Last weekend (Sunday morning) I completed my 20 mile training run in preparation for the Fredericton Marathon on May 8, 2016. LSD (Long Slow Distance) runs are tricky things. You feel great for most of one and then, at the 75% – 80% complete mark, a huge smothering cloud of fatigue, despair and even some pain slowly tries to crush your body into the ground. That’s my experience anyway.
The temperature was slightly below 0C when I was getting ready for the run but it was supposed to warm up to almost 20C later that day. I decided on T shirt, shorts and a light jacket and assumed that it would do. I applied lots of Body Glide and headed out at about 7:15 AM, after having fueled up about an hour earlier.
The first 16 miles went well. My running clothes seemed to strike the right balance of providing warmth without making me overheat. I had lots of water and I used Swedish Berries (red colored candies, similar to gels, sometimes called Red Berries) to refuel along the way, eating one approximately every three miles. Good weather. I had a couple of 2 hour podcasts to keep me entertained. Not much else to say, although I did get tired as the run continued. Pretty normal, really.
Around mile 16 my body suddenly seemed to realize that I’d been running for quite a long period of time and started complaining. “Hey man,” it seemed to say, “wouldn’t you rather go eat the contents of your pantry and then go snooze? Immediately?!?” So, yes, I slowed down a bit while my brain started ever so slightly to turn into Jello and so on. I felt more of the same discomfort that I felt during my 18 mile run and my stomach started bothering me. Had to get home anyway, so I kept going.
I jogged along for most of mile 19 but was starting to take more walking breaks. I walked at least half of mile 20. I hated running, I hated my iPod and I just wanted it to stop at that point. My stomach was screaming for food. Or else it wanted to empty itself out, I couldn’t tell. My brain had mostly completed its Jello-fication and my feet, calves and quads were darned sore.
(I can honestly say that passing kidney stones does feel a lot worse, though.)
I finished mile 20, walking a bit unsteadily at that point, feeling more relief than joy about meeting the goal. I snapped a photo for posterity (see the beginning of this post).
I still had to walk about 0.4 miles to get home. That was achievable but still not much fun. Did very little for the rest of the day. Tried stretching a bit but I was sore and tight. Cleaned myself up, put on fresh clothes, etc. It took an hour or two of food, water and rest to feel somewhat human again. My calves and quads ached for a couple of days after the run.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that I was ready to quit running forever after that experience. Here’s the thing: it’s all a necessary part of the training process. In my mind I knew that I had to run 20 miles (or complete 20 miles on my feet, let’s say) in order to have a shot at finishing a marathon (though not necessarily running the entire marathon). Trusting a plan helps you get through the barriers between you and your goal. Yes, it was difficult, and there’s more to come, but the 20 mile run was necessary and it was valuable.
Now I’m in the taper phase of my marathon training where I reduce my mileage gradually until race day. I’m still running. I have a 12 mile run to do sometime this weekend. I still have to run 3 – 4 days per week prior to the race. But for the next couple of weeks I have the advantage of knowing that I’ve already run these distances and I know what to expect and that’s comforting. And so I’ll keep working the plan as best I can.
This is not the most inspiring post but it’s real and it’s what I want to remember going forward.