Well, it’s a few more days until I hit that milestone. Honestly, just another day in my book. But today, as part of the B-Fit Birthday Challenge, as well as giving me something to focus on for training while here in Iraq, I ran 40 miles (well, 41.5) in celebration of my fitness. But before I get to the report:
Thank you all so much for your generosity! So far you’ve managed to donate almost $700 to the Fisher House, which is incredible. Absolutely incredible. I’ve had donations from family, friends, the blogging community, as well as complete strangers who heard what I was doing through word of mouth (or e-mail). Your generosity is astounding. THANK YOU!
Anyway, on to the run.
I started off at 11:50pm, about 5 minutes behind schedule. Nice and cool, a slight breeze, the waning moon climbing in the eastern sky. The first 27 miles, which I ran solo, went by very quickly. Very comfortable too. The temperature at midnight was 88F (31C) and it cooled down to 77F (25C) before sunrise. Now, keep in mind that temperature range is very cool for me; you might recall that all of my long runs this summer started with temps around 106F (41C) and would often never cool below 100F (38C) the entire time. So this was a welcome change. Matter of fact, there were points on the run that I actually felt chilled!
I started off at a very comfortable 11:00/mile pace, which was my average pace goal for the entire run. The next few miles were actually quicker, dropping down into the 10:40s. I maintained a steady pace, using the 4-minute run/1-minute walk strategy that has served me well. By mile 13, my average pace dropped below 10:30/mile, which was quite a bit quicker than I had planned. But I was feeling good and my heart rate stayed right where I needed it to be, so I kept at it. By mile 26 I was down to a 10:24/mile average pace and actually hit 26.2 miles (full marathon) just 4 minutes off of my PR for that distance! I was feeling strong.
The overall pace dropped slightly over the next 10 miles, then the wheels came off right after mile 36. Even then I was able to hold a decent forward motion and I knew I was going to finish. Here’s the accumulated pace (bars) overlaid with my actual pace for that mile (line):
Note that refueling are off the clock. Although not reality for an organized run, had I left the clock running while I was doing those things, I’ve found that it really messing with my overall pace and gives me an unrealistic picture of my effort. In a supported race, I’d have someone handing me my fuel.
Anyway, the last 10 miles were a 15K race that happened to be scheduled for this morning. It worked out perfect, since all of the folks that planned on supporting me during the last 10 miles also planned on doing that run. When I first started planning this run, all I asked was for support during that last 10 miles, knowing that’s when I’d need it most.
I got to the start line about 30 minutes prior to the race start. It worked out perfect, since I was able to change socks, shoes and shirt. The dry clothes felt great. Plus, I had a chance to eat some real food. Anyway, the race started about 15 minutes late, but I was OK with that. The pre-race brief really put my whole run into perspective. The unit that had organized the run lost one of their own this past week, leaving behind a pregnant wife and 5 year old son. The race was dedicated to him.
Cruising through the crowd, it was fun to listen to the folks complaining about how they felt at mile 3. I coulndn’t help but smirk as I went by. The course was a fun course, being more a trail run that an road run. It was a welcome change, especially since the first 30 miles were all on asphalt. But the way they soak down the dirt, it becomes harder than concrete and nowhere near as smooth. But I was pretty adept at finding lines in the softer sand. Even through this stretch, my run pace was averaging 9:00/mile, while the walk breaks kept my mile splits between 10:00 and 10:30/mile pace.
After mile 36, we transitioned from the dirt roads back to the asphalt. The transition between these two runs flipped the switch. A small rise and turn and that was it. Immediately, the legs decided they just weren’t going to move as fluid as they had. So I just kept working through it. My overall pace started dropping pretty rapidly, but I knew I was going to finish.
At mile 37.5, I stepped into the porta-loo. That was a good sign, since I was doing everything I could to make sure I remained properly hydrated. For some reason I decided to stop my Garmin, which I never do for a potty stop. And since it’s something I don’t normally do, I didn’t restart it. I realized that mistake 1.5 miles later. And since part of the requirements for the B-Fit Birthday challenge are to post a bit of proof, I needed to make sure my Garmin showed at least 40.0 miles. So my 40-mile run now became a 41.5-mile run.
But that was OK, since it lined up well with another run I was participating in. The folks that put on the Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon had put together a 42-mile “fun run”, which just happened to be today. No entry fee, no support, just folks getting together to run. Pretty much what I was doing, so I signed up as the Baghdad contingent.
Those last miles were tough. My watch was beeping at me to keep me on schedule for the 4-minute run/1-minute walk plan, but I ignored it. Luckily my very understanding support crew kept supporting me even though they were beginning to hurt too. When I wanted to just walk the rest of the way, they’d wordlessly start running, knowing I’d follow. So we managed to get across the line.
Total running time: 7:15:57
Total clock time: 8:25
Fastest pace a 3:58 mile? Yeah, right.
And the quick GBU rundown:
– I absolutely nailed this taper. Perfect. Although I had struggled with maintaining a high mileage peak during August and I was concerned, the taper really set me up for a great run. Even a week ago, I was starting to get concerned, but then this week I could feel my legs getting real twitchy and just begging for a long run. Even last Sunday’s half-marathon was just a tease for them. This week’s nightly 3-4 mile runs were just a tease too.
– Carbo load period. This was difficult for me to get through. Having done an excellent job of sticking to a Paleo/Primal diet, the only way that I could load properly for this run was to eat stuff that I hadn’t had in almost five months. And honestly, I hadn’t missed it. By the time I woke up just prior to the run, I knew that I had loaded properly, feeling completely bloated. I know the load was a signficant part of my success.
– Electrolyte load period. Hindsight over my past race issues pointed to a lack of electrolytes, even though I regularly take pills during the events; turns out that those were just staving off the inevitable, which was compelete depletion, since I’m such a heavy sweater. Discussing with other endurance athletes, we came to the conclusion that I’d likely need to load up on electrolytes in the days prior to the event. I did, and it worked very well. None of the issues that I had in the past.
– Pacing. Working (and working, and working) on pacing during my long runs this year has really helped.
– Thanks to Ramadan, the call to prayer started at 3am. I can’t describe how beautiful the prayers sound, echoing through the night.
– Great support! Not just here, but around the world. A co-worker ran with me virtually while in Afghanistan, Goddess ran with me in Kentucky, and the many folks here who supported me via e-mails and actually running. I couldn’t have done it without them.
– 40 miles!
– Doing something out of practice. Stopping that Garmin at mile 37.5 really changed the face of the last few miles. I knew I’d have to run a bit past the finish line of the 15K to make the full 40, but having to run a full two miles after that was mentally tough.
– ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!
And for now, a few days off from running, then nothing focused for a little while. But not too long, since I now need to teach my legs how to run hills over distance, since I’ll be running the Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey marathon soon after I return home. And that marathon is nothing but hills.