Marathon Training: Week Twelve

In preparing for our first 18-mile run, doubt and anxiety filled my head. This trio of first-time-wannabe-marathoners, consisting of Anita, Stephanie and myself, continue to train for our first marathon. We are now at Week 12. Running these new longer distances plays with your emotions. There are definite highs and lows. Those low times can make you rethink your whole plan. Why am I doing this?

Week Eleven Was A Disaster

Week 11 was not my best week.  Stephanie, Anita and I all ran on our own that weekend.  It was a drop-down week, so we were only to run 13 miles.   

Easy, I thought. We had ran 16 miles the week prior. I was really looking forward to a nice long slow solo run.  I have run 13 miles so often now that I almost lost count. 

But my 13-mile run turned out to be anything but easy or fun. 

Air Travel Messes Me Up A Little

I had just returned from an out of town trip.  I flew in that Thursday.  Air travel days usually wear me out a bit.  Its harder to stay hydrated, and the plane ride causes me some grief with swelling in my lower legs and feet.  This makes my legs tired on runs for a few days afterwards.  I did do a nice easy 2 km run on Friday and it seemed fine this time. 

Run Day High Temperatures

The temperatures were hot on the Saturday morning.  I wasn’t in a hurry to run.  I took my time that morning and would regret that decision later. 

My husband left the house at 8:30 am to go meet his buddies for a run.  I should have started my run then, as I originally intended.  But I opted for another cup of coffee before heading out.  It was just me running, so I had no time commitments.  That isn’t always a good thing.

My Run Started Okay

The first half of my run was uneventful.  But then it got hot as the sun rose higher.  The temperature and humidity started to quickly creep up as I ran.  I started to slow down. 

A little over halfway through my run, I had already sucked back 2 liters of water from my hydration pack.  I had to stop to refill it.  I was dehydrated and drenched in sweat.  Not a good combination. 

I Should Have Stopped At 10 Miles

When I was 10 miles in, I wanted to quit.  I was mentally wrestling with the idea of just walking the rest of the way home.  It was this point that my husband pulled up in his car.  He had finished his run and was driving back home.  He took one look at me and offered me a ride home.  I was so tempted.  Struggling mentally with the decision, I declined his offer.  I so wanted this run to be over.  But I had 3 more miles to go. 

He drove off and I pushed on.  I regretted that decision every step of those remaining 3 miles.  I finished my 13 miles in poor shape and had to lie down as soon as I got home. 

I was lightheaded, dizzy and nauseated.  After only running half the distance I was training for.  This did a number on my confidence.  Serious doubt entered my brain.  Could I really run 26.2 miles?  Was I capable to continue this grueling training schedule?  I started to get anxious about the next long run.  It was to be 18 miles.  Could I even run that distance? 

I Was Worried About The Week Twelve Long Run

I fretted all week.  Doubt continued to fill my head.  Try as I might, I couldn’t get the negative thoughts out of my brain.  Those 18 miles seemed so very far. 

We Planned The Route Months In Advance

Several months ago, when Stephanie suggested we run out to Kakabeka, I was fully on board with the idea.  It sounded like so much fun.  We would gather up some of our friends and go run to the Metropolitan Moose restaurant for brunch.  The distance measured out at just a little over 17 miles.  So, when our training plan said to run 18 miles, I thought this would be a great route. 

I Doubted Myself

But with my horrible 13 mile run and doubt swimming around inside my head, I worried all week about my ability to do this.  I could not get that bad run out of my head.  13 miles in the heat and humidity did me in, and 18 miles was 5 miles further. 

As Sunday approached, the doubt and anxiety grew stronger.  Other runners who have run this route told me how hilly it was. So, we were going to attempt our longest run yet through hilly terrain.  In fact, the entire run would be all uphill, plus the rolling hills. What was I thinking? 

Ontario highway Thunder Bay to Kakabeka

We Ran Early To Avoid The Heat of The Day

To avoid the heat of the day, we planned to head out at 7:00 am.  I watched the weather forecast like a hawk all week.  It seemed to be promising.  The temperatures were predicted to be on the cool-ish side for the weekend.  This eased my anxiety a little.  But I knew that any temperature predicted was going to feel so much hotter running out on the open highway with the sun’s heat reflecting off the pavement.  I was still worried.   

My alarm went off at 5:30 am on Sunday morning.  I immediately grabbed my iPad to check the weather forecast.  I was elated to find that the prediction was for cooler temperatures.  The humidity of the week had seemed to lift, and the forecast was for about 10 degrees Celsius at the start.  The temperatures didn’t seem to be expected to rise above 15 degrees Celsius by the time we finished.  I breathed a sigh of relief. 

My anxiety continued to get the best of me that morning.  I was hesitant and sluggish.  I didn’t really want to do this.  Fear might be a good word to describe how I was feeling that morning.  I had trouble getting ready. My husband and I ended up being a little late to meet up with our friends.  I apologized. 

Five Of Us Started Out Together

There were 4 of us crazy ladies and Dave, my husband, at the designated starting point.  Dave, Jacqui, Stephanie, Anita and I all set out on an 18-mile run to Kakabeka.  We had Anita’s husband, Derek, crewing for us.  His plan was to meet up with us every few miles with a truck full of water and snacks.  Anita filled the truck full of good things, as we discovered a little later in our journey.  My husband started the run with us, but then ran ahead to meet up with us later for breakfast.

And Then There Were Six Running

After the first 3 miles, Lori joined us.  Derek drove her to meet up with us after she had gotten off of a night shift at work.  We were so happy to see her. We all cheered and whooped as she settled in to run the rest of the 15 miles with us. 

The next few miles were rather uneventful.  I kept a nice steady and comfortable pace.  Anita was keeping me company. We found ourselves engrossed in conversation as the miles went by.  I was pleasantly surprised with how effortlessly we seemed to be running.  The conversational distraction is one of the best things about running with your friends.

And Then There Were Eight Running

With about 10 miles left to go, Maureen and Linda found us.  Linda’s husband, Grant, dropped them off to run the rest of the way in to Kakabeka.  It was a nice break to briefly chat with them before they headed out at their faster pace.  We watched as they ran off into the distance ahead.  We would see them soon for brunch. 

It was here that my run buddies pulled ahead of me.  Not hard to do, as you chat and are distracted.  They were likely unwittingly enticed by the faster pace of our friends joining us.  I got caught up in this too for a bit, until I looked at my Garmin watch.  I did not want to run that fast.  I wanted to continue the prescribed pace for this training run, in part because I still had those pesky doubts in my head.  My training plan said “easy pace”and I was determined to run that easy pace. I slowed down and let them pull ahead of me. 

Maintaining An Easy Pace Was Not Easy

Pacing is so important, especially during a race.  It is so very easy to get enticed by people running faster.  It happens all the time to runners at the start of races.  You don’t notice in the beginning because you are caught up in the excitement of a race or in deep conversation of a training run.  But when running longer distances, this can be detrimental to your finish time. 

In training, you want to train your slow twitch muscle fibers to be more energy efficient. Running slow and easy can help do this.

Without even pacing, you waste energy by speeding up and slowing down. You may get roped into a pace you can’t sustain for the entire distance and start to slow down in the second half when racing. I have seen this time and again during races.  I have passed people who have been gassed by a fast start.  And, I have been the one who has been gassed by a fast start.

If you can learn to control your pace based on effort, you are so much better off. 

I have been working on keeping a nice even pace.  In fact, I did a short run at the local track the day before to practice keeping an even pace for this 18-mile run. 

When my friends pulled ahead, I longed to keep up with them.  I enjoyed their conversation very much. But I wanted to be true to my training plan, so I watched them run off down the road.  I sucked it up and ran my prescribed training pace. 

Open Highway Ontario

I Ran Solo For Several Miles

I ran solo for the next several miles.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind running by myself.  I enjoy getting lost in my own thoughts.  I can concentrate on my run and what my body is doing.  I can concentrate on my breathing and timing it with my foot strike on the pavement.  I can make sure my form is efficient and comfortable, shaking out my arms when I notice them tensing up as I run. 

I had brought my ear buds and music, as I knew this was likely to happen. Stephanie likes to keep a faster pace, for which she is very capable of running.  But I didn’t use the ear buds.  I was enjoying the bird and nature sounds around me. 

We Ran Through The First of Two Towns On Our Very Long Run

I was lost in my thoughts when I saw my buddies stop on the side of the road.  We had reached Murillo.  It was time for a selfie at the township sign. 

I also notice that my hydration pack was almost empty.  I finished almost 2 liters of water, surprisingly.  I knew I didn’t have to ration my water, so I was sucking it back, I guess.  I told my friends I would be stopping at the Derek-mobile when we saw him next.  Anita said that was likely in about a mile.  Perfect. 

We were off running again.  Anita was entertaining the ladies with stories of growing up in this area. 

Time For A Pit Stop

We reached the Derek-mobile when my Garmin clicked over to 14 miles.  He opened the back of his SUV to reveal the bounty that he and Anita had prepared for us.  Oh my goodness, it was like a party on wheels.  There were potato chips, gels, chews, bananas, and chocolate milk.  They had ice cold water.  Anything a runner could possibly want. 

But the absolutely best thing there was the orange slices.  Derek had put the container of orange slices directly on the block of ice in the cooler.  While waiting for us to run, they had become frozen. 

Can I tell you that after running 14 miles, frozen orange slices are the BEST thing you could ever imagine.  It was so refreshing.  We ate ALL the slices. 

Let’s Finish This!

After filling up our hydration packs with water, we were off running again.  Only 4 more miles to go.  Time to finish this and have breakfast.  I so wanted a cup of coffee about then. 

We knew that the distance to the restaurant wasn’t quite 18 miles. Our training plan said we needed to run 18 miles.  But that training plan said nothing about hills versus flat terrain. 

This route along the highway is full of rolling hills.  The general elevation is uphill all the way.  When we had a brief chat about the distance shortfall, I figured the hills negated the extra mile we needed to cover.  I was prepared to just stop at the restaurant.  My fear and anxiety wore me down and I was happy to settle on just over 17 miles.  I proclaimed this fact during our discussion.  I was going to stop when we reached the restaurant, no matter what my watch said.

Still A Little Further Yet

But Stephanie had other thoughts.  She wanted to run the full 18 miles despite the hills.  So, when it was time to turn left down Oliver Road, Stephanie, Anita and Lori kept going straight. 

I looked longingly down the road to the left.  I slowed down and hesitated as I contemplated keeping with my stubborn declaration earlier.  We had just over a mile left to run.  I really wanted this to be over. 

But, I knew Stephanie was right.  I knew that if I didn’t run the full 18 miles that I would regret it.  I think I sighed, or maybe it was swearing, I don’t know for certain.  I followed my friends going straight to finish the 18-mile distance. 

Running Past The Restaurant Was Challenging

We ran around the Kakabeka township and ran back towards the restaurant.  I watched again, as my friends ran past the restaurant.  This time I am absolutely certain that I swore.  It was a huge mental challenge for me to run past the restaurant.  But my watch said I wasn’t quite at 18 miles yet, and we were so close to clicking over that distance.  I reluctantly followed my friends down to the end of the road, turning around and running back. 

Metropolitan Moose, Kakabeka, Ontario

They stopped at the Derek-mobile waiting for them.  They were pouring themselves glasses of chocolate milk as I approached.  My watch still hadn’t clicked over the 18 miles.  I kept running.  I really wanted this to be over. 

We Did It!

I was very tired at this point, both mentally and physically.  It was difficult to do math in my head.  But my watch was in kilometers and the training plan was in miles.  I ran to what I thought was 18 miles.  I was done.  Rejoice!  I joined my friends for a delicious brunch in the Metropolitan Moose

Metropolitan Moose, Kakabeka Ontario

A Little Short

As we ate and chatted, I downloaded my run from my watch.  I wanted to see the 18 miles completed for myself.  It was the furthest the three of us, Stephanie, Anita and I, had run.  I looked at the distance.  My watch said 17.9 miles.  I had miscalculated the conversion in my exhausted head.  I was short by 100 meters.  Well, damn.

Oh well, close enough!  We all had a good laughed at the irony.

I Gained Confidence That Day

This run is still the furthest distance I have run yet.  I did it and I wasn’t completely wrecked like my 13-mile run the week before. My anxiety lifted and I started to gain some confidence.  This day I will mark down as a high point in our training.

Maybe I can do this marathon thing after all.

Continue to follow Stephanie, Anita and I on our journey to 26.2 miles.

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