Charm City 20-Miler, Take 2

I’m enjoying the AC on this apparently ‘fall’ day, wearing my newly earned race shirt and curled up under my blanket. Actually, my legs are resting on the ottoman because ouch. I just ran, or killed, 20 miles through the beautiful woods of central Maryland. You can read last year’s report here. You’ll also read a lot of “last year”s because the comparison is quite interesting.

I wasn’t quite as impulsive about signing up for this race as I was last year, but I was more apprehensive. The marathon I’m training for (Philadelphia) doesn’t happen until November 19, a full 3-4 weeks later than the Marine Corps Marathon I did last year. Naturally, I have less training behind me this year, and that made me nervous. I feel like I’ve been more consistent with training, but the longest run I’d done up until today was 15 miles. Just 5 more, right? That’s what I told myself. Until I saw the weather forecast.

Last year it was a cool and lovely 46*. This year we started with 67* with forecast highs into the high 80s, low 90s. Fortunately the vast majority of the trail is shaded and we begin in a valley, so it definitely could have been worse conditions. I knew that hydrating was even more important that usual with those temps. I drank probably 50 oz of Nuun (plus whatever water and Gatorade I got at water stops) and still downed a 16 oz bottle of water at the finish.

My pace overall this year was 11:54, only 5 seconds faster than last year’s pace of 11:59. Strava tells a different story (11:31) as well as Fitbit (11:39), but around mile 17-18 I lost GPS so that could have messed with the numbers.

Mentally I was in the game the whole time. I never felt like I wouldn’t finish or do well. I encouraged others on the trail, too, not something I normally do, to be honest. I usually just keep my head down and plodding away. But like I learned at Marine Corps last year, there’s something that happens physiologically when you encourage others, high five, or let out any exclamation of positivity.

I ran without music the first 10 miles and then rocked from 10 until the end. Miles 8-13 were the toughest mentally, but looking at my paces I was pretty steady and staying within my long run training range of 11:18-11:48.

My plan now is to have another peak run of 20 miles sometime in late October, and then taper for Philadelphia on November 19!

 

The anatomy of a solo long run

Earlier this week I was considering dropping to the half from the full. I wondered if maybe I was burned out and should keep running but do less mileage. Then I thought about how far I’ve come since June with a new 5K PR (26:49) and a long run pace that sometimes has me wondering if I’m wearing a jetpack (10:15-10:35ish).

I had a sucky interval run on Thursday; I felt sick the whole time. But yesterday after working on school work at Starbucks, I decided to hit the trails and not get lost. 😉 That’s when I said to heck with my insecurities and laziness.. just DO IT! There’s no sense in wasting all the endurance and fitness I’ve worked so hard at, and I have my first 50K with my husband in May (Jemez Mountain Trail Run in Los Alamos, NM).

I was out late last night, which means I slept in this morning. I sat around my house, downing Pop-Tarts debating with myself if I should run today or tomorrow. 12 miles or 14 miles. I was debating which route to take, and if I should take the dog for a few miles. My brain was a hot mess. Since my husband deployed, Saturdays have just been weird and my least favorite day of the week, so I figured that I might as well do my long run. If anything, I’ll feel better afterwards.

I had plans later in the day so I calculated the latest time I could leave for 14 miles to get back in time to shower and get there. At 11:05, I laced up my shoes and leashed up my dog and we were out the door. Missy is such a great running partner, so we did about 3.8 miles easy as a warmup.

I brought her home, got my GUs and half-full water bottle, and I was out the door for the other 10.2. It was very strange weather here today…. cloudy and cold, even at 11:45. I couldn’t find my earband so I just grabbed a hat I got at my first ever trail race in Illinois. I ditched the gloves, though… my hands get warm fast.

Mentally I was in the game. I knew exactly the route I had to take to get those 10.2 miles, and I could envision myself at different point during the run. It felt strange to be running my long run on a Saturday (I got into the habit of running Sundays) and in the middle of the day.

The warmup was perfect and set me up to get in mostly negative splits. I had a lot of miles in the 9:00’s. That was definitely not my goal; my 7-miler last weekend was slow and torturous, and this week I just wanted to get the miles in and do it at a comfortable pace. However, by mile six I knew I’d be running faster than last week.

The first part of my route today had some shady characters…. a guy purposely slowing down and staring, random groups of kids…. that’s my part of town for ya. However, by the time I hit miles 9 and 10 I was running through a pretty neighborhood that reminds me a lot of roads I ran in Illinois.

When I hit the halfway point at mile 7, I started feeling really good. I always, ALWAYS have a hard time getting out the door, but I get progressively happier throughout the run. By mile 9 I started to feel my quads… and they HURT. It’s been awhile since a run has made me sore, but honestly I’ve kind of missed it. The great part about my route today was that by the time I started hurting, I had a slight downhill. It was probably only 1-2% but it made a difference.

I kept the last few miles strong and finished 14 miles in 2:24 (10:19 pace!!!). I got a new 13.1 PR. I felt so good afterwards. I was cold but one of the best rewards is a hot shower followed by FOOD.

I think this month will be good for mileage. I’m finally out of the post-race slump/resting period and can hit the pavement hard. This month so far I’ve run 34 miles already!

Moral of the story? Get your ass out the door. It’s hard and you don’t want to, but you’ll be so glad you did. Every long run gives you bragging rights. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

“We are the battling bastards of Bataan”

“We are the battling bastards of Bataan,

No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam;

No aunts, no uncles, no cousins, no nieces;

No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces;

And nobody gives a damn.”

I am in awe… of the event, the weather, the volunteers, the survivors who were present, the Wounded Warriors running or rucking… the entire event was so well organized and planned. Of course, they’ve had 23 years to get it down. 😉

If you remember correctly, the Bataan Death March was a forced march of tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers during World War II. Soldiers were mistreated, starved, abused and killed point-blank during the 80-mile trek. The Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico is a 26.2 or 15.2 course through sand, dirt, wind, desert and mountains.

When I found out Aaron had orders to Ft. Bliss, one of the first things I did, naturally, was look up races. I knew I wanted to do this one, but I also knew it would be completely different than a race like the Illinois Marathon. We both wanted to do the full 26.2 distance, but Aaron wanted to be a part of the military heavy category, which wears a full uniform and carries a ruck of at least 35 pounds (his ended up being 52. Crazy crazy man).

We trained by running up and down McKelligon Canyon and also Transmountain Road. My running training fell apart, but I still had a half marathon, a 16-miler and a 10-miler under my belt going into this race. Not ideal, but I knew physically I could do it.

I ran the first seven miles or so, walked until mile 16 when I was texting back and forth a little with Gabi and she must have prayed because I ran an incredible mile! I felt like I was in Runner’s World’s Rave Run. Then I walked the rest of the course.

It was rough. There were some paved parts, but most of it was packed dirt and loose sand. There is a “sand pit” around mile 21 that’s 3/4 of a mile long… sand that gets everywhere! I stopped to dump out my shoes at least three times.

I stopped at every water stop and got water or Gatorade and an orange or banana piece. My stomach was not agreeing with me today as every time I ate it would cramp up and I’d get side aches. However, I knew that if I didn’t eat or drink I wouldn’t have the energy to finish.

My quads and hip flexors were very sore, which is why I stopped running and stuck to walking most of it. Normally in a 26.2 race, a walker as slow as I was at the end would be at the end of the pack, but I think I was right in the middle. I finished in about 7:45 clock time. The website shows I finished in 8:26, which is not correct because Aaron finished in 8:23 and I finished about 40 minutes ahead of him… so I’m guessing it’s supposed to be 7:26-7:30.

The last few miles were rough for me emotionally. I’ve never lost a soldier who’s been close to me, but I have a few friends who have so I thought about them and all they’ve been through. And I saw a couple memorials attached to rucks that commemorated the marcher’s grandpa, one of whom was a Japan war camp survivor. I had to calm myself down because I got very emotional.

I’ve done a lot of races, but I’ve never seen a community of volunteers like I did today. They were so helpful, encouraging (which was good because no spectators were allowed on the course!) and dedicated. I think two of the greatest things to be meshed are running and the military… I really felt like I was running (walking… or moving…) for a cause. My grandpa is a Korean vet, my great-grandpa is a World War II vet, and my husband is currently serving.

We marched about a third of what the real Bataan marchers had to go through, and we weren’t tortured and bayonetted… I just cannot fathom how they got through it aside from gritting their teeth and relying on the grace of God. There were amputees, some double amputees running or walking today. The soldiers in full uniform carrying rucks were amazing as well.  I was utterly humbled today. Utterly. I am so thankful I was able to finish and that I wasn’t injured along the way.

I’m not sure I’ll run (or… move…) it again next year, but I would be ecstatic to volunteer. Or….. I could find four ladies who are just as crazy as I am a form a team. 😉 If you’re wondering why I haven’t posted pictures, it’s because I just ran (or walked.. or moved…) 26.2 miles and I’m sore. And hobbling. Check them out here. 🙂

>Summer observations

>Yes, I have summers off and no, I’m not ashamed.

I love being able to sleep in, or to come home from running or working out, take a shower, and go back to sleep. Guilt level: 0.

I love being able to hang out with friends pretty much whenever.

I love being outside and being active. Running, hiking, biking, walking, swimming, whatever. It’s fun.

I love the sun and heat, as long as there’s a way to cool off, like A/C, water, or a pool. Let’s hope the apartment pool is back on track soon!

I love that everything is so green. The trees, grass and fields. I realize that soon I will see nothing but desert, but I love that too.

Ice cream. Need I say more?

I’m not really loving taking two showers in one day, but I guess it’s necessary so I don’t smell like a junior high boys’ locker room. And my new shampoo smells pretty good. Just sayin’.

Makeup, who needs it? Today I put on only my moisturizer with sunscreen and some mascara. Confidence level? 10/10.

Summer for the past few years has meant a long visit with Aaron and this summer is the best because I don’t have to give him back for awhile!

Speaking of being active…

I went on a trail ride with Becca today. She’s 6’0″ and her husband is 6’7″, so it worked out to use his bike even though I had to lower the seat quite a lot! I’m sooo short at 5’10”. 😉 We went out to Jubilee College State Park west of Peoria. I totally overestimated my abilities. She took off ahead of me and I looked at the trail and took a big gulp. I fell within the first ten seconds, but I got right back on that thing!

We crossed the creek three times, and finally by the third time I just went for it! We walked a lot of it, but it was a great “interval” cardio workout.  She let me borrow Dave’s bike, helmet and gloves. I can see why you’d need a helmet. I also wore bug spray and took my Camelbak. That thing’s come in handy!

Anyway, I had mentioned that I wanted to get a picture in all my scratches-and-mud glory (I know this is nothing compared to you seasoned cyclists!) and so she offered to take this one after she dropped me off. Don’t be deceived; I had a bigger sweat stain than that!

It was fun and totally helped me get the edge off from Aaron coming home a week later than planned. Adrenaline and endorphins do crazy things… so… trail run anyone?