This past Saturday, I had my last crazy long run before the Los Angeles Marathon….23 miles! Finishing 20 miles left me feeling like I could do a full marathon again. Many marathon training programs only take you up to 20 miles. I’ve read that anything over 20 miles doesn’t produce any physical gain. So, why do a 23 mile run? The mental part of running a marathon. Jeff Galloway said that people who run 23 miles have an improved performance over those that only train up to 20 miles. On top of that, 23 miles was the max distance I covered in preparing for my only other marathon…the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon. You can read about that experience here. I actually ran a very similar route to the 23 mile route I ran back then!
As I thought about this run, I had a few goals going in…
- To Finish all 23 Miles
- To use the exact same fueling strategy
- To use the same run/walk intervals
- To complete the run/walk intervals through at least the end of mile 20
- To finish faster than I had finished my only other 23 mile training run (5:29:27)
The time goal was more of a loose goal as I started. Finishing all 23 miles was the most important goal. The rest of the goals weren’t as important to me. As the week progressed, I noticed that the Rose Bowl was going to have an event there on Saturday. So, I didn’t know if I’d be able to run the Rose Bowl loop like I had planned. With that uncertainty, I had a back up plan for my route. After all, I wouldn’t get to the Rose Bowl until the start of mile 6. That would be a bad time to find out I couldn’t do what I had planned and try to come up with another plan on the spot.
I was up at 5:30am to run again. It took a little longer to get out the door as I was having too much fun seeing the pictures that came in from the Princess 10K race. Then, as I started walking to warm up, I realized that I skipped the Body Glide. Big Mistake! 23 miles is no place to skip using that. So, I headed back to the apartment to apply this great invention. That all meant that I got out the door for this run a little on the late side. The weather forecast had a cloudy morning and sunny afternoon. So, I wanted to beat the heat.
The first mile is mostly the same first mile I run in the mid-week runs. So, I know them well. I enjoyed the start to this run! It was a great first mile!
On my mid-week runs, I would turn right here and not have to face this busy intersection. However, when I run to the Rose Bowl, I face this traffic light. Since this traffic light has stayed red for as much as 2 minutes or more before, I opted to stop my watch here. It may sound like cheating. However, to be penalized for 2 minutes or more while standing waiting for a red light doesn’t exactly prepare me for a race where there are no such stops.
I finished the first mile in around 11 and a half minutes! Even though the time might be too fast, it didn’t feel fast. It was an easy first mile! When I run up Fair Oaks, I’m heading out of Pasadena and towards South Pasadena (yes, they are two separate cities). I was feeling great!
By this point, I was getting close to my next turn. Everything was still going well!
When I turn up Mission Street, I get to run along a more old school looking Main Street area! By this point, I’m almost to the end of mile 2. I made sure to take in water at 1.5 miles as per my plan. As you can see, there wasn’t much going on, I had warmed up and was feeling rather positive!
This downhill portion of the start in mile 3 was where I started thinking about what was up next.
At the end of Mission Street, at the beginning of mile 3, I turn up Orange Grove Blvd. This is where the route gets hard. This road leading to the 110 freeway is the last bit of level ground I’ll run over until the start of mile 4.
Here’s where it starts getting hard. There’s a slight incline to get me over the 110 freeway.
On the other side of the freeway is this…For the next half mile, I went uphill. When I run to the Rose Bowl, this is the part of the course that I dread. The hill is steep and goes on for a while. The steep incline slows me down and feels really hard. I knew my fast time for the first 2 miles would take a hit in mile 3. So, there was no panic as I made my way up the hill.
It winds for a while. On Saturday, I was determined not to let this hill beat me. I kept my run/walk intervals going. There was one interval I only finished 15 seconds. I am pleased to report that I only missed 15 seconds of running! It was an improvement over when I ran the same area two weeks ago!
I got to the end of the 3rd mile a minute and a half slower than the 12 minute per mile pace I was under at the end of mile 2. Again, the slower time was expected. I knew that the 4th mile was a little more flat and I would feel better running through this part. I mean, look at it! This part of Orange Grove Blvd., is beautiful! There are lots of runners and walkers out and about. It’s a really nice stretch of sidewalk to run!
I always love running by the Tournament of Roses House! I run by here towards the end of mile 4.
Mile 5 takes me to this road that leads me into the Rose Bowl loop. By the time I got here, the recovery of mile 3 was complete. I was feeling good again and couldn’t wait to see if I’d get to run the Rose Bowl loop. I saw other runners coming out of this area. So, it seemed like I’d be able to get at least one lap in.
I’ve got to admit that I wonder what the event that was going on at the Rose Bowl is all about. This huge slide was up. There was quite a set up for whatever was going on. I was just happy to see the runners/walkers out on the loop! The plan for the day was to run the Rose Bowl loop 3 times before leaving. I knew that any of that could be taken away if the closed off the loop. So, the end of each lap was interesting. The first lap went by really well. I was actually surprised at how easy the first mile of the loop seemed to me. Usually, it’s a really hard mile. Not so on Saturday!
The first mile of the second lap was a little more difficult. I could feel the tiredness starting so set in. That first mile of the loop was feeling like I remembered. So, I kept telling myself to keep on going. I realized during that lap (mile 10) is that I was further along the loop when I hit 2 hours! Like I had done in my 20 mile run, I stopped at 2 hours to eat a Honey Stinger waffle. Without the thread of rain, I didn’t need to take off a rain jacket this time around. I was feeling amazing about being further along in the Rose Bowl loop at 2 hours than two weeks prior! I did stop my watch to take on the waffle. For the LA Marathon, I need to wear shorts that have pockets so, I can keep the waffle there.
As I approached the end of lap 3, I was really happy to see that I could do all three laps! Not only that, I knew that I was going faster than two weeks ago! The closer I got to 13 miles, the more I wondered when that moment would happen. The first mile of this third loop (mile 12), my legs started to tighten a little. Yep, I was getting closer to the half marathon distance. The thing that keeps me going on this loop is knowing that the second mile is easier than the first and the third mile is the easiest. That kept me going. I had only missed 15 seconds of running to this point! Then, it happened…I crossed the half marathon distance! Look at my time! This would have been my third fastest half marathon if it were a race! That was such good news to me that I gained energy from it! Combine that with the fact I was in the last mile of the Rose Bowl loop and I had a lot to be happy about!
At 15.25 miles, it was time to leave the Rose Bowl. That meant facing this crazy climb out to Orange Grove Blvd. I had decided earlier to walk the uphill part of this half mile and get back to the run/walk intervals in the flat sections. So, I missed 1 run interval here.
There was one more small climb to get back to Orange Grove Blvd. That climb came in a walk break. So, no missed run interval. There was some more climbing to get back to Colorado Blvd. If you’ve ever seen the Rose Parade, the picture above is where they usually film for television. As you can see by the picture, the route I was on begins going downhill here as well! Hooray! Easy running!
At the bottom is Old Town Pasadena. This area gets tricky because of all the shoppers who are out and about. Plus, Pasadena has several intersections where there are three intervals at the traffic lights. One is for the cars going one way. The second is for cars going the other. The third is for pedestrians. So, it takes a little longer when you get stopped here. This hurt my time as I hit all three of them. Ugh!
As I ran down Colorado Blvd., I started calculations for a 20 mile time. I really wanted to finish 20 miles faster than I had two weeks ago. I really wanted to keep my run/walk intervals going. As I was in mile 16, it was getting hard. Each interval let me feeling tired. But, I pressed on. The downhills helped. I was running slower. However, I told myself that I had made it to the end of mile 17 two weeks ago and I could do it again. That got me to almost the end of mile 18.
As it got harder to keep running, I reminded myself that I was pushing beyond what I had done previously. So, it was totally normal for it to feel harder. I kept wanting to quit and just walk it out. However, the goal I had of beating my previous 23 mile training run kept me going. Beating that time was so in reach that I didn’t want to stop. I even had delusions of grandeur that I’d keep up my run/walk intervals all the way to the end of mile 23.
By the end of mile 20, I was done. I had run/walked/ran my way to a faster 20 miles than two weeks ago by around 11 minutes! The sun had finally come out in the 20th mile and it kind sucked the life out of my run. I had kept my run/walk intervals going 3 miles longer than my 20 mile run. So, it just seemed like I should call it a day. I hoped that I could walk the raining 3 miles in under an hour and achieve my last goal of beating that previous 23 mile run.
At the beginning of mile 22, I saw this guy from just down the street! So, after seeing so many friends post online their pictures with various princesses, I had to stop for a character picture on a training run! How cool is that? He’s the Chick Fil-A Cow who encourages us to “eat mor chickin.” On this day, he was advertising “free coffee.” He had a worker with him that was nice enough to take this picture! So, I got a character picture on a training run! How epic is that?!
As I walked the last miles, my feet hurt, my legs hurt, I was tired, and I couldn’t wait to be finished. In my mind, I wanted to finish faster than 5 and a half hours. As I got into the last mile, I knew that was going to happen! In spite of the pain, I did attempt one last run interval in the last half mile. After that, I didn’t think I’d benefit too much from any more running and walked it out. As you can see, I beat my time goal! I beat my previous 23 mile effort!
I was one happy camper! No more 20 mile training runs unless I do another marathon!
My reward? Chocolate Milk in my Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon glass and water in my Star Wars Half Marathon cup! All of which were consumed in a really cold bath (I haven’t been brave enough for a full-blown ice bath yet).
As I’m now in “taper town” for the Los Angeles Half Marathon, I’m hoping to finish these next couple weeks strong. Gone are the crazy long runs. However, I still have training to finish. I still have mid-week runs. I still have a 6 mile and 7 mile weekend run. I still have gym workouts. I’m hoping to continue on the strong streak I’ve been on lately. No matter what happens, I feel ready to take on my second full marathon March 15th. No matter what happens that day, I feel like I’ve done all I could do to prepare myself. I would have loved to taken my training up to 26 miles or at least 3 runs of 20 miles or longer. But that didn’t happen. I’m okay with that. I love that I finished my 20 mile training run and my 23 mile training run faster than I did when training for the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon. I can’t wait to see what happens on March 15th!