In spite of last week’s injury and illness, I really hoped that my report on the dreaded 20 miler would be positive, like “It was hard, but I feel good,” or, “I felt so accomplished,” or something. But as I stated in my Manic Monday training summary, it was just hard, and I’m glad it’s over.
I was very, very lucky to be able to join some awesome ladies from Athleta for a fully-supported, pre-planned 20 mile route that closely followed the actual route that the Vermont City Marathon will follow on May 29. Two gals from the store were a mobile aid station, and they met us at miles 4, 8, 12, and 16 of the route, with water, Gatorade, Gu’s, and they also carried our extra clothes around in case we got cold.
The forecast called for rain, which wasn’t ideal, but it actually didn’t start truly raining until around mile 10. Katie, Roo, Nikhil, Ann and I started off from the store shortly after 8. Ann quickly left us in the dust as she was planning to run 8 minute miles, whereas my goal long run pace is between 10:30 and 11 minute miles. It turned out that Katie was injured too, so she was down to go my pace, and Roo was a rock star and slowed down to stay with us, but eventually Nikhil took off at his own pace too, leaving just me, Katie, and Roo.
I was disappointed to feel my left quad start to complain around mile 4, and my right foot joined the party soon after. Still, though, Katie and Roo were really good company. They’re running buddies, and had been training to hit a sub-4 marathon time together before Katie’s IT band became an issue. She was literally running with a plastic bag of ibuprofen, not sure if she was going to be able to complete the full distance. I just tried to focus on the company, and have completion as my only goal. I didn’t stop my watch for any of our water or bathroom breaks, so that I’d have a better idea of what race day might actually look like.
I did my best to keep to my usual sip of water every mile and fuel every 4-5 miles, but I was dragging by mile 10. My leg hurt, my foot hurt, my sinuses hurt… Honestly, I wanted to quit. Was planning to quit. Actually rehearsing in my head what I would say when we reached the next aid station and I bailed. The traveling aid station missed us at mile 12, but looped back around to meet us at mile 13, and I confessed I was hurting, but decided to keep going. We all took a round of Katie’s ibuprofen. Roo was chafing really badly under her arms, and we were all wet and cold. I told Katie and Roo to go on at that point. We were about to head up the Battery Street Hill, and I knew there was absolutely no way I could keep up with them.
Battery Street comes right after the halfway point on the marathon course, and it’s a bear. I used to run hill repeats on it all the time, but my hill training has been sorely lacking this cycle, so I ended up walking the hill. I knew that the only way I was going to finish was by adding in some walking. Coach Suz and I had talked about this beforehand, so I decided to walk for 2 minutes after each mile, to help rest my leg and foot and reset everything. I was a little cold, and very hungry, and also running all alone at this point, which was kind of a bummer. Around mile 15, I REALLY wanted to quit. I knew the mobile aid station would be at mile 16, and that they’d drive me back to the store if I asked. I thought long and hard about it. But in the end, I knew that I needed to finish. If I didn’t get it done that day, I’d just have to try again another day, and I REALLY didn’t want to have to go through this again.
I made it to the aid station at mile 16, where I announced “I’m struggling. Hard.” The girls gave me a pep talk and some Gatorade, and told me that there would be bagels waiting for us back at the store. Those were the most motivating words anyone could possibly have spoken at that moment. As I ran/walked the final four miles back to Athleta, I just kept imagining a huge bagel with cream cheese, how good it would taste, how amazing it would feel to be done… And I made it.
Everyone at the store cheered for me when I came in, and my friend Chris gave me a big high five. I shed my hydration pack, put on my jacket, and had probably the best spinach and cheddar bagel I’ve ever had in my life. Then I went to the grocery store for recovery supplies:
And took a long, hot epsom salt bath and ate sushi in the tub while reading Harry Potter. The rest of the afternoon was spent eating ALL THE THINGS, foam rolling like a responsible adult, icing my foot, and watching Game of Thrones Seasons 1 and 2 on the pulled out futon. I limped a lot Sunday and Monday, but I’m definitely feeling a bit better today. My quad is still achey, sort of like really bad DOMS. My foot is more acute pain in the heel, with a duller ache by my pinky toe, but again, less than it was even yesterday. I’m hoping that good rest and recovery this week will help resolve my issues and get me ready to run this marathon.
I have also decided to switch back to my very first pair of Saucony Mirage 4s, because in looking back at my mileage log, I have quite a few less miles on them than I thought. I’m going to test them out on a short run today and see how it goes. Worst case scenario, Amazon has ONE pair of Mirage 4s in my size available, and I can use Prime to get them here in 2 days, which should theoretically be enough time to break them in a bit before the marathon.
After writing this post out, I do now feel a sense of accomplishment, but honestly, on Sunday I was in such a haze of pain and runger that I was kind of emotionally numb to the enormity of it. Including all of our water stops, breaks, my walking etc, it took 3 hours and 51 minutes, an overall pace of 11:35, which I am IMMENSELY proud of. And I need to give a MASSIVE shoutout to the Athleta crew for sponsoring this 20 mile run. I absolutely would not have gotten through that distance without the company and support.
In closing, I have to say that my experience running 20 miles sort of solidified that the marathon will be a “one and done” for me. The training is just too much. Too much time. Too much energy. Too much worry. Too much pain. I’m just not a multiple marathoner, and that’s ok.
Have you ever done a 20 miler? When training for a marathon, do you cap your training at 20 miles, or go further?