I’m so tired. And sore. My gosh! I knew I would be but not having run 20 miles before, I guess I didn’t know quite what to expect.
I had quite the weekend. I ran my first 20 miles ever. And I ran it in a race, no less. Granted I wasn’t racing per se, but I still treated it very much like a race complete with pre-race jitters and lack of sleep the night before.
Before I tell you all about my experience at the 20-Mile Drop, here’s how Week 13 of marathon training went overall:
Tuesday — 5 miles
Felt great. I picked up the pace a bit. Not so much that I would hurt, but enough that I felt challenged.
Wednesday — 5 miles
Same pace as Tuesday. I felt strong, which was great. A nice change from my longer midweek runs. I needed this cutback week.
Thursday — 5 miles + strength training
Again, same pace. Just a hair faster than my normal training pace so I didn’t feel like I was overdoing it. Then I did a nice circuit of strength training, which I had not done in week 12. This left me sore on Friday. But a good sore, of course.
Saturday — packet pick-up
On Saturday I picked up five race packets from Second Sole Mentor, in preparation for the 20-Mile Drop on Sunday. I opened my bag to find I was given the privilege of Bib #1. At first I was super excited and thought it was awesome. I emailed the race director, Geoff, to thank him. And then I got this email back… “ha ha…. I put the pressure on you! :)”
I had not even considered the implications of Bib #1. I momentarily panicked. My husband said I was going to be a celebrity. And he was totally right. More on that later…
Sunday — 20 miles!!
Ack. Sunday. 20 miles. Panic!
|Flat Rachel pre 20-Mile Drop!|
I barely slept on Saturday night. I had the pre-race jitters for almost the entire day, which made for awful sleep. The 20-Mile Drop was a good 40-minute drive for Julie, Noemi and me. We were planning on leaving at 5:30 am. The course was point-to-point and the bus was leaving at 6:30 am for a 7:15 am start-time.
|Check out my awesome throwaway. I hope it keeps someone else warm!|
I woke up bright and early at 4:40 am. I got myself downstairs to drink some coffee, chug some water, and fuel up with toast and jelly. And of course a facility stop was top priority. (Which thankfully happened for me, otherwise I might not have finished the race. TMI? Ha, sorry.) I suited up and proudly pinned Bib #1 to my shirt.
We left my house at 5:30 am and started the drive to Fairport Harbor. In the dark with the sun barely coming over the horizon, it was peaceful and serene. We parked and arrived at the busses with a few minutes to spare. We met up with Sara and her friend, Leighanna. After a quick porta-stop, we got on the bus and headed to the start. I swear, it was the longest bus ride EVER. I sat with Julie, and we both have a tendency to panic before a race, and we kept saying to each other that we were going to be running back to Fairport Harbor. Running!
|Happy day! Panic!|
|This is Julie and me. We’re panicking, you just can’t tell.|
Thankfully we arrived after what seemed like a 4-hour drive, and we got off the bus. Of course all 185 runners made a bee-line to the porta-pots. The best part? They delayed the start so we could all get through. Major bonus to running a small, local race.
After we all used the facilities, we started the race! My plan was to treat this as a training run and to stick with Noemi and Sara. Julie was using it as a training run but wanted to push her pace a bit. She’s the fastest out of the four of us. (I’m going to coach her to Boston. You heard it here first. Got that, Julie?)
Julie was off. Sara, Noemi and I started off with a nice, slow pace. It was freezing. I was layered appropriately for once. But my feet were really cold. It took at least 3 miles for me to be able to feel my toes. At about the same time, I realized I had to pee. I think the first potty stop was at mile 7 or so. No biggie, I could hold it. We were making decent time, feeling good, enjoying the weather. I was getting kind of hungry so I started snacking on my pretzels. They were delicious. I was kind of wishing I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, though. And I found it cumbersome to get to my water bottles. Both Sara and Noemi were sporting their vests, so I was the loner who had to stop and fumble with bottles any time I got thirsty.
Lessons #1 and 2: Pack pbj. Ditch the bottles and get a vest.
We got to the porta-potty and of course there was a line… because why wouldn’t there be? I would have to say we lost about 15 minutes at this stop. Unfortunately without any brush or leaf coverage, bushing it seemed a little impossible at that time.
|Hangin’ at the world’s longest potty stop!|
|Badass shadow back there…|
Lesson #3: Don’t stop unless you absolutely have to.
After the potty stop, we started running with a gal we met, Marlo. She was really nice and just so happened to have worked in the school district Boo will be entering in the fall. It was nice to pick her brain. 🙂
As we were running, we came to the mile 11 marker. Seriously? Only 11 miles? I thought I was going to keel over. I still had 9 freaking miles left! This is the problem with races. You can’t zone out on your mileage. The race coordinators won’t let you. They mark every single mile, and make sure you know exactly how many miles left at all times. At least when you’re training, particularly with friends, you really don’t pay much attention to the miles until you’re done. Ugh, the mile markers will be the end of me!
|Noemi, Sara, and me with our new friend, Marlo!|
Noemi, Sara and I stuck together for the most part. During the times I was running solo, I was bored. This happened once before at the Iron Horse Half Marathon when I was so used to training with a buddy (ahem, Julie) that when I was alone, I was bored out of my mind. During the 20-Mile Drop, when I was solo, I was wishing I had brought my earbuds.
Lesson #4: Even if I’m planning on running with friends, bring earbuds.
We ran through lots of residential areas, and a few places where the roads were not blocked to traffic. It was nerve-racking at times, and sometimes I couldn’t even hear a car behind me until I turned around to look.
There was a long stretch of road that seemed like the race was never-ending. And it was never-ending. It was 20-miles, for God’s sake! But when we got to mile 15, I felt like we were closing in. My legs felt like they were just about done, and that’s when mind-over-matter kicked in. I walked for a few minutes, and I was about to employ the run/walk strategy with Sara, but then I decided it hurt more to walk than to run so might as well keep going.
Plus, when we got to mile 17, we had 3 miles left. And then when we got to mile 18 we only had 2 miles left. And then when we got to mile 19 we only had one mile left!
Somewhere in the 17-18 mile range, we came across a spectator who had been waiting to see ME all day! Me, because I had Bib #1. All throughout the day, I remembered Geoff’s email and my husband’s words — I made darn sure I was smiling almost the entire race. I got so many “hey, you’re Bib #1!” calls, and so many random cheers. It was pretty amazing. Random spectator girl was so excited to see Bib #1 that she took our picture. I was honored and I thought it was quite funny, and I was wondering who the mystery person was… and then somehow I was connected to her via Instagram and came across this:
|If you look really closely, that’s me, Noemi and Sara in the top right pic. Too funny!|
At the mile 18 marker, I felt myself pick up the pace. And I definitely picked it up for the last mile. I just wanted to be done. I probably could have pushed my pace a little bit throughout, but I wanted to stay with Sara and Noemi, and I wasn’t trying to race. A little voice in my head told me that if I got too far ahead of anyone, I would be risking racing instead of training, so I held myself back. I was disappointed with my time but I attribute the lost time to all the stopping and waiting around (ie the world’s longest potty stop). I ran a positive split, which was not good. If you’re a runner you’ll know why. And if you’re not a runner, a positive split means I ran faster during the first half of the race than the second. A negative split is ideal.
|We did it!|
After the race we met up with Julie and Leighanna, and took some celebratory photos. And stuffed our faces with pancakes. Yum! I found it extremely hard to stand still or sit down. I had to keep moving. My legs were screaming. I briefly contemplated visiting the First Aid tent at the finish but I decided there was probably little they could do for me, so I sucked it up.
After photos and pancakes, we said our goodbyes, and Julie, Noemi and I hobbled back to my car. We parked at the beach and decided we had to take advantage of the scenery. I was so tempted to take off my shoes and put my feet in the lake but I hadn’t brought any other shoes or towels so I decided against it. I did soak my feet in freezing cold water as soon as I got home, though. It felt amazing.
|Running friends are the best friends!|
|1, 2, and 3!|
|Ice cold water… ahhhhhh!|
For the rest of the day I hung around and did absolutely nothing. I finally took a shower a few hours later, and then before bed I took a nice, long Epsom salt bath. I popped two Advil before bed and slept like a rock. It was glorious.
Overall, I felt great throughout the run. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. Too cold to start, but perfect to finish. Geoff W., who put on the 20-Mile Drop, did an excellent job. There were ample water and aid stations. Most of the route was beautiful and out of the way of civilization, which I very much appreciated. The end-of-the-race pancake breakfast was delicious. There was little crowd support but I wasn’t expecting any and sometimes I find it to be a distraction anyway. I would definitely recommend the 20-Mile Drop to any runner looking to either add to their mileage or as a training run for the Cleveland Marathon. I look forward to the remaining Lake Health Running Series races this summer and fall. Next up is the Lake Health Half Marathon in June!
I’m crazy proud of myself for running 20 miles. No small feat, folks. It was tough. All the smiles maybe make it seem like it wasn’t grueling, but it was. It was a mental battle a lot of the time. Sometimes just complaining about it out loud helped. And knowing others were suffering right along with me also helped. (This sounds like a stellar way to convince more people to run more 20-milers, marathons and ultras, doesn’t it?) Long distance running truly isn’t for everyone. You’ve gotta want it, and you’ve gotta go into it knowing it’s going to suck. But the feeling you get afterward, when you’re done, and the 20+ miles are behind you… that’s the reward and that makes it all worth it.
This weekend and next week I’m hoping to run with some new friends in beautiful Phoenix, AZ. It’ll be hot — just the way I like it! After I get back I have one more 20-mile training run, then we begin the taper. After four more long training runs, I’ll be running the Cleveland Marathon.
I can’t believe it. I’ve already got the pre-race jitters. Julie…?
|20-mile finisher and Lake Health Running Series Ambassador.|
Tell me… how did you spend your weekend? Have you ever run 20 miles before? How did your body feel about it?