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Another 20 in the books

January 12, 2009

I’m thankful to have had the good 6 in on Thursday before setting out on another 20 on Saturday. Coming off another not-great week of training, it would have been difficult mentally to set out into the darkness facing down 20 miles. I would have done it, but it would have been tough.

Instead, God gracefully gave me one good run just before, and that gave me jsut enough confidence to set me out on the road early Saturday knowing that even if it wasn’t my best run, I’d get the miles in.

Set out a few minutes after 5, heading south on A1A. I figured I’d put in about 5 before running into my friend Natalie. We hadn’t scheduled a run together but she usually starts her runs a few minutes before 6, and I was hoping she’d be around for company for at least a few miles. Instead, I was surprised to see her coming toward me before I’d even put in one mile. It turns out she was going somewhere later that morning and had decided to put in her 12-miler early that day. Wonderful that I didn’t miss her!

She told me, as she had last week, that she’s slower since she ran her half Ironman, and has been running around 10-minute miles. I told her that was no trouble; on a 20-miler, I’d rather be consistent than fast. We went south for a couple miles, then turned north until she hit 7 on her Garmin; then we headed back, and I dropped her off when she finished her 12 miles.

Our average pace for those 11 miles was 10:25. Natalie did seem to tire as we ran, but her mileage is just now beginning to lengthen again following her Ironman. After dropping her off, I headed back toward the north; I figured I could go north another five miles, then come back toward my car. My pace picked up nicely after that and I ran mostly negative splits. At mile 16 I stopped for fuel* and to “plug in” my ipod.

And this is where I got my best lesson of the day. I was feeling really fresh. The tunes were rocking. I was letting loose a little on the music, waving my arms a little and bouncing my head.

Two things I noticed.

One, and I’m not sure if this is related or not, my back hurt a lot more after this 20 than the last one. Is it because I didn’t keep my form tight? I just find it interesting that it is the very first time my back has ever bothered me after running. Of course, it’s also only the second time I’ve run 20, so maybe I was just due.

Two, no matter how fresh you feel at 16, your energy reserves are much lower and get drained much quicker than you would think. Though miles 17-20 were by far my fastest (9:02, 8:28, 8:23), I could absolutely tell that my body was running low on energy. And I knew that it was because I hadn’t run conservatively, either in speed or form. I’d felt so good at 16, knowing I had 4 to go, that I’d felt free to let my speed fly. Like I said, I finished the 20, and my speed was there, even in the last mile, but it was instructive how much my body could feel the energy leaving . . . quickly.

This is why we run 20s, isn’t it? I’d rather know this now than in the marathon. Now I know, it doesn’t matter how good I feel, even at mile 20 of my marathon; the toughest miles, the toughest part of pacing, is yet ahead. Energy that may last me for eight miles at the beginning of a run may only count for one at the end of a marathon. And everything counts. A wave, a head bop, a crazy dance move, a side step. Everything consumes energy. And energy, on a distance run, is a precious commodity.

Hey, lesson learned. Glad I scheduled four of these things . . . I think.

*Not for the first time . . . obviously, right? I took a Gu at mile 4, an Accel Gel at mile 8, another Gu at mile 12, and an Accel Gel at 16. Though initially the Accel tasted like fudge with salt, on second tasting I actually liked it better than the Gu, and I may try them exclusively on the next really long run.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. run4change permalink
    January 14, 2009 11:19 pm

    Hello there. I am so glad that you incorporate God into your running blog. That is great. I also love your Hebrews scripture. I did 20.5 miles last Sunday. It was wonderful. I love the long runs. I plan to do at least a 20 mile long run 3 weeks a month until I finish my second 50 miler in July. As of now, I have at least 6 marathons and 2 ultras planned for this year with my favorite being a 40 miler in Tennessee. I like your blog and will add it to my blog roll if that is ok. Good luck in your running and keep up the great work. I will see you at the finish line.
    http://run4change.wordpress.com

  2. the Zookeeper permalink*
    January 15, 2009 1:37 pm

    Thank you, Jason. Congratulations on your ultras–I can’t imagine going past 26.2, but I know better than to say never! I know how running is; a year ago I thought I’d never do a marathon. I’m adding your blog to my roll and want to keep posted on your training; I’m sure there’s much I can learn from you!

  3. January 25, 2009 10:25 am

    I love Accel-Gels… they are my favs by far (especially the chocolate). I actually look forward to them. Your blog is truly fantastic. You are inspiring the heck out of me!

  4. the Zookeeper permalink*
    January 26, 2009 2:55 pm

    Thanks, Sherry! It’s you triathletes I always find inspiring. Swim, bike, then run? That’s just crazy!

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