There is no other way to title this post. 20 Miles! That’s what I finished on Saturday. Most marathon training plans out there will take you up to 20 miles. So, the 20 mile training run is a significant run in the training cycle for marathoners. I have heard of some plans that only take you up to 17 miles. However, the majority will take you up to 20 miles. The reason is that beyond 20 miles, there is no physical benefit to the runner. The Jeff Galloway plan (which I’m following) takes you all the way up to 26 miles. Because I failed my first attempt at 20 in this marathon training cycle, I had to make some alterations to my training. I will go up to 23 miles instead of the 26 on the Galloway plan.
Before getting on to the actual day, I want to take a little time to address my mental state as I approached this run. This 20 mile run is one that I felt like I desperately needed. I failed on my first 20 mile attempt. I lost my focus in the 10th mile of the Surf City USA Half Marathon. During the Surf City USA Half Marathon, I did wonder if I should consider backing out of the LA Marathon. So, this 20 miles was majorly important to me. I put together the following strategy as I approached the day..
- I would use a run/walk ration of 30 seconds/1 minute, 30 seconds walk
- I would take on hydration every 1.5 miles
- I would take on Cliff Shot Blok every 30 minutes up to 2 hours. Then, I’d take a Honey Stinger Waffle. I’d repeat this up to the 4 hour Waffle.
- I brought sport beans with me for if it looked like it would take me closer to 5 hours to finish
- Time didn’t matter…only finishing
If it took me 6 hours to finish those 20 miles…so be it.
This was my mantra for the day. No matter what I had to do, I needed ALL 20 miles.
When I went to bed on Friday night, the weather forecast had a 30 percent chance of rain from 8am through noon. By the time I woke up, it was up to a 50% chance of rain during those hours. These were prime hours for my run. Thanks to @ChamionUSA, I now had some rain gear to wear! Hooray! The jacket I wore could easily be folded up and put in the back part of my fuel vest. So, if it didn’t look like it was going to rain, I could remove the jacket and be fine.
At about 6:30am, I headed out the door and began my 20 mile journey through Pasadena. The first mile went by really quickly. I was walking more. So, I had a lot more energy at the end of one mile than I’m used to. Funny thing. I finished the first mile in less than 12 minutes! Mile 2 had some up and down to it. I was still cruising. By the time I got to 1.5 miles, I made the mental note to take on some water. I had to pay attention to this on Saturday. Of any run I’ve ever done, this one is the run where I was most focused on the fueling and hydration aspects the most.
I didn’t feel like taking another picture of Orange Grove Blvd. from mile 3 of my route. So, this one is from a previous run. The start of the run goes uphill for over a half mile. I’m proud to say that I kept my run/walk intervals going up the entire hill! It was difficult. However, I reminded myself that it would level out. The difficulty I was feeling is exactly what I should have felt. The road had a big incline that didn’t stop. So, it was supposed to be hard. I reminded myself that it would end. That kept me going.
Mile 4 took me by the Tournament of Roses house. Even though Orange Grove Blvd. does have incline to it, I do love running here. There are plenty of people out running, walking, and walking their dogs. There are lots of good vibes going on!
The fifth mile is where things got easier. The roads flattened out and even had some declines. This is where I would run down to the Rose Bowl to run the loop around the Rose Bowl.
In the first lap around the loop, the clouds looked ominous. I got down to the loop at 5.30 miles. I expected the next mile to be more difficult. It was really surprising that it didn’t feel so bad. Maybe the inclines I faced when I started on Orange Grove Blvd., made the inclines on the first mile of the Rose Bowl loop seem easy. I wasn’t complaining.
As you can see, by the end of the first lap, the sun was coming out. I was beginning to feel like the predicted rain would not materialize. The first lap went really well and I felt great the entire way! As I started the second lap, I was getting close to the 2 hour mark. I got there somewhere in the 10th mile. Once I got to 2 hours, I completed a 30 second run interval and then stopped. I stopped the watch as well so I could take off the rain jacket and get my Honey Stinger waffle. I didn’t stop because I was feeling too tired and needed a break. I stopped only for the reasons I just listed. Once I got the jacked packed away and consumed the Honey Stinger waffle, I was back on my way. I know that, during the marathon, I won’t get to stop the clock. But, on this training run, I needed it logistically.
I left the Rose Bowl loop at 11.30 miles and faced this beast of a hill to come out. Since things had been going so well, I skipped a run interval. The road out of the Rose Bowl has a rather steep incline for a little bit. Then, it flattens for a little bit. Then, another steep hill to take you to Orange Grove Blvd. again. I skipped 2 run intervals on the way up. The total distance covered is a little more than a half mile. So, I took the time hit in favor of saving energy. I needed to finish ALL 20 miles after all. Once I got up to Orange Grove Blvd., I got back to my run/walk intervals and continued on.
I took Orange Grove Blvd. to Colorado Blvd. and turned to head down Colorado Blvd. If you’ve seen the Rose Parade, this turn is usually what you see on television. From there, the route has a lot of decline. Ironically, I crossed 13.1 miles a couple of minutes quicker than I finished the Surf City USA Half Marathon in! Even though I felt tired, I also felt good. The 14th mile went well and I was feeling great! The run/walk intervals and fueling strategy were paying off big time!
I took Colorado Blvd. to the street I live on and would turn towards home at that point. I reached my apartment complex at 14.25 miles and needed a restroom break. So, I stopped the clock for the second time. There are no Port-a-Potties on this training route. So, I needed to use the restroom when I could. After the restroom break, I reminded myself that I had less than 6 miles to go!
It was back to the run/walk intervals and fueling and hydration strategy. I’m not going to lie. The 16th mile is where things started getting hard. My legs felt like lead and I felt slow. However, I continued on. This part of my route is the 6 mile route I’ve written about before. I was on the downhill part of the route. That helped me out greatly. I knew that miles 17, 18, and 19 would be the difficult ones. As I started mile 17, this was kind of getting to me. At 16.75 miles, I cracked. I tried to run again. All the way up to the end of mile 17. Then, all I could do is walk. I was mentally done and physically tired. Since I knew the next two miles would be hard, I was ready to concede those miles to walking.
The first 17 miles went so amazingly well and I was on a great pace. If I’d kept it up, I’m convinced I would have finished the 20 miles in a little under 4 hours, 30 minutes! That would have been amazing for me! It would put me on target for a 6 hour marathon finish. If I can do this well on the day of the LA Marathon, I will be well within a PR pace. My Walt Disney World Marathon finish time was 6 hours, 21 minutes, 45 seconds. That’s what I need to finish ahead of if I am to set a new marathon PR. I think I can totally do this!
So, I’m walking along in the 18th mile. You know what I passed right as I finished mile 18? Chick Fil-A. Not cool! Even though I would have loved to stop and eat, I kept walking on. For the last 2 miles, I was convinced I’d finish in 4 hours, 45 minutes. It didn’t matter. All I wanted to see was 20.00 miles on my watch. As I walked along in the last two miles, I thought about the marathon. I thought of how one more 20 mile training run will put me in the exact place I want to be for this marathon. Next time, I’m sure that I’ll be able to run further. That’s been my experience. So, I kept wondering how long it would take me to finish 20 miles next time. Hmmmm.
As I turned up the street I live on again, for the last time, I was in my last mile! I was going to finish all 20 miles! Buoyed by this realization, I even tried to run a little bit in the last mile. I did finish one full 30 second run interval and a couple of short ones! By the time I got to 19.75 miles, I started tearing up. I was going to do it this time! This was not going to be like my last 20 mile attempt. I was going to finish this time!
Then, it came! 20.00 Miles!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I stopped the watch. 20 miles in 4 hours, 41 minutes, 31 seconds. I actually finished this 20 miles faster than the last time I finished a 20 mile run. On that run, I was faster over 10 miles. However, I still beat that time by a few minutes!
This is how I felt after finishing 20 miles! Happy and really tired all at the same time. The important thing is that I finished! For the first time in this training cycle, I believe I’m ready to run a marathon. It’s amazing what finishing 20 miles will do for your confidence!
After getting home, I rewarded myself with this amazing glass of chocolate mile in my Avengers Half Marathon glass while recovering in a really cold bath (I haven’t got the courage to do a full-blown ice bath yet). It was all heavenly!
I’m really thankful for the folks at ChampionUSA who provided me with the rain gear that gave me the confidence to go out and try with rain in the forecast! Without the rain gear, I might have put this run off. I should say that running in that jacket was awesome! It is really light weight and gave me no problems whatsoever! I chose the Dumbo Double Dare shirt as inspiration to remind me that I can finish what I started!
Bring on the Los Angeles Marathon! I’ve still got a little under 5 weeks to go!