Today was the culmination of marathon training (pre-marathon anyway): the 20-miler. There’s technically another 20-miler on the training docket, but getting this one out out of the way was a huge accomplishment, and now it feels like the rest of training is not quite so overwhelming. Even though Hal Higdon’s Intermediate training plan called for the 20-miler to come next week, I pushed it up a week because this 20-mile race is a race that is specifically planned to be a “training” run for MCM, and I felt like participating was a no-brainer, even if it meant altering the training schedule a bit.
The race took place along the C&O Canal Towpath and started at Carderock Recreation area in Maryland. It was all gravel and all on a narrow path, and we ran past 150 year old locks & gatehouses. It was so pretty! I would say it was about half & half on shade versus sun. The trail itself was 12 ft. most of the time, but it was much narrower during the first three miles (we were tempted to lay down and measure using our bodies) which made passing people impossible.
This is the picture I took pre-race. There was fog coming up off the water, but I don’t think the panorama captured that!
The weather was chilly at the 8am start so we knew we’d have good temperatures for a good portion of the morning, thought it did start to get warm by the end – especially because the sunny portions were right around miles 10-17. Once the race started, it took a LONG time for the crowd to thin out (and for our hands to warm up!). We ran the first 2-3 miles very, very slowly (12 min/mile paces) because we couldn’t pass people. If you did, you’d be in the canal. Once we got going, though, we kept a pretty stead 9:30 pace for probably about 80% of the race. I didn’t pay too much attention to the pace we were running, but was pleasantly surprised to find we were still holding onto that pace at 15 miles in. We passed 17 miles and 18 miles in a much more respectable fashion than our past two long runs (way, way quicker) and stopped to walk twice around mile 17.5 and 18.5 for maybe 30 seconds or so before picking it back up. My legs were definitely feeling it between miles 17-20!
Something that didn’t mentally help was the fact that the mile markers were really far off (.3-.5 miles off). I know this happens sometimes during longer races, but the weird thing about it being off this time was that it started before mile 3…that’s definitely not normal and we overheard others complaining to race marshalls as well. Here are the final results according to my Garmin:
It came out to about a 9:57 min/mile pace overall, which given our slooooow first few miles and our mini-walk breaks, we were so happy with! I know this was the confidence-boosting long run we both needed. Not going to lie – I was doubting my goal time after the last two long runs, but now I feel like it is realistic again. We were really proud of ourselves and this performance even standing on its own. When you factor in the time we lost at the beginning (which, let’s be honest, will probably be the case at MCM too) and the fact that this was all on gravel, we are hopeful that we’ll clock even faster times in October. I definitely teared up a little at the end (I will totally cry at the finish line of MCM, I just know it), and was sort of in awe of what we’d just done once it really sank in (on the drive home!).
I wasn’t even too concerned about official results because I was happy with what we did, but it turns out we were right in the middle of the pack. I was 12th out of 27 women in my age group and right around the middle for all 20 mile runners (there were only 192 of us brave souls!).
Can I just mention again how eye-opening marathon training is in regards to pace? The pace I am aiming for in MCM is so different from my half marathon pace!
Afterwards, I came home to this adorable sign made with love. There is nothing more motivating than your little lovebugs rooting for you!
I’m sure I’m completely skipping over lots of details about this race, but believe me when I say I came home and ate a footlong Subway sandwich and took an ice bath. Those two things were heaven!