But hopefully in a good way!
My last long run before the Marine Corps Marathon is in the bag. 22 miles (that’s a little over 35K for those of you following along in the civilized metric-speaking world), 3 hours and 52 minutes, a little under 5 loops of Burke Lake, trotting along at somewhere between a 10:30 and 10:40 pace; zone 2 for most of it, drifting into mid-zone 3 by the end.
Rain was forecast for today, about a 40% chance. But as is almost always the case when rain is forecast for the DC area, nothing happened. (Hey, they didn’t spend all this time and money concreting and asphalting everything in sight to create a nice little heat island for nothing! These days, unless the forecast says 80% chance of rain, the odds are that I’m not going to get wet). In fact, the situation couldn’t have been more un-rainy if it tried. It was a little humid early on, but by about 9am there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. No wind, and the lake, fringed with trees just beginning to turn, had hardly a ripple on its surface. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Burke lake look more beautiful.
The run could have been shorter, true. There’s actually not that much of a gain in physiological adaptation to running longer than about 3:30. But running a marathon isn’t all about the physical. Going a little longer for the last long run has a psychological benefit, at least for me. First of all, it allows you to smugly assure yourself that “hey, the real thing is only four more miles,” even though that extra four might as well be forty for all it will cost you on the day. More importantly, it gives you a taste in the change in physical condition that you’ll experience in the race and allow you to prepare for that mentally.
And this run worked pretty well in that regard. You feel great through about the half marathon point. Around the 15-16 mile point things start to become uncomfortable. By about mile 19 or 20 your body is starting to make serious “WTF are you doing to me, dude?” type noises. This is all normal, but it really helps to have a sense of it before the event, so you can differentiate your actual physical condition at any given point from the “normal” expected levels of pain and discomfort.
There is really no way a 22 mile run undertaken by a mere mortal like myself isn’t going to hurt to some degree. (Although, I have to say, that this one was a lot better than the 22 miler I did last year in prep for Richmond. It helped that I wasn’t running up the ramp on the side of the Wilson bridge at mile 21 this time! Thanks for that, Diane, that will always be special. . .). But the reason for doing this kind of a distance at a slower pace, together with all the Sustain, gels and endurolytes I sucked down today is not make it less sucky today, but to make it less sucky tomorrow when I wake up.