So I've run a total of 4 marathons in my lifetime. I ran 3 marathons in high school (the first when I was just 15!) and then ran my fourth last year when I finally decided to make a return to long distance running.
For those 4 marathons, the longest run I have ever done in training has been 18 miles. In high school I was running track and cross country year round so I was always putting in a lot of miles. I was also part of this program called Students Run LA which prepared young kids to run a marathon. In order to run the marathon each year (free entry), we only had to complete an 18 mile race. So back then, I'd run the 18 and then just keep doing my track training 'til marathon day arrived. It worked out okay, but I always died during those last 6 miles.
Last year when I returned to running and decided I was going to run a marathon again, I started training towards the end of January. I decided to stick with the same kind of training plan that I did back in high school. I figured as long as I run 18 miles at some point, I'll be ready to finish the marathon. So April came around and I ran the same 18 mile Hansen Dam race that I had done while back in high school. Then I continued training with my short runs during the week and a some longer runs during the weekend...but I think the longest run I did after that 18 miler was probably only 12. I never increased the mileage or did any other lengthy runs in the month before the marathon. Marathon day came in May and I finished the marathon, even PRed by almost 30 minutes but I also hit the wall hard during those last 6 miles.
This year I want my marathon experience to be different, so I've decided to put in multiple long runs of 18+. Already I feel a lot stronger than I felt last year and my pace has gone down to about 8:30-9:00 in just a month a half of training. So I'm sticking to some short fast runs during the week and either two 10+ on the weekends (both Sat. and Sunday) or a really long run of 18+ on one of those days.
Yesterday was my first attempt at the 18 mile monster. I wrote here that I was going to try and do it Friday. And then I woke up Friday and I could not make myself get out of bed. I was petrified of having to go out there and run that far all on my own. Something I have NEVER done. 18 miles is a long way to go!
So after spending hours awake in bed not wanting to get up, I eventually did and dressed in my running clothes and laced up my newtons. I went outside to walk the dog before taking off for the 3 hours that it was going to take me...started running with the dog and I just did not have in me that day. I gave up on the idea within the first block. All these fears paralyzed me....What if I didn't carbo load enough? It's already 3 pm...by the time I get back it will be dark and I don't want to be running in the dark when I'm that tired...etc, etc.
Friday night, I made sure I ate plenty of carbs and got lots of sleep.
Fettucini Alfredo w/ shrimp
I got up at around 11am. Ate my one slice of toast with peanut butter. Drank a couple glasses of water and was out the door praying to the running gods that I would have the strength to finish this run.
First mile felt a little sluggish like usual but kept going at an easy comfortable place. I did the usual run up to Chandler then up to Van Nuys and back down. By the time I got to the North Hollywood park on Magnolia and Tujunga, my Garmin was reading 7 miles. So I ran a lap around the park which is about 1 mile long then ate my GU packet that I brought with me and drank plenty of water since I'd already gone 7 miles without water.
I then headed off West on Tujunga towards Ventura Blvd. I turned around once I got to Ventura and on my way back I decided to change the song on my iPod and the darn thing died on me! I was panicking! At this point I was only 9 miles into the run and I did not want to spend the next hour and a half running around without any music. It's hard enough running all those miles alone, but without music it was soul-crushing. After about a minute of trying to make the iPod come back to life, I resolved myself to keep going. Then as I kept going, about 4 minutes later, I pressed the play button and voila! The music started blaring into my ears again! I was so happy!
At this point, miles 9-14, I just ran around that neighborhood back and forth just adding mileage. I didn't want to get too far away in case something happened. And at mile 9 as I was running up a slight incline, I felt a sharp pain on my right foot. It continued on for the next 400 meters or so. I kept running hoping that it would just go away on its own. I still felt it for the next couple of miles but it continued to subside until I couldn't differentiate the pain from just normal foot fatigue.
So I got back to the park on my way back and ate some sport beans, drank lots of water and did two more miles there because I wanted to make sure that all I had left were the 2 miles back to my apartment. At this point I still felt good and especially re-energized after I hit 15 miles (my previous long run) without having to walk at all. I left the park and headed home with 2 miles to go and I decided that since I felt so well that I would try to speed it up during the last 2 miles. I ran the 17th mile in 8:59 and the 18th in 8:42! My Garmin chirped away at the 18th mile mark and I decided to save my legs and just walk the rest of the way home even though running would've probably been less painful! As I started running my legs immediately felt on fire and started to cramp up but by the time I got home, they felt better. I think the walk definitely helped and today I was able to walk around normally and experienced very little soreness.
Got home and I could not believe I had done it and that it had gone so well! There were some tough miles...miles 10-14 were especially tough because it just felt like I still so far to go. You can tell because my pace dipped to the 9:40s.
So overall, this was a successful 18 mile run and I feel like the proper carbo load and rest the night before were very important. And fueling up properly with a GU gel and replenishing electrolytes with the sport beans made a huge difference in my legs not dying ever. I also iced my legs as soon as I got home.
I wasn't very sore today at all. I woke up feeling great and grateful that I could move without screaming in pain!
So hopefully I have a good 20 miler in store for me next weekend :) And a few more long runs after that. I can't wait 'til marathon day rolls around. This is the year that I'm going to race smart. I've learned so much that I know I can race it smart and accomplish my goals.