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Week 10 of training for the 2014 Towpath Marathon is in the books!
Monday: I headed to the gym for 30 minutes on the elliptical to keep my muscles loose after my 10 miler on Sunday and burned 350 calories.
Tuesday: I took advantage of a bit of free time and added a 15 minute exercise bike ride to 30 minutes on the elliptical, and I burned 425 calories. My goal was to loosen up a bit for my run on Wednesday.
Wednesday: Sheila had a work meeting in the evening so I got in my 9 miles on the good ole section of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath on which I ran many, many miles when we lived in Tremont. I knocked out those 9 miles in 1:11:25 for an average pace of 7:56 minutes\mile! As I ran, I thought about how much I have grown as a runner ever since I discovered the Towpath in April 2013. I thought about all of the runs that I had done in this area throughout 2013 in which I was thrilled to post a 10 min mile. I enjoyed the scenery and thought about how awesome the 2014 Towpath Ten-Ten was in June. We lived in Tremont for three and a half years before moving over to our new neighborhood, and living in Tremont in such close proximity to the Towpath was awesome! God blessed us so much while we lived in Tremont; they were 3 of the most transformative and memorable years of our lives. Even though I love where we live now, I’ll always remember my first year and a half of running in Tremont and praise God for helping me lose 20+ pounds there and giving me the courage to believe I could run 3.1, 13.1, and 26.2!
Thursday: Absolutely nothing was on TV at the gym, but that didn’t stop me from getting in 30 great minutes on the elliptical and burning 330 calories. I’ve gotten a bit outta sync with incorporating weights into my training, and in the back of my mind I’m slightly worried that my legs will fall apart during the last part of the marathon like they did during last year’s marathon. I know that I’m much stronger this year in comparison to my ability level last year, but I don’t want to see my hopes for a sub-4 getting dashed by a rough final few miles. In an effort to strengthen my hamstrings a bit, I dedicated much of this elliptical section to running backwards after I read somewhere that it was a good thing for runners to do. This really worked my hamstrings! You just can’t beat the burn of a great workout.
Friday: Rest day! I’m not sure if it was a rest day in the traditional sense given that I spent several hours on a ladder painting our bedroom, but I didn’t run or hit the gym.
Saturday: Knocked out 4 miles on the treadmill in 31:17 at the gym. My foot felt a bit weird on Friday, and with my mileage increasing over the next few weeks I didn’t want to take any chances of venturing anywhere near the runner’s nightmare of plantar fasciitis. I figured that cutting down my mileage and running on the treadmill would be a good way to ascertain the status of my foot. Fortunately, nothing seemed to be wrong – I had no pain or discomfort following this run.
Sunday: After we finished painting our bedroom, I squeezed in 30 minutes of cross-training at the gym. I burned 275 pounds with a combination of 15 minutes on the elliptical and 15 minutes on the exercise bike. My goal was to loosen up for my long 15 miler on Monday.
Monday: When I saw that the Browns\Redskins preseason game was scheduled for Monday night, I figured that relaxing on the couch covered in ice packs while enjoying a delicious meal after my 15 mile long run would be the best way to watch it. I had hoped to get my run in before the game. I wound up having to work late and I wound up starting my run at around 6:45PM. As it turned out, though, this was a blessing in disguise because the temperature had cooled off considerably by this time.
When I planned out my route, I made sure to build in plenty of water stops. During my past few long runs, I planned my water break at a point at which I had already completed 2\3 or more of the run. I did this because it gave me a mental boost because I could tell myself that the worst was already over. However, I kept finding myself reaching the water break feeling very exhausted and I would wind up drinking 20+ ounces of fluid in one gulp. Needless to say, my stomach wasn’t happy about the fact that I would burst into running immediately afterwards, and my legs often tended to stand in solidarity with my stomach and refuse to willingly give me what I needed until a few miles had passed. This resulted in slower times and a disappointing end to my runs. This time around, I decided to build in 3 water stops in order to ensure that I didn’t reach a point of significant exhaustion and to have the opportunity to drink and fuel before I reached the point at which I desperately needed water.
To be honest, I was really, really nervous about this run. Last year’s 15 miler was the worst training run that I’ve ever had. Heck, even my 18 and 20 mile runs went better than my 15 miler! I fueled improperly and I felt sick to my stomach during the end of the run. My pace was slow and I wound up taking several walking breaks. I had hoped for the run to take 2.5 hours, but it took me 2:48:03 and an average pace of 11:12 minutes\mile. I was very grateful that my family agreed to delay the start of my dad’s birthday party that evening because I would have had less than 30 minutes to ice down, eat, and shower before we needed to leave. When I got home, I wound up staring blankly at a delicious plate of macadamia-crusted grouper that Sheila made because I felt so nauseous.
Throughout the day on Monday, I worried that perhaps 15 miles is the distance at which I cross the proverbial Rubicon and that no amount of training will allow my body to conquer 15 miles without extreme hardship. I told myself repeatedly that I was a much stronger runner than I was at this point last year and that my training so far this summer had gone much better than my training at this time last year. Nevertheless, I was still a bit nervous when I took off, but I figured that I would start slow and take it one mile at a time.
Miles 1-4 went exceptionally well, and when I reached my car for my first water break, I was feeling great about how everything was going.
Mile 5 started off with a hill. Although the 2014 Towpath Marathon course is very flat, my experience at the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon showed me that doing hill training is essential to building stamina because the hills on the last few miles of the course really killed me since I didn’t do any hills during my training for that race. My legs held up relatively well on the hill, and I was grateful that I was able to immediately resume my usual pace once I reached the bottom of the hill.
I knew that the run would turn out to be successful if I could get through Miles 6-10 in a good physical and mental state of mind because I would “only” have 5 miles left to go after my second water stop at the end of Mile 10. (I know that this theme has been beaten to death among long distance runners, but isn’t it crazy how a distance that seemed very daunting at the start of one’s running journey can eventually turn into a run that feels like a short jaunt in the park?) My route for Miles 11-15 took me over the exact same course on which I ran during Miles 1-4, and I knew mentally that I’d be in great shape during that part of the run because I had just conquered that distance with little trouble earlier in the run.
Not wanting to leave anything to chance, I rolled out Guns ‘N Roses’ epic Appetite for Destruction for this section of the run. This was the first tape that I ever owned. Although buying it in kindergarten wasn’t probably the best choice for my long-term socioemotional development, I am grateful that one of the “cool” second graders told me about it when I was a kindergartener and that I was lucky enough to discover the best rock album ever recorded at a young age. When I put this on, the opening chords of “Welcome to the Jungle” gave me an unbelievable surge of energy and I felt like I had just started running!
After a great second water stop, I headed out for Miles 11-15 knowing that my goal time was well within reach. Running into the beautiful sunset helped Miles 11-13 pass by very quickly despite the fact that I was becoming increasingly sore. When I turned around to head back to my car, I told myself that all I needed to do was to hang on for 17 more minutes in order to slay the 15 mile beast.
By this time, the sun had mostly set and I was having a bit of trouble seeing where I was going. Shade is a great thing when the sun is beating down, but it works to one’s disadvantage during the evening hours. The darkness meant that I couldn’t see my GPS watch either. I kept picturing myself as one of the hobbits from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring during the scene in which they flee the Ringwraiths amidst darkness and head towards Bucklebury Ferry.
My legs were still holding up relatively well and I felt like I was flying along at an 8:40 pace, but I wasn’t sure how much left that I had to go since I couldn’t see my watch. My frustration with this started building but I told myself that inadvertently running more than 15 miles wouldn’t be the end of the world. Fortunately, my watch lights up at the end of every mile, so I decided to run while keeping my watch out in front of me and to stop running once I saw it light up.
I kept running with only a vague sense of how far I had left to go. Although I wanted to start sprinting, I didn’t want to peak too early and wind up slogging through the end of my run. I began to run faster and before I knew it my watch lit up and told me that my run was done!
Once I finally reached a place at which I could see my watch, I saw that I knocked out those 15 miles in 2:12:17 for an average pace of 8:49 minutes\mile. When I realized that I had achieved my goal, I felt a sense of peace. Oftentimes, I’ll feel like yelling at the end of a long run, but on Monday night I felt very calm and satisfied. Maybe it was because the darkness kept me from feeling the exhilaration of seeing the miles tick down on my watch as I sprinted to the finish, or maybe it was because my body and soul knew deep down that my training and good food choices over the past year have prepared me for this moment and that there truly was nothing to worry about.
In any case, I’m praising God for helping me to have such a great run and I’m already looking forward to my 16 miler during Week 11!