The Last Long Run

by Sara on September 9, 2013

The last long run before a race should fill you with confidence that you have done your very best to train and prepare.  It should leave you feeling excited and ready.  And while I am both excited and ready for the Rock n’ Roll Philly half this weekend my last long run was anything but stellar.

Not wanting to wake up on Saturday mornings for my long run is quickly becoming a trend, and not a good one.  Ralph had 16 miles on the schedule so he headed out with me still in bed.  I wavered between “I really need to get out of bed and get moving,” and “maybe I’ll just run tomorrow”.  Somehow I managed to finally get up and get moving.  A quick bite to eat, a little bit of coffee and a short walk for the dog later I had my shoes on and was out the door running.

The original plan was 14 miles easy pace, and up until Friday I thought that was a great plan. And then I got to thinking, even though Saturday’s half was a late add to my race calendar, the potential is there to run a decent time, even PR.  Sure I’ve run some great half marathons with out a taper, but could I run a better race if I didn’t run so long this weekend?  Sometimes I don’t want to admit to myself how much this race means to me, how much I want to finally prove to myself I can PR at the half again.

So with Ralph already out running, my plan was run until I ran into him on his way back, and then I’d turn around and head back home with him.  Hopefully it would work out to be able to do anywhere from 6 to 10 miles, and if I was feeling good maybe the last 2-3 at goal race pace.  Based on my recent 5k times, running a 1:55 half isn’t all that much of a reach, but it still scares the hell out of me to wonder if I can really maintain an 8:45ish pace for 13.1 miles.  Maybe if I could hold that pace for at least a few miles a the end of a long run I’d feel more confident.

I started off with a pace much faster that I really should have.  Most long runs I am for between 11:00 and 11:30 pace.  Not even a quarter mile in and I was hovering around 9:30.  I should have slowed down a bit but of course I just kept going.  I should have really brought a water bottle with me too but I didn’t.  By mile 3 I was really regretting that decision.  By mile 7 (on the way back) I was really really really regretting that decision.

Despite the fast pace and lack of hydration the first four miles went by like nothing.  But I hadn’t seen Ralph yet and I was starting to think I hadn’t given him enough of a head start.  After 4.5 miles I stopped my watch and started walking hoping Ralph would come running around the corner.  I really didn’t want to go more than 10 miles so eventually I just stopped, and stood on the sidewalk waiting, again for Ralph to appear in the distance.  I think the funniest part of this whole run was me, standing on the side of the road in front of a giant (for this town at least…) shopping center waiting for Ralph.  This isn’t exactly distance runner central, it was just such a random spot to stop and wait as cars flew by me.  I did some awkward looking stretches, more to have something to do that because I actually needed to stretch.  After a while I just gave up and deiced to run back home.

That’s when things started to suck.  Nothing feels harder than starting running again after running for some distance, especially since I had started out at such a fast pace.  I kept telling myself nothing will prepare me better for the fatigue that sets in at the end of a race though and kept going.  Everything about the second half of this run was feeling miserable and I tried really hard to mentally stay in the game.  My mouth was dry and I craved water but I kept thinking just suck it up and keep going, you’re being a wuss.  I thought about how I had wanted to do race pace miles at the end of the run and now I felt like I would be lucky if I could just run the whole time.  A few times I stopped and walked, and each time starting running again felt miserable.  What the heck was I thinking deciding I could run a 1:55 half, was I out of my mind?  I can’t even suffer my way through a 9 mile long run how in the world am I going to be able to push at the end of a race.  Doubt after doubt collected in my mind and even though I was not a happy camper (or runner…) I just wanted to get home and be done with this.

And then it happened.  My watch beeped for the end of the mile lap and I looked down to see 8:45 flashing up at me as my pace.  That had to be some kind of trick, right?  Ok fine, all this torture was worth it if I can just hold ONE measly mile at goal race pace.  One freaking mile and I can end this race on a positive note and maybe, just maybe I am not in such a bad place for this race after all.  All I remember about that mile was deciding that when I got home the FIRST thing I wanted to do was make a smoothie.  Ok maybe the first thing was drink some water.  But then  smoothie.  And I began to distract myself by planning out exactly what I had to put in it.  Because I’m weird like that.  Coconut Chobani, oh and I have some pineapple, and banana, oh and coconut water with pineapple juice.  Perfect.

Coconut, pineapple, banana.  I kid you not this became my mantra for at least a half a mile.  Every step I repeated to myself, “coconut, pineapple, banana.”  I told you I was weird.   (Also, it was a pretty kick ass smoothie.)

Even better than finishing my run on a high note, was finishing way sooner than I had expected.  Because of the walk break I had taken in hopes of finding Ralph, I hit 9 miles much sooner that I had thought.  So when I was really kicking myself for charging up the last hill really fast and doubting whether or not I could finish out this last mile at race pace it was all over.  The heavenly watch beeped and I could stop at long last.

Sometimes the last long run feels great and you end it feeling the highest of highs and ready for the race.  Sometimes it feels like complete crap.  But at least for me that the crap is what makes me feel stronger, and what I hold on to on race day to make me push just a little bit harder.  I know that when I’m tired at mile 10 I’m going to be mentally recalling every single sucky run and race and vowing to myself to push harder because I don’t want this to be one more sucky race.  I don’t want anything to regret.

And wh0 knows, maybe “coconut, pineapple, banana”, is going to be the mantra carries me to my fav place, #PRcity.

Probably not.

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