About a month ago, I wrote about my longest run yet: 21 miles. Today, I topped that distance, for my longest run ever, and the longest training run I have planned before Big Sur.
My first goal was to run 22 miles. The second goal was to run it in roughly a 9-minute pace. The third goal was to finish strong. I also didn't want to carry a fuel belt, so we planned a route that had water stops every 5 miles or so.
But first things first: Why am I doing my long run on a Friday instead of a Sunday? Because tomorrow, I'm flying off to Colorado for a ski trip (it sucks to be me, I know). Since I'm not planning on running at all in Colorado, I really needed to get the long run in early. Fortunately, Chad and Chris were also interested in running this morning, so I met them at 7 a.m. at our usual spot.
One key to a good long run is discipline in the early going. I can run 6, 10 or more miles at a sub-8-minute pace, but keeping that up for 22 miles would be foolish to attempt in a training run; I'll save that effort for the race itself. So we toned it down a bit, running Miles 1-4 in 8:50, 8:47, 8:40, 8:45. We took Mile 5 a little fast, 8:26, then stopped for a break outside of Fleet Feet, our local running store. There's a spigot outside the building, and I've learned the trick of drinking from it without getting wet, even though it's only about 30 inches about the ground. I had a gel, and we headed back towards town. Miles 6-11 were as follows: 8:44, 8:48, 8:47, 8:44, 8:40, 8:39. Consistent, even though most of those miles were uphill.
At that point, Chris had had enough: 11 miles was the most he'd done in several years, so this was a great workout for him. Chad and I fueled up, and I stretched my back, which had been beginning to bother me over the last few miles. Chad decided I needed to run some hills, so he took me north and through the Davidson campus on a route I rarely take, which included a few steep little stretches. The big hills were yet to come. Then we ran in reverse direction along the familiar DART course. Miles 12-15 were 8:36, 8:45, and 8:21 and 8:28 on a downhill stretch. Mile 16 was solid uphill, up Robert Walker Drive towards Bailey Middle school. Since I'm supposed to be training for a tough, hilly marathon, I decided to push the pace a bit on this section. I pulled away from Chad and finished the mile in 8:26 while climbing 145 vertical feet. We stopped for a rest at another water stop, the bathrooms at Bailey Road Park. Once again, with the drinking fountain out of commission, I was reduced to drinking out of a faucet. This one required a different strategy, as it was mounted on the bathroom sink and controlled by an IR sensor. I finally decided the best way to get water was to cup my hands under the faucet and sip from them.
Now both Chad and I were starting to feel the strain of the miles. My hips were hurting, and I felt an occasional twinge in my knee. The knee pain wasn't bad at all, so we pressed on. Miles 17-20 were 8:44, 8:39, 8:45, 8:53. Even though we were under the 9-minute target pace, I really wanted to finish strong, so the 8:53 mile set off a bit of an alarm in me. Chad encouraged me to take off for the last couple miles if I was feeling good, so I decided to pick up the pace a bit. I was surprised when I looked down at my GPS after Mile 21 to see an 8:06 pace.
But Mile 21 was mostly downhill. Ahead was the dreaded South Street climb back into Davidson. I've frequently been reduced to a 10-minute pace by this hill, and I decided to see if I could maintain the strong pace I'd set on Mile 21. I've seen runners complain about a similar-sized hill in Mile 25 of the Big Sur marathon, so this would be a good test. I tried to maintain solid running form as I headed up the hill, telling myself I could slow down as soon as my GPS beeped signaling the end of Mile 22. The watch chimed about a quarter-mile outside of town, registering an 8:12 split. I'll take it! I slowed to a 10-minute pace and made my way back to the car, where Chad arrived a couple minutes later.
I couldn't be happier with this run. It was a gusty day, a hilly route, and I kept a consistent pace all the way to the finish -- an average pace of 8:39. While that's (intentionally) slower than my target race pace of 8:00 miles, if I ran that pace for a marathon, I'd still end up with a respectable 3:46 finish. I think I've earned that ski trip! Congratulations are also due to Chad, who is getting some speed back as he continues his recovery from a nasty stress fracture.
Details of the workout are below.