Everyone was tremendously impressed with my plan, and seemed a little bit in awe that I would be able to manage such a feat. From my perspective, thousands of people finish marathons each week, and I didn't see it as a very big deal. On the other hand, billions of people don't run marathons, so maybe I should cut myself some slack.
I needed to do an early run because my daughter was planning what I considered to be a truly impressive achievement, playing a difficult bassoon prelude in front of hundreds at church. Now, that's something I can't imagine ever doing! That meant I need to complete my run and be back home by 10 a.m. at the latest, to give myself time to shower and get dressed for church.
The plan was to run 9-minute miles, which should take about 3 hours and 10 minutes, plus time for a few water breaks. In order to be sure I'd make it to church, I decided I'd be on the road by 6 a.m. I set my alarm for 5:40.
When I awoke, I ate a banana, drank about 20 ounces of water, and packed up what seemed like an inordinate amount of gear -- an iPod, 32 ounces of Nuun, 2 packs of GU chomps, 3 shirts, a jacket, headlamp, gloves, a towel, and a fuel belt. Then I got in the car and drove down to the usual DART meeting point at the CVS in downtown Davidson. I didn't expect anyone to be there because normally our Sunday run starts at 7. I'd run the 6.3 weekday loop and meet up with the group at 7. I drank a little Nuun, put on the headlamp and iPod, left my water belt in the car, and took off at a nice, easy pace, a little slower than 9-minute miles.
About 4.5 miles in I saw Ashley approaching from the opposite direction. She had arrived at around 6:30 and figured if anyone was out on the loop, she'd meet them. She turned around and ran back into town with me. Ashley is a gifted triathlete and it's usually all I can do to keep up with her. I knew I should keep to my 9-minute miles but it was nice to have company, so we cranked out a 7:50 mile on the way back into town.
There, we met up with 9 more runners: Chad, Tim, Matt, Terry, Chris, Jeff, David, Gabrielle, and a new member of the group, Amy. The plan was to run a 10-mile out-and-back route. Then I'd have 5 more miles on my own for a total of 21. I ate some GU chomps, drank some Nuun, and we got started. Once again, the group took off quickly, and I stayed with them for the next mile or so before backing off to an 8:30-ish pace. Still not as slow as I should have been taking it, but it felt quite comfortable. Around Mile 11, we reached the turnaround point and everyone stopped for a rest. I had more GU and Nuun, then stayed with the group for a couple 8:30-ish miles before backing off once again. The return to town was a long, gradual uphill, and I was beginning to feel it. I ran with Gabrielle and Terry for a while, then left them both behind, running pretty close to 9-minute miles as I returned to town.
Back at the CVS, my Garmin said I'd finished 17 miles. Just 4 more to go. I was pretty sure these would be on my own. I finished off my GU, drank some more Nuun, and left my belt in the car. I had planned to wear my iPod and play some fast-paced music to get myself through these last few miles, but in the excitement, I forgot it. Everyone wished me well and gave me words of encouragement as I hit the road one last time. Chad said he'd wait for me at the coffee shop.
As I started off on the last bit, I realized it was going to be a lot tougher than the preceding 17. My legs felt okay except for an occasional twinge in my knee, and I wasn't out of breath, but I just felt worn out. In addition, I really needed to take a dump, but I didn't want to stop for fear I'd stiffen up. Mile 18 and 19 were respectable, roughly a 9:20 pace. But on Mile 20 I hit the steepest downhill section on the route, followed by a tough uphill. My legs were quite tender and I half-shuffled down the hill, fearful that I wouldn't have the strength to slow myself and would just tumble into a heap at the bottom. I made it down, and tried to maintain good form running up the next hill. But as I finished the mile, I saw that I'd slowed considerably: 10:06. I was determined to pick up the pace for the last mile, which still involved 63 feet of climbing. Somehow I managed a 9:37 before slowing to a dazed walk back at the CVS.
I had done it -- my longest run, ever, at an average pace of 8:58, my planned pace. I was happy that I didn't totally fade in the last couple of miles, and happy at the overall pace. Yes, ideally, I should have started slow and gradually picked up the pace over the entire run, but it would have been impossible to do that if I wanted to have any company at all along the run.
I felt like I should stretch my back, but I was worried that if I tried to lie down I wouldn't be able to get back up. I took off my jacket and compression shirt, toweled off, and put a long-sleeved cotton T on before heading into the coffee shop, where Chad, Ashley, and Amy were there to congratulate me.
I will post the link to the Garmin record of the run at the end of the post, but I thought it would be good to make a separate graph of my pace, without all the typical Garmin wobble. Here it is:
Other than miles 6-10 and 20 and 21, I kept quite close to the planned 9-minute pace. Yes, ideally the graph would slope gradually down from left to right, but I don't mind. For my first run ever over 20 miles, I'll take it. Plus, I made it to church in time to hear my daughter play a beautiful prelude, Beethoven's Menuetto in G-Flat, the most difficult piece she's ever played. Now that's an accomplishment!
Here's a summary of the week's progress:
67.69 miles -- my most ever
3,231 feet elevation gain
539 feet average elevation gain
A tough week, with the most mileage I have planned for any week leading up to the Big Sur marathon. Things get a little easier this coming week, but only just. I still have a 20-miler planned for Sunday, and a total of 62 miles to log.