It is hard to believe that there are only 9 weeks left to race day. Stephanie, Anita and Tricia (that’s me) are now up into the high numbers for long run mileage. We are now running at least a half marathon distance of 13.1 miles for every weekly long run now. In fact, a half marathon is our drop-down mileage for easy weeks. That seemed crazy to me in the beginning. I had trouble wrapping my brain around that fact early on in our training. But here we are. And here is the continuation of our story to run a marathon.
Three weeks have gone by since I last posted about our training. The last post told you of my triumph to overcome a bad solo 13 mile run with a fun 18 mile run with my buddies. Let me catch you up on the other two weeks before I delve into the most recent week that saw us attempting to run 20 miles continuously for the first time.
The week after running 18 miles, we were scheduled to run our first 20 miler. However, as timing would have it, I was coaching the Kakabeka Falls Half Marathon practice run that Saturday at 7:00am. That run was to end with a celebratory breakfast at the Kakabeka Legion. We wanted to be done running and enjoy breakfast with some fabulous fellow runners afterwards. However, that would mean that we would need to be running by about 5:00am to get in 7 miles and be back in time to start the other 13 miles for the practice run. Not one of us wanted to be running THAT early.
Split Long Runs
So, we decided to split this long run. While this is not ideal for marathon training, as a marathon is 26.2 miles run all at once, continuously, it is a decent compromise. Ultra-runners use this concept to run the fanatical distances that they run, such as 50- and 100-mile races. The idea is to split the run into two segments and run these two distances close enough together that you are running on tired legs.
To do this, the first run should be 60-70% of the distance followed by the other 30-40% within 12 hours, if possible, up to 24 hours. Benefits of this are to allow yourself to run with good form, as you are not as fatigued for the last part of a long run, and for convenience. Again, it isn’t the most ideal, but it comes a close second. Your body will still train for a marathon. Besides, we still had two other 20 mile runs planned in the following weeks to come.
So, we ran 7 miles on Friday night and 13.1 miles on Saturday morning to make 20 miles. We were still plenty tired on Saturday at breakfast.
Week 14 was a drop-down week. We were scheduled to run 15 miles. Yes, that still blows my mind that our drop down long run was 15 miles. We were scheduled to run this on Sunday morning. However, my husband and I were out camping and hiking the week before. I came home exhausted from running hills and hiking up mountains all week. Did you know that it is really hard to find even a 2 km distance without hills in some campgrounds? Needless to say, I needed a rest day on Sunday. So Stephanie and Anita ran their 15 miles together, and I was left doing a solo run on Monday.
I find it very hard to run for 15 miles alone. I am usually pretty good to about 13 miles, but then I start a series of arguments with myself after that. One side of me, probably the rational side, wants to quit, either out of sheer boredom or from exhaustion. The stubborn side of me wants to do the distance. I know that if I don’t do the distance, the next long run will be that much harder to do. So, this stubborn side prevents my rational side from quitting. I can be very stubborn sometimes, just ask my husband. This side usually wins.
I completed my 15 miles, but I can’t say it was an enjoyable run.
So that brings us to Week 15. Our next 20 mile run scheduled. This time we were going to do the entire 20 miles in one run, no splitting it.
I was a bit nervous. Again, my husband and I had gone out camping and hiking for the week before. This time we went to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. Two days before I was to run the 20 miles, the longest run yet, I hiked up to the Chest of the Giant with my husband. This is a beautiful trek up to the highest point of the Giant accessible by trail. It is over a 1600-foot elevation with a beautiful view of Sawyer Bay off Lake Superior. It is one of my favorite hikes, not for the view, but for the significance of it.
Conquering the Chest
Before my cancer diagnosis, I was not fit. Hiking and climbing these trails on the Sleeping Giant peninsula was very difficult for me. I love hiking and being out in the wilderness, but we didn’t go that often because it was such a tremendous effort for me.
After I received the bad news of having stage 3 breast cancer, I was determined to not let my lack of fitness deter me from the things I enjoyed. Even though my prognosis was fairly good to beat this horrible disease, I was still freaked out. There was a risk of dying from all this, whether it be from cancer itself or complications in treatments. I didn’t know how much longer I had to live. So, it was now or never.
My husband and I have hiked up the Chest of the Giant every year since. It has become a symbolic gesture to ‘’Conquer the Chest’’ and know I have survived breast cancer for one more year. So, we made the 5-hour trek and 1600-foot climb up the Giant just two days before I was to run my first straight 20 mile run. Not quite sure what I was thinking. I was tired.
A Challenging 5 km Trail Run
To add insult to injury, my daughter wanted to practice her 5 km trail run while we were out there in the park. So, the next day, on very tired legs, I ran 5 km through the bush trying to keep up with her. I didn’t succeed in keeping her pace, not even close, even though she was running at her easy speed. But I still completed the 5 km run after the effort of packing up our campsite, before heading home. Needless to say that my legs were very tired at this point.
My Friends Had Tired Legs Too
My anxiety about running 20 miles with my friends subsided slightly when I learned that the ladies I was running with were also going to be running on tired legs. Stephanie had completed a grueling cross-training leg workout the night before. She admits that she is not entirely sure why she did that. She wanted to try this new workout for runners she found. Both Jacqui and Lori were going to be running with us and had just ran the Paju Mountain Run the day before. This is an 11.2 km run that climbs 715 feet to the top of Paju Mountain. It is a tough course. Perhaps I could actually keep up with my friends during our long run.
An Early Start
My alarm went off at 5:30 am on Sunday, our chosen long run day. I opened one eye and moaned. I really just wanted to keep sleeping. My body was, indeed, tired. This long run was going to be tough. To add more misery, my joints were also achy from impending rain. My father was able to predict rain by his achy joints, and I inherited this trait. I was definitely worried about my ability to run 20 miles today. But, I was going to give it my best effort.
Anita, Stephanie, Lori and Jacqui all arrived at my house at 7:00am as I was putting on my compression socks. With watches all connected to the GPS and synchronized, we were off running.
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Ad: I wear CSX compression socks. They help protect me from shin splints that I have experienced in the past. I discovered them at a run expo in Toronto and have been wearing them for long runs ever since.
A Few Quick Pit Stops Along the Route
The first 3 miles were uneventful. We ran a little faster than our easy pace, but we were chatting and catching up on what everyone had been doing these past couple of weeks. It didn’t feel too fast. We had our first pit stop at the golf course club house.
Our next pit stop was at the local Running Room store. This was around 8:30 am and run club was supposed to be starting. We popped in, restocked our water, took a selfie and then kept on running.
And Then The Hills
We were doing well until we encountered the hills of the overpasses. The first overpass was our dreaded hill training nemesis from half marathon training days. We made it over this without too many moans and groans. The next significant elevation was at the Fish Bridge. Going up and over was met with silence.
My Friends Were in Pain
It was after the Fish Bridge that Lori and Anita began to suffer a little. Both had foot pain return from old injuries. They toughed it out for a few miles after that, but I could see they were in pain. I, luckily, found some Robaxin with Ibuprofen in my hydration pack pocket. I had three tablets to offer them. Assuring them that I was fine and didn’t need any, they took the last of my tablets. We continued to run.
The halfway point was only a mile and a half after that. We stopped to take selfies and enjoy the view of the Sleeping Giant before heading back for the remaining 10 miles.
I Started to Deteriorate
I was doing well, although getting tired by this point, until we ran up and over the Fish Bridge again. At the top my leg started to cramp a bit. I walked it off for a bit and started running again. It started to cramp again, worse this time, and I became worried about completing the full 20 miles that day.
Lori dropped back to keep me company and encourage me. I expressed my doubts and she smiled brightly and said that she had no doubts about me finishing. I appreciated her Can-Do attitude and encouragement very much.
But I was deteriorating mentally. I was remembering the cramps that started during one of my half marathons. Those cramps became progressively worse. They were so painful that I could barely walk after I crossed the finish line. I was almost in tears. This 20-mile run was just a training run. Was it smart to continue in pain just to do it for a training run? I pondered this thought as I continued to run, cramp, walk, recover, run, cramp, walk, recover, and run for a mile more.
And Then I Was Done
As I approached the other overpass, I had a particularly nasty cramp in my lower back that almost brought me to tears. It was at this point, 15 miles into our run, that I declared to myself that I was done.
I did not regret giving my friends my last pain medication, but I sure wished I had some more to take myself right then. So, I texted my husband to come and pick me up. I also texted for him to bring me some more Robaxin, but it auto-corrected to be ‘’bring me tobacco’’. I laughed, which triggered another back spasm. Damn auto-correct!
I bid my friends farewell as I waited for my ride home.
My Friends Finished 20 Miles
Stephanie, Anita, Lori and Jacqui all finished their 20 miles. Except for Jacqui, who has already ran a maraton, it was the furthest they have run. I am so proud of them. Over breakfast, they told me how tough it was to finish the last few miles. But they did it. They did certainly look tired.
I Finished My 20 Miles That Same Evening
Feeling better, that evening I went out and finished the remaining 5 miles. It was a good run on a beautiful night. So, this 20-mile training run ended up being a split run for me again. I am determined to make our final 20 mile run in a few weeks a single complete run.
I will not hike any mountains the week before, I promise.
Continue to follow Stephanie, Anita and I on our journey to 26.2 miles.
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