My mileage is creeping up, and it seems that I’m hitting new personal distance records regularly. This past weekend, I had 18 miles on my training plan. For some reason, that number has really freaked me out from the beginning of this training cycle. There’s something about seeing “18 Miles” that has been giving me quite a bit of running anxiety for a couple months now.
Friday, after work, my boyfriend and I drove up to Jacksonville from St. Pete to spend the holiday weekend with my family. I kept getting nervous when I thought about running 18 miles – my stomach started to flutter and my mind wouldn’t stop racing. To help calm my nerves, I used my iPhone to search for blog posts from people recapping their first 18 mile runs. It actually did make me feel better. I love running blogs!
Earlier this week, when planning for the long run, I knew I’d have to get it done very early due to a slew of family birthday parties starting right at 10 AM. A 5 AM wake-up call didn’t sound all that fun, especially after a long, traffic-filled drive the night before.
Also, I wasn’t looking forward to the potentially boring route I’d have to run. My mom’s house is in a very residential area that can make for some dull runs. For long runs, I usually drive to other spots around Jacksonville to get better scenery, but I couldn’t afford the additional hour of driving to/from a running location this time.
This is when having another long distance runner in the family comes in handy. I asked my uncle if he would be up for getting in a few miles with me on Saturday, and I was surprised when he said he wanted to try to run 14 (his longest run ever!). A quick check on MapMyRun.com showed that his house is exactly 4 miles from mine, so I could run there, pick him up, and complete another 14.
To make the run less mentally daunting, I broke it up into three segments: 4 miles to my uncle’s house, 7 miles out, and 7 miles back.
The first leg of the route went by quickly – I had to keep slowing myself down because I wanted to stay close to 9-minute miles for the first 5 to prevent my famous positive splits. It was also really, really dark at this point, and I had to focus on not tripping or falling.
Mile 1 – 8:38 (too fast!)
Mile 2 – 8:50
Mile 3 – 9:00
Mile 4 – 9:00
My uncle was waiting outside for me, so we took off quickly. I told him I needed to keep a slower pace for a couple more miles, and he had no problem settling into pace with me. Once we turned out of his neighborhood onto a long straightaway, our pace picked up, and I surprisingly felt great – much better than the 17 miler a couple weeks ago. My uncle and I chatted the whole time, enjoying being the lone “crazy people” out on the road. The sun didn’t start to rise until around the 10 mile mark, which made it feel very peaceful.
Mile 5 – 9:00
Mile 6 – 8:48
Mile 7 – 8:39
Mile 8 – 8:43
Mile 9 – 8:41
Mile 10 – 8:42
Mile 11 – 8:45
We turned around and I told myself, “only 7 miles left!” At this point, I did cut back talking as I tried to fall into a steady rhythm to focus on not hitting a wall. I think the wall is my biggest fear, and I’m also scared of that feeling where your legs tighten up and you just want to stop.
Around Mile 13, I found myself falling into the whole, “Ugh, I still have X miles left to run” mentality. I worked at fighting back those thoughts, and instead kept my attention on not falling too far being my uncle (he was doing a great job of making sure I was drinking water and staying close to my desired pace).
Around Mile 15, little aches began to pop up – my calf, my knee, my quad. Nothing too bad, just little reminders to say, “hey, you’re working hard here.” I never had feelings of wanting to quit, though… I just kept going.
When my watch ticked off Mile 17 signifying one mile left, I don’t know what happened, but I found another gear. I could tell that mile would be my fasted, which gave me strength to keep trucking along and gradually speeding up the whole time.
Mile 12: 8:50
Mile 13: 8:54
Mile 14: 8:54
Mile 15: 8:49
Mile 16: 8:54
Mile 17: 8:53
Mile 18: 8:22 (!)
Mile .2 @ 6:54 pace (!)
I am most proud of that last mile… I hope I can find that strength again come February 17th!
When we stopped running, my legs instantly tightened up. Despite that, I knew I could have kept running if I hadn’t stopped, which gives me confidence for next week’s 20 miler and, ultimately, the marathon.
After a quick bit of refueling at my uncle’s, I rushed home to grab my boyfriend and siblings so we could head to my cousin’s 6th birthday party at Rebounderz, a trampoline gym that involved 90-minutes of jumping. Not exactly the smartest way to recover post-long run, but it was so much fun!
I really needed that run to boost my confidence as I approach peak training time. I’ve got some high-mileage (for me) weeks looming on the horizon, and I’m ready to tackle them.