Running (and crushing) my first 20 miles

Like I said in the recap of week thirteen of marathon training, I was nervous about how my first 20 mile run would go. For one, I had gotten random cramping starting at mile 15 on my 18 mile run in my quad and I wasn’t quite sure why. It hadn’t come back in any of my runs but I also hadn’t had as exerting of a run since then. Plus, my runs before it had gone amazingly. And I felt like I had to have a not amazing run coming up to balance everything else.

But I tried a couple of things to combat having a really bad first 20 mile run. After having my quad cupped the week before, I continued to focus on my foam rolling and using my stick on that area. If anything, it at least kept tightness out of there.

I also tried out a new fueling strategy for my long run and I think I’m getting close to finalizing fueling for Twin Cities Marathon. My plan during the marathon is not to carry water since there’s fluid stations every two miles starting at mile three (water and powerade) so I’ll drink at water stations but the rest of my fueling should be consistent with training. I’ll probably switch up my water intake to start at mile three so I get used to that before the marathon.

Here’s my fueling for this twenty mile run:

Water (with Nuun) Sips every two miles (plus with gels)
Gu Energy Labs Gels Miles 6, 10, 15 and 18
SaltStick Caps Miles 4, 12, 16 and 18

The biggest change I made was adding in the SaltStick Caps. When I was on the Runner’s Girl Podcast and talked about the cramping I had, Sue recommended salt tabs. She’d had the same problem in her first couple of marathons and when she started using salt tabs recently it had gone away. They weren’t expensive at all, right around $22 for a 100 count bottle on Amazon, so I thought I should at least try them.

I also added in that fourth Gu Gel, knowing that I’d be hitting a the uphill by St.Thomas right around mile 18 and I’d be need some extra carbs in to make it up that and through the end. It will be about the same timing of the hill in the marathon which made this the perfect practice for it.

The change in fueling, I feel,  really made a huge difference in this run. Especially the salt tabs since I didn’t feel any cramping during this run. At about mile 11, I started to feel the twinge of my quad starting to cramp up but that’s as far as it went. Otherwise, I felt so strong on this run and confident in myself.

Hit the halfway point at the Guthrie Theater!

Hit the halfway point at the Guthrie Theater!

My goal pace was to keep everything between 11:00 and 12:30 minute splits. A huge difference for sure but I knew I’d have some difference in my splits just due to the hills. There’s some long, steep uphill sections but I’d also be hitting the same sections going downhill. One of these, the hill before St. Thomas, I made it up most of the way before slowing down to a walk. But considering I was already at mile 18 and it wasn’t until the Get in Gear half in April 2016 that I made it up all the without running (and that was probably around mile four at that race), it was a huge victory for me.

Just something that I want to emphasize is how strong I felt on this run. I wasn’t going fast at all but I felt like I could keep on going at the end. I felt like celebrating at mile 17 because I knew I could make it without the cramping. I wasn’t completely exhausted which is a good thing since I’ll have another 6.2 miles to go for the marathon. It might feel different for the marathon since I’m hoping to have slightly faster pace (I’d love to be right around an 11:00 minute mile) but I really felt I could have continued on for another 6.2 miles at around that pace.

One thing I did learn after this run was that I shouldn’t sit down so quickly after finishing and that I really need to keep on moving. Mike was watching his parent’s dog (along with our own) so I started and finished my run from their house. And made the mistake of sitting on the retaining wall to take some post-run photos. My legs tightened up as I got up and it felt the same after sitting in the car for the fifteen minutes it took to drive home.

I took both a cold bath (plus a pumpkin beer) after foam rolling and Mike cooked me brunch so I didn't have to worry about burning anything since I was pretty exhausted. I wore my compression socks for most of the day as I really feel that makes a difference in recovery post-long run. I had a two hour nap also, although I'm surprised I didn't sleep longer considering how tired I was. Ended the night with an epsom salt soak for my toes and legs and feet were feeling pretty good considering what I'd just put them through.

Now that I have this 20 mile run down, I’m feeling much more confident about my 20 mile race coming up on September 9. My goal for that is to run 11 minute miles and practice drinking on the course from the aid stations (they have water and gatorade every two miles). Plus, I’ll be able to get out some of my pre-race nerves.