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A Broken 20-Miler and a Redemption Run

I've had some pretty significant ups and downs in training over the past couple of weeks. Over a week ago, I was scheduled to run my second 20-miler. I hydrated the day before, ate right the night before, and went to bed at a decent time to wake up to my 4:15 a.m. alarm. I got up, met with running buddy Nicole, and ran four miles with her before joint the rest of the Blue Sharks group for their run. But in that fourth mile, something happened. I felt a cool rush go through my body, and I suddenly felt weak. I quickly added a Nuun (electrolyte) tab to my water bottle and drank that, hoping it would solve the problem. I just tried to stay with it for the remainder of that mile, as I knew I'd have a couple minutes to rest before starting with the group. But as soon as I sat down on the curb, I noticed how shaky my legs were, and all I felt like doing was going to sleep. Tim had caught up with us at that point, and he expressed some concern over seeing me hunched over on the curb (I made no effort to hide my condition). But I decided to just get up and try to push through, er . . . 15 more miles. But after running a mile with both Nicole and Tim now, I realized it just wasn't going to happen. I felt completely depleted of energy. I couldn't just will myself through all that mileage. So I quit. After a measly five miles.

I clearly had lost something in that fifth mile.

I got a ride, along with Tim, back to my car from one of the group volunteers (who told us that he'd just recently had a stroke and probably shouldn't be driving--and it showed), and then I drove myself home and went into a deep sleep for a few hours.

I still don't know exactly what happened, but I recall that it's happened before in marathon training. I wasn't too consumed with trying to figure it out. What I was more concerned about was leaving Nicole to run our 20-miler by herself (turns out she did more than fine on her own and ran 21 miles at a great pace!). And of course I was disappointed that I wouldn't have that run under my belt. But I was determined to make up the 15 remaining miles the next morning.

And I did. I had a solid solo run, no lingering problems from the morning prior. I guess it was a fluke, thankfully. So I got my 20 miles in, just not all in one go. And that was okay.

It's under a 10-min. pace. No complaints here!

A couple of days after my broken 20, I saw this blog post come across my Facebook news feed. It was on the Power of Run blog, and the author, Kim, who is also a running coach, questions whether the all-important 20-mile training run is really necessary in marathon training. She makes a couple of points that made me question it myself: (1) running (any mileage) for over three hours can do damage to your body, and (2) your 20-miler should not equal half of your weekly mileage (for me, it has). While this post did make me feel better about having split my 20-miler, it didn't really change my thinking going forward, except that I told myself I'd try  to get in more weekly runs if I'm going to do 20-milers. Runners are stubborn.

So for the next weekend's run (which occurred this past Saturday), I still felt a bit of an itch to run high mileage, whereas normally after a (continuous) 20-miler I would have wanted a break and run maybe 14-16. But I decided on 18, even though I also knew I'd be running 20 the next weekend (this coming weekend). And I ran it mostly solo, which I feel I've been needing lately. Sometimes going back to solo running helps me regain my confidence. I get fairly easily flustered by others' pacing, even the sound of their footfalls. So I needed to just feel out what my body needed to do on this run. And it turned out well! I had to push for that lower pace, but I'm really glad to see it coming back down. The weather is making an ever-so-subtle change, but it's making a big difference in how I feel already.

If only that 19th mile were an actual mile. I'd have been flying!
So this coming weekend I have one final 20-miler. Before that, I will have 22 miles from the week, which means that technically I won't be running half of my weekly mileage in one run. It's a small improvement. And the next run I do this week will be a race. A 10k race. At 7 p.m. tomorrow. I haven't raced since July 4, and I've been very happy to be out of race mode. So this will be interesting. I'll try my best, but I know I won't be breaking any personal records. Wish me luck!

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