Archive | 12:59 pm

Revisiting Ralston: 15 Mile Long Run

30 Apr

Saturday morning, I got up around 7:30, planning to eat breakfast and head out for my run soon after. But I was lazy Friday night and didn’t do any run prep – meaning both my phone and iPod were out of battery. Since the day was on the cooler side anyway (40s in the morning, high 50s in the afternoon), I decided that it wouldn’t be a big deal if I waited for my devices to charge.

So I ate breakfast, got dressed, filled my Camelbak with water and gels, started a load of laundry and worked on the Sunday morning slides for church. As I went to throw the laundry in the dryer about 40 minutes later, I saw a giant puddle of water on the floor in the kitchen. As a dog owner, the first thought that raced through my head was “Charlie peed!” But then I saw the water dripping from the table – I had set my Camelbak down on top of the mouthpiece and water was leaking out all over the place.

I cleaned the puddle up and started blow-drying my soaking-wet backpack.

I was very glad that I wasn’t in a rush!

Once my backpack was damp instead of wet, my phone and iPod read almost fully charged so it was time to take off. I drove the 15 minutes over to the ‘race’ start and got there around 10. I had mapped out an easy 2 miles to run before I started my half marathon time trial, which was a brilliant idea because almost immediately, I needed a bathroom. So between my 2 mile warmup and the remaining 13.1 miles, I drove to a gas station about a block away. Much better.

Back to the race start. I walked to the spot where I guessed the timing mats had been, started my watch and music and took off. I was feeling just okay. My 2 mile warmup hadn’t been fantastic, but it wasn’t horrible either. My legs felt a little tired and I felt out of breath. It was fairly windy (10-15 mph), and it was a cold wind. The kind of wind that takes your breath away if it hits you just right. (For the rest of the day after the run, my lungs felt wind-burned.) I started the run with a long sleeve tech tee and a lightweight jacket but ended up ditching the jacket after a mile – while the wind was cold, the sun was warm. I ended up being fine in just the long sleeve.

As I ran, I couldn’t help but think about the weather conditions the last time I had been on that trail – snowy and 8 degrees! Now, the trail was lush, green and warm (when the wind wasn’t blowing).

My lack of run prep Friday night also meant that I didn’t have my Poor Man’s GPS – I hadn’t memorized where the mile splits were. So instead, I clicked my watch at certain landmarks, so that I could generally track how fast I was running by later using a map to determine the distance between each. It’s a lot more work than having a Garmin but it’s free! And a major benefit was that I couldn’t analyze or stress over my pace (and I was too focused on willing myself to keep running to attempt the math in my head).

Finally, I was at Big Hill #1. It’s not that steep, it’s just LONG. I allowed myself to walk for about 20 seconds in the middle of the hill, but then pushed it the rest of the way – knowing I had a walking break coming up.

For this run, I decided to walk when I took each gel instead of trying to run. It was easier, I could breathe better and a little break was appreciated. I also plan to do this for future runs – practice walking through aid stations. I’ve never done this in a race, mostly because I bring all of my own stuff and I can drink out of my Camelbak while running. But I’m entertaining the idea of going Camelbak-less for the marathon since it does add a few pounds and jostles around a bit…

I ate 3 gels during the run at Miles 2.5, 6.5, and 9 of the half marathon course (so Miles 4.5, 8.5, and 11 of my entire run). I mostly ate them because I was so hungry! Running later in the morning definitely threw off my eating habits.  But for future runs, I think I’ll bring a peanut butter sandwich along just in case hunger strikes again. I think that would be more effective than a gel for hunger.

At the top of Hill #1

On to Hill #2. From far away, it actually doesn’t look that bad.

But then you get started on it…

And at the top, realize how high you are.

I ran as much of Hill #2 as I could but I did walk some of it. I mean, the trail had switchbacks for crying out loud…

Finally, the hills were over!

The run back actually went surprisingly fast. Even though my legs and lower back were hurting units, I only walked 2 times for about 30 seconds. Mentally, it helped that I recognized the course and could tell I was getting closer to the end. After my last walking break, I switched my watch from the timer to the clock, so that I couldn’t see what my ‘final time’ was until I reached the imaginary finish line. I branched off from the trail into a residential neighborhood and I was finally on the home stretch.

It was no coincidence that the song playing in my ears at that very moment was Fighter by Christina Aguilera. I thought the words very fittingly described the result of a tough long run:

Makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter

Dear Incredibly Hard Long Run, 


I am a fighter and I
I ain’t gonna stop
There is no turning back

Even though I guesstimated the start and finish, and stopped several times to take pictures, I finished in 2:32:48! That’s an average pace of 11:39 and almost 6 minutes faster than my previous course time of 2:38:24. I feel like that difference is big enough to not just be circumstantial.


My total time for 15 miles was 2:55:07, an average pace of 11:40. And because my splits aren’t broken down into nice even miles, I’ll leave it at that.

After my run, I went home, took an Epsom salt bath and then ate this deliciousness:

2 egg + provolone cheese + butter on whole wheat; tangelo; chocolate milk


I’m so encouraged to see that my efforts have paid off – not only from doing intentional hill training over the past 2 months, but also pushing myself to keep running when my body wanted to physically collapse. All of this hard training is developing my mental fortitude – which I will need for the marathon!

That said, it seems that my body doesn’t have enough time to recover between my longest mid-week run on Thursday night and my long run on Saturday morning. So I am moving my long mid-week run to Tuesday nights. Hopefully that will help give me some fresh legs on Saturdays!

This week’s training is going to be a bit weird – we’re going camping in the mountains Saturday morning, meaning I have to do my long run of 16 miles after work sometime this week. (Gulp.) I’m thinking Friday night, so that I don’t have to sit around at work all the next day, but I’d love to hear your advice! (Friday also looks better weather-wise but it’s still too soon to tell.)

Finally, to wrap this all up, I want to highlight that I give God the credit and thanks for how well my training is going so far. Yes, I am running the miles, doing the stretching, lifting the weights and going to bed early but HE is the One ultimately in control of my life. If I get to run the marathon pain-free and sans injury, it’s His blessing to me. I’ll have some more thoughts on running + faith coming up in the next few days. But that will suffice for now. 😉

Tell me about your weekend!