Sometimes great runs come out of nowhere, and that was the case over the weekend.
I blogged a few times about the nasty upper respiratory deal I had going last week, and how I completed my 14-miler, the long run for the cutback week, but had no umph, and nothing left at the end. My scheduled long run this weekend was 20 miles, the second of three during this training cycle. I actually substituted the Imogene Pass Run as my middle 20-miler last time around, so I felt like it wouldn't be outrageous to do 21-22 miles this time. I was a little unsure as to how it would go, though, having been sick, and having struggled to do fourteen last weekend.
The forecast on Saturday was snow or rain, overcast, cold. There was no way I wanted to do another 21 miles on a treadmill. When I woke up, looked outside and saw dry pavement, I decided to hurry things up to get out the door earlier than usual in the winter, so that maybe I'd avoid any weather moving in by finishing before it could arrive.
The first few miles were of the variety where I was kind of tired and not moving too quickly to start, BUT felt good in general at the slower pace. I figured this was good, because if I was to get through all the miles, I didn't want to get really crummy feeling early on, then have to fight my way through three more hours of running.
After a few miles, I'd shaken off the cobwebs and picked up a little bit of steam with each mile. I felt good physically and mentally, and was surprised at how much I was getting out of the week's Fdip Podcast, a lecture from Arthur Lydiard. While I won't summarize the whole thing here, it was good reinforcement as I ran to stay relaxed, and remember about those little things with form that help improve the run.
My decision this week to do three loops....9 miles, 8 miles, 5 miles, was a nice way to break it down. I usually do the short loop in between the two longer ones when I'm running 20 miles, and that shortest loop is my favorite, most scenic part of the route. It lies inside the outer loop options, and seems far away from civilization, even though in reality we're pretty close to stores, homes and roads. It occurred to me that I might be better off saving the best, and shortest loop, for last.
As I ran, Mother Nature was a bit of a flirt. The skies would be grey for a bit, and I'd think the snow was coming. Then the sun would actually peek out, then disappear a few minutes later. I got a little breeze in the face here and there, but nothing gusty. Nice practice for Kansas without knocking me over. As the run continued, I kept waiting to get that tired, tight, and sore feeling that never came. In fact, I found myself having to do pace checks and dial back on several occasions. I assure you, this is NOT a routine problem for me during long runs. Even with keeping the pace in check, I was surging near the end and truly had that limitless energy that seems to reveal itself on a run when least expected. When the snowflakes started falling around mile 19, I figured this was it for the nice weather, but they stopped almost as soon as they started falling.
Cruising on in to finish the twenty two miles, I thought back to my first 20-miler last summer. I described the last two miles as very surreal, but today they felt very real, and I was enjoying the big finish as it occurred. This was one of the first times I truly believed that it might be possible for me to hold back my pace a little bit in the first half of a marathon, then gather speed and negative split the second half. I honestly never thought I might have this in me until Saturday, which in some way explains my aggressive first half at MCM, and huge positive split in the second half. I learned this weekend that I CAN trust my training and don't have to run fearfully (um....at a pace too brisk for me to sustain for 26.2).
This was a mental victory. I've had very real fear and insecurity in the way of thinking that maybe my first marathon would be my best, and that I'd blown my only chance to BQ. Now, I'm feeling like I've got my end, the training, cornered. I can't control the weather, or the possibility of the kids bringing home some nasty virus from school right before the race, but I'm oddly okay with those possibilities. I'm ready at my end to do the best I can with what I'm given the day of the race, and that feeling is very freeing.