That's the word to describe today's run. I am still in awe of it. I'm going to bask in the glory of it for another day and then get back to the reality of training. The race is still 1 month and 5 days away according to my nifty counter :)
My prep for this began last night. Well really two days before. I've been thinking about it and picturing the route and thinking about strategy. Knowing that I was going to do two Valley Forge loops I felt like I had to think about and psyche myself up for it. You'd think this was the race for all the checking and double checking I did on my gear, gus, endurolytes and water. With a forecast of 29 and sunny to start, I put out layers for the run and warm clothes to change into. I commented to Dave that I think I packed less for my weekend to Houston a few weeks ago. I was in bed by 10; not asleep but this forced me to turn off the computer and stop watching TV. I was up at 6:30 for breakfast and on the road by 7:15. I'm not sure where my head was at exactly as I headed west on 422. I went past the Valley Forge exit. Fortunately, I noticed it before Trooper road so I could get off and turn around. And fortunately this was not an omen for the day.
At the vistor's center I met up with Brenda, Marjorie, Jeff, Craig and Roy. I got a fist bump from Roy before he and Craig headed off to do their thing and the rest of us headed to the loop round 1. I started with my 3 and 1's right from the start. Jeff ran off to do his own thing and Marjorie and Brenda were content to do 3 and 1's with me. The first loop was all about just getting through it and trying not to go too fast. I don't like looking at my watch though so this was done by feel. I wore the watch because it would beep out the miles for me and help with the final 2-3 miles which would be over unmarked or unmeasured ground. I wanted to focus too on not taking my walk breaks too slow. I know that's hindered me in the past. The transition then to running takes too long. I finished the loop on it's downhill ignoring the walk break that came in the middle of it.
I continued run/walking back to the car. There, I topped my water bottles and grabbed my gloves. I had taken an endurolyte at the 4 mile mark and now, as I headed over to the Betzwood trail, I took a gu. As I went up the hill and over the creepy bridge I thought about my first season with Phillyfit. Going up that hill killled me back then (I dreaded it) and now I was just doing it. I still don't like the creepy bridge but it's a necessary evil to get from the visitor's center to the river trail.
On the river trail I set my focus on my posture. I tend to slump and that makes me tired quicker. (I also need to put more focus on my core and I'm determined to get a routine for that after Gettysburg) So the faster walk breaks and focus on posture kept my mind busy out to the Pawlings Road end of the river trail. Once there I stopped to shake gravel out of my shoes and retie them. I also took the opportunity to stretch my legs out a bit and began the return trip. On random walk breaks I did this goofy walking thing that was a combination of something I learned at the USAFit conference and twisting my upper body. When I do it I can feel the tension release in my back and hips. It probably looks really weird but it works.
About a half mile into the return trip, Kristie called. I was expecting her to call as she said she might try to meet up with me. She said she would meet me at the visitor's center to take me on the final 7-8 miles. This was great news to me! When we chatted earlier in the week she had planned to meet me at Betzwood. And while this would have been nice I was secretly wishing she could meet me for the loop since I knew I would be much more tired. I didn't want to ask her to do that though. She was taking time out of her Saturday to run at my pace (considerably slower than her norm) so I was just happy that I would see her at all. My wish being answered though put an extra lift in my step.
Shortly after the call from Kristie I looked up and saw a blue and orange figure heading my way. That could be no one other than John Carre. He had met Pete White at Oaks to run some miles and heard I was doing 20 today and came over to meet me after finishing with Pete. Awesome! Phillyfitters are the friendliest, most supportive folks ever! So with John's company and chatter I finshed the river trail comfortably. We kept up a good conversation and John didn't even laugh at my crazy walking thing.
So at the end of the river trail I took another gu on a walk break and continued back over the creepy bridge to the visitors center. I said thank you and goodbye to John, topped off my water bottles again and off Kristie and I went. Kristie kept up a steady chatter which was awesome. She was also very good at breaking her train of thought to coach me when I needed it. She also put up with a moment of crankiness from me. When we had 5 miles left she commented something like "That's nothing you can do this!" to which I replied "Tell that to my legs". Sorry Kristie.
At this same point, 15 miles into the day (near the arch) I also commented that this is where I usually wonder why I signed up to do a marathon. It was different this time though. My feet hurt and my legs were tired but I didn't feel like stopping. I think I thought about 5 miles left and had a knee jerk panic attack. So we continued around to 'the hill' that no one likes. Here is where I almost faltered and Kristie coached me out of it. To this point I had faithfully stuck to my 3 and 1's (except for the skipped walk break down the end of the loop hill earlier). I seriously labored up this hill and came close to quitting at least twice. I was breathing so hard I had snot coming out my nose and I was making whiny noises. Kristie talked me through it.
That was a major turning point. There was only one yukky hill (the rest were rolling) and I managed that one by riding the downhill into the uphill. We got to the final downhill and once again I skipped the walk break. My feet and legs hurt more than the first time around but gravity is a wonderful thing and this meant getting to 20 just a tad faster. At the bottom we were at 18.5 miles. I decided to go out the County Line Road to 20 and then turn around to walk back to the parking lot. I was amazed at how 'good' I felt. Good is relative of course. I was tired but I was not in the least bit ready to quit.
Ok folks, if you dont know this already, County Line Road past the parking lot goes uphill. I cheated 40 sceonds off one run interval (my only cheat of the day I'm proud to say) and when we came to another hill, I said "No, I'm not doing that". So we turned around and ended up going back out to route 23 and turning around again. We arrived at the parking lot with .2 left and so ran around until my watch ran out the 20. I announced this milestone loudly. Kristie took in all in stride and high fived me.
I had taken another endurolyte about mile 17 because I felt my heart beating too fast. I probably should have taken one sooner. I only had two gus on the day when I usually have three. I don't think that hurt me although the last half mile I suddenly felt hungry. I will have to be careful of that in the race. I had a slight intestinal thing about mile 19 but it went away quickly so I'm not concerned. I was good with my water. For the most part taking sips every walk break and more with the gus.
I came home and did not feel an overwhelming need to take a nap. That was a pretty good feeling too. So like I said, this run was a WOW!
I have a second 20 miler before race. This second one is on April 9th. I'm treating myself to Forbidden Drive for that one. I'll do more hills runs in the coming weeks too but I'll do them on either the VF loop or the Media 5 mile loop on weekdays. I'm really excited about the race now.