Sunday, October 2, 2011

Becoming Familiar With The Wall And Passing 400 Miles

Today was the dreaded 20 Mile Run!!! Historically, this is the most painful, horrible, demoralizing part of my marathon training. It's usually the longest distance I run before tapering but this year I'm taking a recovery week and then going for a 22-mile run to cap off my training.

People often talk about hitting The Wall at mile 20. There's just something about that number... about that point in the marathon... that sucks the life out of you. I've read a lot about your body's energy stores being depleted and about glycogen and carbohydrates and electrolytes. It all makes sense but I'm starting to doubt that these things are really the primary reason people hit The Wall.

I've talked about the mental governor and my internal metronome this week. I think these guys are behind the feeling of hitting The Wall. I've hit The Wall in every marathon. Usually around mile 20, but sometimes earlier and sometimes later. No matter when I hit The Wall, I was still able to walk/jog/run the last 6.2 miles. I've never been unable to finish a marathon. Even in the ridiculous heat of Chicago in 2007, I was jogging more than walking over the last 6 miles. And no matter how horrible I feel over those last 6 miles, I always experience a miraculous recovery over the last 0.2 miles. I'm always able to pick up the pace and run faster toward the finish line.

It's not just me. No matter how horrible people are feeling toward the end of the marathon, they seem to be able to muster the strength to no walk, not jog, but run down the home stretch and across the finish line. If hitting the wall means our muscles are depleted, this recovery shouldn't be possible.

So my 20 and 22 mile runs are about taking the fear out of The Wall and becoming familiar with counting to 20 and beyond. I'm going to convince my governor that 20+ miles is possible the same way I convinced it to pick up my Base Pace.

Today just might not have been the best time to challenge my governor.

Liz and I traveled to Stockton, IL for a family reunion/Civil War reenactment this weekend. We drove six hours Friday night and were thankful that Liz's Dad had set up our tent for us so we didn't have to do it when we arrived at midnight. There wasn't much sleep Friday night. We had to unpack and settle into the tent, there were family members coming and going, there was a pig roast being set up at 3am, and the temperature was in the 30's so it was freezing cold!

Saturday was a lot of fun and it was good to see the family on Liz's Dad's side that we don't visit often. The Civil War reenactment takes place on Liz's Grandpa's farm but it was little more than a background event to what was basically a family reunion. We didn't even get up from our lunch to watch the big battle on Saturday. Saturday night involved huddling around the fire, trying to stay warm while her family played music for hours. They're an incredibly talented bunch!

Saturday night was more of the same in the tent. The temperature must have hit the low 30's because we woke up to frost on Sunday. That meant burying ourselves in the sleeping bag and hiding from the cold until it was time to get up. Once we did get up, we packed our things and made the six hour drive home.

(A frosty morning on Sunday.)

With so little sleep in the past two nights, I was tempted to push today's 20 miles back until tomorrow morning. But I expected it to take me at least 2 1/2 hours and I was worried I wouldn't have time to run it before work.

I decided to go ahead and gut it out but I was worried because I was feeling a little tired and hungry before I even started. I thought I might be meeting The Wall a little early on this run. I wolfed down some peanut butter crackers and a G1 pouch and headed out the door.

I tried Liz's hand-held water bottle on today's run and poured 3 G1 pouches into it. I marked the bottle as I added each pouch so I knew about how much to drink each time I took a fluid break. The bottle worked great! For the most part, I was able to forget about it during the run and it was easier to drink the fluid from the bottle than from the pouches.

I didn't get started until 5:15pm so I knew I was going to run out of daylight. I also knew that meant it was going to cool off toward the end of my run. But it was 68 degrees when I started so I left the shirt at home hoping to avoid the hassle of NipGuards today.

Because the roads are more dangerous at night, and because I was worried I would get cold, I started the run at whatever pace felt fast but comfortable. I was racing the setting sun tonight and testing my ability to postpone The Wall after starting such a long run at a fast pace.

My plan was to run the Allenton Loop (just over 6 miles) three times and then tack on random running to complete the 20 miles. I ignored my watch and just ran what felt comfortable for the first two loops. When I started the third loop (about 12.5 miles in), I checked my progress and saw that I was way ahead of pace.

Technically, my Long Runs should be slow and relaxed. It's all about the mileage, not about speed. That means I can run a Long Run at anywhere from 7:45 to 9:15 per mile and still be benefiting from the workout. But I want to practice experiencing the energy drain that comes when I run closer to Race Pace so I was hoping to finish today's 20 miles in 2:30:00.

After two loops, I was on pace to finish well ahead of that goal and I decided to take the third loop easier. As anticipated, I ran out of daylight and most of the third loop was in the dark. I also got cold in the last loop. It was the first time I wanted to add layers during a run! By mile 17, I was really feeling it and I backed way off the last two or three miles.

I finished in 2:26:50... over 3 minutes faster than I planned.

The good side: I ran faster than planned and felt really good for the majority of the run. I did this on very little, poor quality sleep and not enough to eat pre-run. I did this after running a couple of weeks filled with high-mileage, fast-paced training. Hopefully, with better rest, better food prep, and rested legs, I'll feel even better in the marathon.

The bad side: I backed off the last two miles because I was definitely feeling it. I was in that zone where my body was protesting any increase in effort. I couldn't even make myself breathe heavier. I was flirting with The Wall, if not running slowly into it. I'm not sure how another 6 miles would have felt. I'm definitely still not immune to The Wall.

This was by far my best 20-mile training run. It wasn't quite at the pace I need to run sub-3:10 in the marathon, but I've never run a 20-mile training run anywhere near this fast. Hopefully, the adrenaline of Race Day will get me the extra time and distance I need.

Goal For The Day: Long Run.
Distance: 20.00 Miles.
Time: 2:26:50. 7:20 Avg. (6:57, 6:28, 6:35, 6:35, 6:37, 6:39, 7:02, 6:49, 6:51, 6:58, 7:16, 7:10, 7:54, 7:20, 7:24, 7:50, 8:18, 7:55, 9:16, 8:43).
Route: 3 x Allenton Loop/3 Laps at El Nopal.
Conditions: 68 degrees at the start/52 degrees at the finish. 5:15pm.

Notes: When I checked my watch after the run, I was shocked to see how fast my pace was in the first loop. That helps explain why I felt so drained in the last three miles. It's reassuring to know that the 6:30's felt so comfortable, but I'll have to control that on Race Day or I'll hit The Wall hard! Over 400 miles run since starting this blog in June!!!

Daily Miles: 20.00 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 401.42 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 10,050+ meters.

1 comment:

  1. They may be talented but they're a bunch of hippies :). That last picture with Mark, Lynne, Tiger and Scott is pretty classic.

    I'm proud of you for getting out there and doing this run. Like the gomers (and Nike) say ... Just Do It.