Anyone who has trained for a distance over a 10K knows about the long run. I think you either love it or hate it, but either way you think about it all the time. This summer has been woefully short in the long run department, especially considering I'm supposed to be training for a 50K. To say I'm unprepared would be an understatement.
On July 14 I ran 12 miles. Two weeks after that my long run was 9 miles. On August 18 I ran 11. Yep, that's pretty much the extent of my long runs since the middle of July. Shocking, I know. Anyway, I decided I need to catch up in a hurry. Last week I ran 15 miles. Wow. Tough. You really shouldn't make a big jump like that. This weekend I ran 20 miles. I knew if I could survive the 20 miles on the trail I could probably do 31. I also knew if I was going to do it, now is the time. Obviously I can't run 20 miles the weekend before the race. It was kind of a do or die run. If I didn't do it I wouldn't even consider the 50K at FlatRock. I did it though! All of the fun details to follow.
First, I was still sore and tired from the 15 mile run last weekend. I also ran a 5K race Saturday. Our town fair was Saturday and I got sunburned. Sounds like the perfect recipe for my longest run ever, right? Right. I woke up at 6:00 and realized I hadn't set my alarm. I quickly got out of bed and started getting ready. I had forgotten to charge my watch and my phone. Grrrr. I'm still determined! I got to the trail head and there was a big dog. I think my fear of dogs is well documented here so I will leave that alone. For some reason I felt good about this dog though so I got out of the car. It's obvious that he rides in a car a lot because he tried to get in mine while I was getting ready. I started off on my run and the grass that I had to run to to get to the trail was really wet. Commence tiptoeing (sp?) through the grass. I'm too precious for wet feet you know. Then I hit the trail and went up and up and up and up. Knee hurt super bad, but I kept going. I haven't talked about it a lot on here, but I'm having major knee issues, which is a big reason for my lack of long runs.
Miles 1-3: Wow. Hard. The first/last part of this trail is nothing short of sucktastic. Forgot to mention, the dog hit the trail with me. He was awesome. At mile three I realized his collar was engraved so I checked it out. His name is Harley. More on him later. At some point I realized I had forgotton to bring my powerade and drop it off at Oak Ridge. I knew that meant I would have to call Rick to bring it to me but I waited as long as possible to let him sleep.
Miles 4-9.5 are so much easier! I sort of finally got into a groove. I had a bad moment at mile 5 when I realized I still had to run the entire distance that I had done the week before and I was already tired. I started setting little goals in my head. It really helped. When you think about running a distance like that on that kind of a trail it's intimidating. It's easier to break it up in your mind.
At 9.5 Rick met me with powerade and ibuprofen. He was supposed to bring chapstick too, but forgot it. My lips are majorly sunburned and were cracking. Not so much fun. I drank some powerade and started eating my pb&j while talking to Rick. I decided I better get moving though because the longer I stood there chatting the less I wanted to keep going.
9.5-15: Not bad. This is a relatively easy section. There is about a mile in the middle of it that gets pretty rough, but it's doable. By about 12 miles my shoes and socks were full of dirt and little rocks. When I called Rick to tell him I was almost to the highway (he was meeting me with another sandwich and powerade) I asked him to bring me fresh socks. What a difference!! I will remember that for the future. When I was almost to the highway I looked up and saw two handsome little boys running toward me. I got all choked up because they were such a welcome sight. They helped me change my socks, get the dirt out of my shoes and refill my hydration pack. I gave them my sandwich order as they were headed to subway and I took off.
16-20.5: I started really battling nausea at this point so I didn't finish my sandwich. I walked a lot of this part, but ran quite a bit too. My knee was screaming at me, but so was pretty much everything else. At about 17.5 miles my watch died. Darn it. It was right about here that I passed a bunch of people on horses. I was walking. The first person asked how I was doing. I said tired. She kind of smirked. I know she was thinking I was only about 2.5 miles in, so why was I tired. Little did she know I had run the whole trail and was on my way back.
At Oak Ridge I had lost Harley. There were some campers and he evidentally wanted to visit them. When I got back he jumped up out of the grass like he had been waiting for me. He was really far from home so I called his owner (number was on the collar) and told them where they could come get him. He was so awesome. I've decided I really need a trail running partner with four legs. He provided me company but didn't actually talk to me. He also didn't seem to care when I whined. Perfect!
I can barely walk today. Too much too soon. I'm still on the fence about whether or not I should do the 50K or drop down to 25. If I do the 50K I think I need to write a book or something on how NOT to train for an ultra. I have not gone about it in a smart way at all. Next weekend I will do the trail from the start to the highway, which is halfway. I need to know if I can do it in 4.5 hours, which is the time limit for the turnaround. If I can I think I can do it. I would then have 5.5 hours to finish, which means I could have a pace of a little over 20 minutes per mile. I could walk that. After next Saturday it's time for some rest and relaxation, plus a little running so my legs will be ready for the race, whichever one I do.
P.S. My knee feels better than it has in months. What's up with that? I have zero pain. It's like it just dissolved at the end of the run. I'm sure it will be back, but for now I'm happy.