really…good. You know what that meansHello Runner’s High, I’ve missed you. You haven’t been around much lately. I know, you appear in small doses here and there, but you haven’t shown me the love lately…until now. You were waiting until I had Coldplay on my ipod, weren’t you? You snuck in during that boppy Every Teardrop is a Waterfall, just when you knew I couldn’t resist. You make me feel like I love everyone and everything and life is fine, oh so fine. Work that magic. Don’t ever leave me, R.H.

16 miles…DONE. The afterglow:

marathon training long run

It’s all good.