One #FindYourStrong Marathon, Two Voices: 20 (or so) Miles in the Bag

Four nights in a house and we're better friends than ever.
Four nights in a rental house and we're better friends than ever. (From L to R: Gina and family, Marianne and family, Heather and family.)

As they prepare for the Wineglass Marathon on October 4 using the AMR #FindYourStrong Marathon Challenge, Heather and Marianne, two long-distance BRFs taking on their first marathon, are sharing their experiences--and miles--weekly. Find all their posts here

Sunday August 23rd marked the end of training week 12, aka the second trimester in our 18-week gestation. This week also featured the first 20-mile run. These distance PR's for each of us happened a week apart: Heather got it done the weekend before we went on a joint family adventure with our other bff Gina, while Marianne waited until the following Sunday.

Heather + 20 Miles

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The big 2-0. It went pretty well, despite a very rocky start. We hosted our neighborhood’s summer block party the night before, filled with cotton candy, sidewalk chalk, beers (Nuun for everyone running 20 miles the next day), and Back to the Future projected onto a big sheet strung between trees. You’re right to be jealous; it’s an awesome neighborhood. I tucked myself into bed long before the party was over, setting my alarm for 4:00 a.m.

At 5:00 a.m., John groggily asked me when I needed to be up.

I swore my way through my morning routine, furiously calculating how many miles I could squeeze in before meeting BRFs at 6. I tried and failed to get a mapping program to open on my laptop, deciding instead to create an adjusted route on the fly. My GI system did not cooperate, so I got out the door heavier than I would have liked, both in body and spirit. And I forgot my credit card for the oh-so-important post-run coffee hour.

First ice bath. Equal parts the best and worst idea ever.
First ice bath. Equal parts best and worst idea ever.

But once I was out the door, the road worked its magic and I did what I’m so rarely able to do in real life: I let it go. I picked up girlfriends along the way, our group growing and shrinking in various iterations. At mile 16, it was again just me and the pavement. And it was okay. Sure, there was some midfoot soreness and lower ab complaints toward the end. Yes, I could think of a number of things I would rather have been doing during the last mile, but overall I felt strong-ish and lucky to be out there. And my girl Maria even bought me a coffee at the finish line.

The kids took a different take on training at the WHAT WAS THIS PLACE CALLED???
The kids took a different take on train-ing at the Steamtown National Historic Site

I did the long run at the beginning of the week so that it wasn’t hanging over my head during our vacation with Marianne, Gina, and families. For three days and four nights our 10-person crazy train rented a house in the lovely and hilly Poconos. Splashing, sunscreen, cartoons, stargazing, massages, girl talk, the best freaking salad I’ve ever eaten (no seriously – stop reading this, go make it, and come back when you’re done), and lots and lots of hugging.

Non-runner Gina and I even snuck out for an easy 3 miles while the boys slept in and Marianne solo parented the kids. We termed this “Blakeing” after Marianne's alarming realization that if we were Amy Blake, all four of these children would be ours.

Gratuitous BFF photo. Because: YOU GUYS - MATCHING SHIRTS!!
Gratuitous BFF photo. Because: YOU GUYS - MATCHING SHIRTS!!

In our pregnancy comparison, this is the week that the baby would finally be viable outside the womb, proportionally speaking. It feels symbolic that our first 20-miler hit on this milestone week. As with a real pregnancy, my little race baby still has some cooking to do. I might be able to grind out 26.2 tomorrow if I had to, but it sure wouldn’t be pretty, and it probably wouldn't be sub-4:00. Thankfully, with one of my real babies coming a full week late and the other only the day before her due date, I'm used to going the distance.


Marianne + 20 Miles

I agree with everything Heather wrote about our family adventure and was super happy for her company on the fast half of my negative split run last week. Plus we got to sport our color coordinated Saucony shirts.

I'm writing this still a little in shock that I ran so far today, Sunday. (In case you don't know already, dear readers, we have to write these posts before Tuesday). And what's more shocking? EVERYTHING WAS FINE. That said, some details seem appropriate.

A partial list of my night before long run concerns about why this was going to be really hard:

1. Weather was calling for 66 at the start and 73 by the end with 80-90% humidity.

2. I had been eating as though I had never heard of Weight Watchers and as if runs are best fueled by chips and Trader Joe's sour gummy things.

3. I had been sleeping for several nights for fewer hours than usual on an inferior mattress to my own.

4. I failed to remember my glute/IT exercises most of the last week and to foam roll before the most recent run.

Preparation in response to said concerns:

1. Pack fuel, plan breakfast, lay out clothes, replace headlamp batteries, draft overly wordy version of this post that read a little manic the next day.

2. Seek confirmation from running friend for 5:30am for 10 of the miles.

3. Receive supportive texts from Gina and Heather.

4. Get in bed at 8:20, lights out at 8:50, put on a relaxation meditation to shut up my brain.

Before (Nervous)                              After (Ecstatic)                        Debut Ice Bath (Cold)

Actual Run, which I mentally broke into 3 shorter runs:

1. Up at 3:50, out the door at 4:44 (a sign of good luck, yes?) after foam rolling. Before hitting start on the phone, I took a minute to look up at the stars (far less impressive in NJ) and remember that they matched the ones in Ohio. Heather was right there with me again.  I got in 3.5 plus a bathroom pit stop before meeting Francia at 5:30. Grateful it was a much cooler 62 to start.

2. Ran close to 10.5 with Francia, thanks to a missed turn. Stopped at home to ditch handheld and use bathroom again.

3. Five solo miles listening to this week's podcast and then finishing with Bringing Back the Sunshine feeling unbelievably great.

Post run

1. I checked Strava (claimed 20.5) against G-Map pedometer (19). Felt zero disappointment that I might not have hit the magic 20 and instead just gratitude I could finish strong.

2. Tried an ice bath but I think I didn't have enough ice. My legs look more red after a run in the winter.

3. Chowed down on the leftover goo ball I had picked up in Ohio a few weeks back and still made it to 11 a.m. Mass.

4. Went to a delicious yoga class in the evening that featured lots of good-for-runners poses. Plus the closing meditation along the lines of "When you work on your physical strength, you are preparing your body for when you need psychological strength" really hit home.

Lessons Learned (or re-learned):

1. My fueling strategy is working well (Gu at mile 4, 1 chomp at each mile mark for 5-12, Honey Stinger waffles, peanut butter pretzels, and raisins as desired at each subsequent mile).

2. The training plan has yet to lead me astray. I was absolutely ready to cover this distance.

3. Like so often in life, the anticipation is much worse than the reality.

4. As I'm in the middle of OMG the semester is starting in one week and my syllabi aren't done and daycare is closed Friday and Thursday is packed with meetings and I am so not ready for sabbatical and summer to really be over, I realize runs work better to reduce anxiety than chips. Seriously.

Have you run 20 miles before? (Or hit it during your #FindYourStrong training this week?) If so, how'd it go? Any other lessons learned from running this week?

8 responses to “One #FindYourStrong Marathon, Two Voices: 20 (or so) Miles in the Bag

  1. Ladies, I absolutely love reading these posts. My marathon is two weeks after yours, so your timely reminders of what’s ahead are much appreciated! Good luck with the Wineglass Marathon – and thanks for mentioning peanut butter pretzels for the back half of the run. What a great idea! Now you’ve got me look forward to the second half of this weekend’s 18 miler!

  2. Yes, I’ve run 20 and having company is the best. I want to wish you both well on October 4 and through the rest of your training. Thanks for sharing your sometimes random but honest thoughts and I’ll be following you both.

  3. I love you guys; I was Blaked all weekend. I also want to point out that I have three kids, not four. (And nooooo, there will not be a fourth!)

    Wait, are we counting my husband? 😉

  4. I am currently training for marathon number three and have found that breaking up the long runs helps tremendously. If you’re stuck running it completely solo, doing loops works well because it breaks the distance up into chunks (easier to handle mentally), and you get to stop for water/bathroom/fuel. Or finding a running buddy to run part of a long run with you helps the time pass (it’s rare to find someone to run the entire 20 miles with you). Last weekend for my 18-miler I listened to an AMR podcast while running 5 miles to a friend’s house, hit pause on the podcast while running 7 miles chatting with my friend, then listened to another podcast while running 6 miles home. It worked out perfectly and the time really went by fast.

  5. Almost there ladies! Yay! In answer to the question, I have done 20 milers. Twice, training for the Houston and Austin marathons. First time was alone and surprisingly peaceful. Lots of Gu and at that time, Gatorade. I also didn’t know about ice baths back then. It was my first one…didn’t know much.

    Second one was with my then boyfriend, now husband, training for Austin. What I remember of that one is running along the foreshore in Perth, Western Australia (hubby is an Aussie) and thinking, “how blessed am I?” I barely made it through that 20 miler though. I still don’t know why. Still, I finished a very hilly Austin course in PR time, knocking off a full 15 minutes from my flat and fast Houston marathon the year before. Dunno if it was the experience under my belt or the good hill training I had in Perth, or maybe the fact that I had my best friend with me for Austin and was solo for my first in Houston. But I guess the take away is just to get through the 20 miler and it will set you up well for that big 26.2 day. In both races I hit my wall at mile 17, and same with both 20 mile training runs. The 20 mile does give you a good feel for race distance, although for me, race day, with all the bands and fans (especially in Austin), was so much more awesome!

  6. Great job guys! I really enjoy reading about your “apart yet together” journey to the marathon. I especially loved the part about the stars being the same in Ohio and NJ, it’s a great perspective I’ll come back to when I’m up for a dark morning run and missing my long distance running friends

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