Training for the 16 March Shamrock marathon and I have yet to run a long run over 15 miles since The Richmond marathon in early November. I've run a couple of 14+ and a 15 with a few more from 12-13 but nothing longer. Most of the reasons have been that I have raced almost every weekend and the long runs have been pushed to the back burner...for instance...last week I ran the 20K in the Strider Distance Series...I had intended to run another lap that day but after putting so much into the race there was little left in the tank. I did do about a two mile warm-up before the race but that only brought it to about 14.5 miles. So...with no planned races for this weekend, thought Saturday would be a perfect day to get it done.
In the past, the majority of my long runs have been run on the treadmill at the gym but I wasn't really enjoying running 2.5 hrs on the treadmill sweating away...I have to bring four hand towels with me to wipe up the sweat that builds up otherwise my shoes end up sloshing wet. Also very annoying is that the treadmills stop after just 60 minutes...so what I normally do is take a restroom break, wring our my wet shorts and shirt, and get some nutrition...like a GU or some type of PowerBar...which isn't all that bad but it breaks up my rhythm and it's really hard to get back into it.
So this time I decided to run it outside at the Dismal Swamp Trail...the same place that I tried to run a 20 last spring before the Frederick marathon when the temps ended up in the 80's...where I didn't take enough fluids and almost ended up with heat exhaustion. For a nice trail park...they don't have any water fountains...not a one the whole 8.25-mile trail. The trail is actually an old two-lane highway 17 running next to the intercoastal canal. They built a brand new highway 17 running all the way to North Carolina and decided this section would be great as a recreational trail for runners, bikers, skaters, horses and walkers...just no motorized vehicles.
This time I checked the weather for the best day between Saturday and Sunday...Saturday was best with temps in the low to mid 40's...and I took lots of fluids to stash along the trail. The trail has several entrances and I just drove to two entrances about equal distance apart and stashed a bottle of water or Gatorade at each. I also planned to carry a bottle of water with me.
So...with my plan in place and my fluids stashed I made my way to the main entrance to the park and got ready to run, stuffing my one pocket with a pack of GU and a pack of sports beans, and find out I forgot my watch...best laid plans of mice and men yada, yada...I forget my watch. That's okay...I don't need no stink'n watch! I note the time on my truck before I leave...it reads 11:00 on the dot...and I start my run. I didn't stretch but did start off at a slow pace and everything felt awkward and tight but by the first half mile I was in my long run cruise mode. I had planned to take this really easy so I tried to run slow and easy...which turned out really hard to do, so I just ran at a pace that felt good and since I didn't have a watch to check my times, I had no idea what that pace was...but it felt good. Between miles two and three I saw a total of three runners...headed back. One lady warned me that there was a bad head wind coming back...I don't know how far out she went since the trail is 8.25 miles long and you can turn around at any point. After mile four, I didn't see another runner until I came back...I did see some people on bikes and one guy on roller blades but that was it. Around mile four I noticed that my eardrums were starting to crackle...usually a sign of the beginnings of dehydration...I hadn't been drinking the water I had been carrying since it was really cool and I hadn't had the urge to drink, but even running in the cold can dehydrate you...so I decided to drink from my bottle every half mile whether I think I needed it or not. After a couple of miles the crackling in my ears stopped and everything seemed to be going smoothly. A Boy Scout, as a project for his Eagle award, had placed distance markers on posts every quarter mile, so it was nice to see the mileage going by. Things were going very well now and I got to the end of the trail and turned around to head back...that's when I noticed the strong head wind that I had been warned about. It reminded me of the head winds going up Atlantic Ave during the Rock n Roll half, but this was going to stay with me all the way back for 8-10 miles. Most of the beginnings of the trail is pretty much sheltered by trees and brush on both sides but way out near the turn around, there was hardly a tree in sight where the wind was coming from and its pretty much out in the open. Sometimes there would be a thicket of trees and brush to shelter me a bit but not much until I got closer to the entrance...the wind seemed to be coming right down the trail at me but I trudged on. My first water stash was coming up and I finished the bottle I was carrying and scooped up my hidden stashed bottle to take its place. They have green waste barrels along the trail so I was able to pitch my empty and carry the new bottle. Coming back to the five- mile marker I see the first runner who is coming in my direction...from the start...and it's a girl. I know women are good runners, but it surprised me that she was this far out and on a long run of at least 10+ miles and doing it at a good pace. Getting closer to the main entrance, I encounter more and more runners just starting out. At the 2.5-mile marker I have stashed my second bottle but I don't need it and decide to go back with my truck to get it after the run. Getting closer to the entrance I also know that getting back to the starting area only gives me about 16.5 miles, needing 3.5 more miles and I have a decision to make on whether to turn around and do a small loop taking me to the 1.75 mile marker and back or continue on out of the park following the road to where it ends about 1.5 miles ahead and turn back...but that would only give me about 19.5 miles. I decide to keep going straight and then come back and do the additional half mile loop after. At the barrier to the park entrance I was able to ask a woman for the time...which was 1:05, making it 2hrs 5 mins for the out and back for the 16.5 miles...not bad...I thought I was going much slower. I do my three mile out and back and then the extra half mile by running to the .25 mile marker and back to get my full 20 miles and check the clock in the truck which reads 1:37...so a time of 2:37 for my 20 mile run giving me a pace of about 7:51 per mile...not bad...not bad at all. Was able to run the whole thing except for the few seconds to pick up my second water bottle, and surprisingly no cramps or other problems except for the weird feeling at the start. I also only drank the two bottles of water and no Gatorade, nor did I use the GU or sports beans that I carried in my pocket...didn't feel the need to. So I was quite happy with my first long run. Went home and took a long hot shower and settled in to watch some football.
Training for this week:
Mon: 6.85 miles run, 20 min elliptical, 15 min stairstepper
Tue: 51 min elliptical, 51 min cycle, 21 min stairstepper
Wed: 8.88 miles run, 16 min stairstepper
Thu: 61 min elliptical, 61 min cycle, 16 min stairstepper
Fri: 45 min elliptical, 46 min cycle, 20 min stairstepper
Sat: 20 mile run in 2:37
Sun: 46 min elliptical, 46 min cycle, 15 min stairstepper, 15 min treadmill
Happy training everyone!