On Saturday, I ran my first 20 miler of this training cycle. I have two on the schedule, so I knew if I didn’t get this one in I would be putting a lot of pressure on myself to get the second one in. Once I have at least one 20 miler done I feel much more confident about completing a marathon. This is probably more mental than anything else.
Let’s back up to Friday. I took a rest day, which I had planned while making my initial training schedule. This was really helpful in preparing my legs for such a long run. I did my hardest workout of the week on Wednesday, went to my chiropractor on Wednesday evening, and then had 2 full days to prepare for the long run. I took an epsom salt bath on Friday evening and foam rolled (as I do most days). Everything was feeling good and cooperating. I noticed on Friday afternoon that my stomach felt a little off, but I had no idea why. I hadn’t eaten anything different all day.
Instead of my usual pasta dinner I decided to eat a baked potato, hoping it would sit better in my stomach. Unfortunately the last potato we had was really small. So I ate just a small side of pasta, the potato, meatballs, and salad. Stomach still wasn’t great but no worse than before. I had already been trying to figure out what to eat before my long run, as a practice for what I could possibly eat on race day. Since I’ve stopped eating bagels before running (its been like 6 months) I have only had bananas and/or honey stinger waffles. I wasn’t sure if the waffles were what caused stomach issues for my 18 miler 2 weeks before, but I didn’t want to take any chances. I made a batch of paleo pancakes because I felt pretty confident about all of the ingredients in them.
I got a good night’s sleep and woke up naturally at 5am. I could hear the rain outside my window but just hoped it would ease up by the time I ran. I ate the pancakes, drank a cup of black coffee, and my stomach was feeling good. I read some blogs and then did some foam rolling and a warm up. I was feeling good and ready to run. It was still raining, but there was nothing I could do about that.
At 6:30 I headed out, and was immediately not happy with the chilly, wet, windy weather. I reminded myself of my 20 miler 3 years ago in which I ran through an October snowstorm. I was ready to do this. My stomach didn’t feel great, but I tried to ignore it.
As I started running I noticed that my right calf was a little tight. The kind of tightness that you assume will loosen up as you run. For the first 3 miles I was noticing it, wishing it would just loosen up already. A little after 3 miles it started to get more and more tight. I stopped to stretch and massage it a little. I was wearing compression socks so I moved those around a little (I was feeling it on the very top of my calf, near my knee). I would run a little and it would tighten up again. Stop, stretch, repeat. It felt fine when I walked, but a few steps into a run and it would tighten up really bad again. Luckily I was a half a mile from home. I began making my way back to my apartment, feeling defeated.
I will say that at this point I thought I wouldn’t be running any more that day but I was handling it really well. I had experienced a similar issue two times before- it seems to happen once a year. Both times it was worked out with ART or Graston. I thought about how a year ago I probably would have been in tears over this, but instead I started thinking about how it’s a good day to not be running because of the awful weather. I was thinking about all the stuff I could get done in the extra time, or maybe just curl up on the couch with a book.
So I got home and rolled it out with the stick and a lax ball. I felt a spot where it was really tight and it was pretty easy to get in there and loosen it up. I also found a really tight spot above the back of my knee like the lower part of my hamstring. After working on that for about 5 minutes I figured I would head back out and see how it felt. I would know pretty quickly if it bothered me because I could only run a few steps before it bothered me earlier.
Well, I was shocked to fine that after those first few steps it still felt fine. I made it up the block and no issues. It didn’t feel tight or bother me at all. So then I had to figure out what to do. Should I continue running and see if it bothers me again? Do I still run 20 miles? How far from home can I run? And then I realized I may actually have to run 20 miles…after earlier convincing myself how nice it would be to skip the run!
So I decided to take it a few miles at a time. I stayed in my neighborhood for 5 miles before making my way over to a different part of the city. I knew that once I looped back from over there I would be close to home again and that would be around 12-13 miles and I could reevaluate things. Breaking it up this way helped SO much. My stomach still felt off, and I was a little frustrated because this seems to be happening more lately and I have no idea why.
I continued to run and was able to stay pretty positive. My pace naturally began to drop without even trying. When I got to 13 I knew I could make it to 20. I did an out and back for the last 7, and told myself it was just 3,5 miles each way. Around mile 17 my hips started to feel tight, as they usually do from a long run, but I was shocked/thrilled that it took 17 miles to notice them at all. I was able to finish the 20 feeling strong mentally and physically.
Usually my “training effect” for a long run is between 4 and 5. So this tells me that it wasn’t as hard of an effort as my usual long runs. The cooler weather probably had something to do with that.
This was also my fastest 20 miler. Although my last ones were in the middle of the summer, but those took me about 9 minutes longer.
I was in such a good mood when I got back. Usually I am just so exhausted I end up being kind of grumpy until I am showered and fed, but this time I was definitely on a high from my long run.
Oh except that my hair was in a huge knot. I was not excite about getting that thing out.
I am hoping that my tight calf was nothing and I was able to work out whatever knot was in there, but I will definitely mention it to my chiro this week. It still feels good although its a little sore to the touch (which sometimes happens when I massage out a knot). In general I am just making sure to recover as best I can.
I am feeling very grateful that I was able to complete that run and confident that it went as well as it did!
Have you ever had to cut a long run short?
How do you feel about running in the rain?