Distance: 16.55 miles
Rate: 12:12 per mile
Phew! It’s been three and a half months since I first ran 14.5 miles and I’ve been chasing a longer distance record since then. Hitting 14.3 miles two weeks ago while not being nearly as winded as I was the first time around on a harder course was pretty great, but I really wanted to up the ante to 16, 18, even 20 miles. Today, I got to do that.
The plot was easy enough: Take the last fourteen-miler and add two laps so I could exit right next to my house. Fourteen total laps at 1.1 miles each, plus an exit tangent which involved another .6 laps, so, 14.6 laps. Easy enough. But, I knew I’d need some secret weapons, so on top of a Chewy granola bar I downed about fifteen minutes before I headed out the door, I grabbed these:
I’d brought one gel two weeks ago, but I knew it was time to start getting the routine down.
It was ten degrees cooler than normal - 71F, warming to 78F during the three-plus hours I ran, but this was offset somewhat by the insane humidity, which was around 75%. (It usually hovers around 10-15% around here in western Phoenix, but recent rains have driven that up.) This meant that by lap two, I was showering myself with sweat and that was just ridiculous, yo. I have no idea why I didn’t bring my new sweatband, but I regretted it quick! I’m expecting it to be slightly cooler - 65-70F - and less humid (30-35%) when running in Colorado Springs in two and a half weeks.
The first lap is always the longest. I think it’s because it’s the survey run, to get my bearings, to note any obstructions, like forgotten trash cans blocking sidewalks or mis-parked cars. Just because the sidewalk has an eased curb doesn’t mean you can park your stupid vehicle on the pedestrian path, you idiots. Thankfully! - there were no offenders tonight and the route was clear. After the survey lap, the next few laps just became a matter of finding my pace, which took longer than usual - fourth lap. For some reason, I’d failed to click the charger to my Gear Live smartwatch, so I had to go without. Instead, I changed the audio cues on RunKeeper to bark out overall Average Pace and Current Pace, which mentally kept me on track. (Actually, it was a little scary hearing 13-14 minute “current paces” early on despite the declining “average pace”.)
I didn’t really have any issue keeping distracted. I just kinda thought of everything and nothing.
I popped gels every forty-five minutes, the first being the orange, which was actually pretty tasty - but maybe that was partially because it was the one out in the heat for the least amount of time. I found the track, something that sort of eluded me last time: you have to rip those tabs off with your teeth. No amount of finger-pinching and ripping is going to do it properly. That out of the way, three good squeezes got the contents out of each. No stomach issues to report and beforehand, I’d only had some Subway and some light snacks through the evening. I did good! The Berry came next and was just fine and the green apple was also good (it was actually the one I was looking forward to most) but maybe candy has twisted my expectations a bit: I was expecting a more playful, sour taste. Oh well! Travis Colby, of Finally Airborne fame, an obese-to-marathon blog I read when doing my early research, recommended only bringing fruit flavors for interstitial gels, because as I discovered on M140, vanilla and chocolate gels aren’t great when heat gets involved!
So anyway, back to the run, each lap became a matter of mathematics. Four laps wasn’t quite a third of the total run complete, but five laps was. The halfway point came at the end of the seventh lap and that was a pretty great sensation. With five laps remaining (beginning of lap 10) I made a comical error, though: I started counting down instead of up. SOMEHOW, I don’t know quite how, I came under the impression for a few laps there that I needed to run fourteen total laps, as in, thirteen and change. This meant that after some mental unpacking and some scary calculations based on pace, total time and distance, I had somehow mentally removed a lap from the run. Oops! This wasn’t dreadful overall, except that I was kinda wanting to pee and I’d need to run an extra 1.1 miles to do so.
Oh, and this is the first long, long run that I didn’t stop half-way through for a bathroom break. I’m actually pretty happy about that! I did run out of water in the thirteenth lap, though.
The sun was rolling up, but sat just beyond the horizon before I got back to the house. Staring down that last, long stretch in that final lap, I was so happy that I’d be making the distance and I’d be doing it for the first time. “Fuck, yes.” I said, to no one. It didn’t matter. I earned it. No walking, no pit stops, just sixteen-plus miles of running. Jimbo pinged me a few times and my left quads tightened up around lap 11, but released afterward. Sailing into unknown territory with the extra distance, I knew there’d be some fun little adventures in stress that I probably hadn’t experienced before. Thanks to the gels, however, I came back and, while slightly tired and numb from soreness, felt just fine.
I was going to run another 16-miler next week, but on some good advice, I’m beginning my taper, so it’ll be 5-8-5-12, then 5-6-5-4 next week, followed by three days of rest and then the ADT half-marathon. It’s so close! Two weeks from this very moment, my friend and I will be headed home.
See you on Saturday!