Saturday, June 6, 2015

Marathon training

Last Sunday, despite the threat of rain, I set out to run 14.5 miles as part of my marathon training.

As I have mentioned in the past, I live in a very hilly area. To get to anywhere remotely flat, I have to run downhill, which means eventually running uphill to get back home. Since I wasn't racing or trying to set any kind of record, I didn't think the hills would be that big a deal. I could even walk them if I had to.

The first big downhill, legs feeling good.
The run started out with a gradual uphill on a paved road that lead to a dirt road. I don't run this dirt road very often and forgot how steep it is. But since it was the start of the run, it was no big deal. At a mile and a half I crested the hill and started going downhill through the woods and that was kind of nice.

At two miles, I reached a major road which has a fairly wide shoulder. This is where I would be doing most of my running. Being a Sunday afternoon, there wasn't much traffic.

These calves ran with me for a short distance.
Knowing I am prone to dehydration, I carried four small water bottles and some honey stinger gels. At the four mile point, I took my first drink. I recently read a quote that said, "Run the mile you're in." It's so easy to get caught up with trying to rack up miles that I'm always thinking about the next mile. So I tried to take in my surroundings and just become one with the mile. Most of my run was through farm country and I saw horses, cows, sheep, tiny goats, turkeys, and a flock of geese. Some animals ran from me, but a few ran with me as far as they could. I also saw some humans out doing what humans do. I stopped to take a few photos. Something I almost never do because stopping just feels wrong when I'm supposed to be running.

Glancing at my Garmin runner watch, I saw the time was 1:45 and I was running between a 9:20 and 9:45 pace. The route I had chosen was a loop and I would soon be coming to one of the steepest hills in the area that leads me back home.  The name of the hill is Irish Hill and when I saw the sign for it, my brain thought "Yes, almost home." Almost home meant over five miles of hills to go.

I really thought I could run up Irish Hill. I've done it before, but never at the end of a long run. I made it about 2/10ths of a mile up and then decided to walk. That hill is a killer and it goes for almost three miles. I walked and ran until I was finally up the hill. Some runners will say hills make you stronger. Not this hill. This hill eats runners.

Goose crossing.
At mile 12, I still had two big hills to go. My feet now hurt and my knees were feeling a little rubbery. When I hit "Cemetery Hill," I decided to walk that too. These hills were getting ridiculous. At the bottom of "Schuller Hill", the last hill on the run, I encounter a family of geese crossing the road. I had to stop and wait for the geese to move to one side of the road because mother goose was not about to let me pass. She spread her wings and hissed at me until her youngsters were rounded up. The break was appreciated by my legs and I set out with renewed energy to conquer Schuller Hill.

Schuller hill in the distance.
I made it half way up Schuller Hill and then fatigue set in and forced me to walk the steepest part. I have a love/hate relationship with Schuller Hill. It signifies the last hill of any run, but it is deceptively steep and I am usually dying when I reach the top. At the top of Schuller Hill, I had just over a mile to go and it was all downhill to home. Usually I race down the back side of Schuller hill, but today, my downhill muscles were kind of shot and I wound up shuffling along rather slowly. The last mile took me over 10 minutes to complete.

But then I was home. The Garmin watch announced a total of 14.48 miles and I will admit I was glad the run was over. This was my longest run of the year.

The next day, my legs were a little sore. The day after that, my quads were killing me anytime I had to go downstairs or down hill. The day after that, everything felt fine. I was able to do my usual 4.3 mile run with minimal soreness. And then on Friday, I ran a 5K race. More about that in another post

The marathon training program I am using has me doing a long run every other weekend. So this weekend I will probably do a six mile run and then get ready for a 17 mile run next weekend. The hardest part will be finding 17 miles that doesn't end with five miles of hills. I'm not doing that again.

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