While I was busy creating, writing, photographing, and eating lots of recipes during September, I was also doing a LOT of running. My highest mileage month ever at 180 miles. I also got to tackle not one, but two 20 mile training runs. And a 22 miler is on the schedule for next week before the taper begins for marathon day.
This will be my 4th marathon. Each training cycle for the first three would fall apart when it got to the 20 miler week. This is the first time I even finished two 20 mile training runs, let alone felt great at the end of them. So what was different (besides experience)? Using the Runner’s World guide, I made it my goal this month to master the long run.
Plan. Plan your route ahead of time. I usually do my weekend long runs on the Town Lake Trail downtown Austin. It’s a 10 mile loop, so only two laps and I’m done. After my first 20 mile attempt 3 years ago, however, I have a slight irrational fear of 20 miles on this trail. Mile 11 is where I suddenly got horrible knee pain before my very first full, and I’ve been terrified of tackling all 20 there ever since. Plus, its been (thankfully) raining a ton here lately, so the rain, mud, and humidity did not account for a fun 4 hours. I planned to do the first 10 on the trail, and the last 10 on the treadmill, regardless of how I felt. This way I could also push myself to hit marathon goal pace (MGP) for the last 10. Knowing this plan in advance really helped me to mentally prepare for an awesome run each time.
Pace. Pace yourself. 20 miles (or any long run) is, you guessed it, LONG. My goal for these runs was to not just go 90 seconds slower than MGP, but to go so slow that I could try to train my body to burn more fat instead of sugar. 12 minute miles may seem embarrassing when everyone is passing you, but it works. I was able to slowly gain speed halfway through, and finish strong at or above goal pace.
Break. It. Up. Even 10 miles is long. Having a break in between each 10 mile stretch was nice, but I still broke those up into 5 mile segments. Four 5 milers is way more manageable mentally than two 10 milers or one 20 miler.
Eat AND Drink. This is one rule I KNOW and still broke during my 18 mile run turned 16.5 miler. I make myself sip water every single mile split. Regardless of how I feel. This particular week I just cruised along for 5 miles not thinking about it. Trying to conserve water for the whole 18 miles. BIG mistake. Once you’re dehydrated, chugging water will only give you a stomach ache. I was sipping water every 1/4 to 1/2 mile by mile 10, and by 15 I was completely out. And it was hot. And humid. A quick detour back to the car and I was done. Lesson learned.
Anyone else have a fall marathon coming up? How did you master your long runs last month?