Run Doodle Run

The long road to 26.2


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My First 20 Miler!!

Yesterday was about as perfect of a day for a run as one could hope for in late August. It was 58 when I got out of my car with low humidity. I was nervous about this run and it was making my stomach a bit upset, which made me even more nervous, but at least I didn’t have to worry about the conditions.

We ran in the neighborhood near the store, which was a blessing and a curse. It’s great because there are many places in which to rack up miles and is hilly, which is great prep for Baltimore, but it can also get monotonous. Our first loop ended up being nearly 14 miles. My right calf was tight through the first 3 miles, which caused my right foot to fall asleep on the uphills, but it worked itself out. Around mile 8 I noticed that my left knee was feeling a little weak laterally, but nothing earth-shattering. Near that same time one of the women I was running with was dealing with some hip tightness while another was dealing with abductor tightness, so we took a stretch break which helped us all.

When we returned to the store to fill up on water, I tried a new fuel, the Clif pouch of Sweet Potato with Sea Salt. In theory it’s a pretty good idea, given how sweet most fuels are, but it took 10 minutes and half a bottle of water just to get down half of the pouch. And the taste left something to be desired. A lot, really. The volume of the fuel plus the water made my stomach feel all sorts of off, and I ended up having to walk for .25 mi to let my stomach settle. For about a minute I thought I was going to throw up along a rather busy major road…

Once I got through that I actually felt pretty good. We only had 5 miles to get through at that point. Totally doable, but also some of the hardest 5 miles I’ve ever run. We purposefully took a hilly route (Baltimore is basically straight uphill from mile 15-20), which was challenging but I think successful for all of us. It wasn’t until about mile 18.5 that the wheels kinda came off the cart. My left thigh starting aching and then hurting. I knew stopping wasn’t an option. I also knew that the direct route I was on wasn’t going to get me to 20 miles. So I ran in circles to get closer to 20, even running in a broad circle while the girl I was with stopped to get a drink. When we finally made it back to the store, my Garmin read 19.93 – and you’re damn straight I ran around the parking lot until it turned over.

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489 is not 5 miles

I immediately cleaned up and changed into dry clothes and made a bee-line for the bagel table and chatted with some people for a bit. Unfortunately, I wasn’t actually hungry, so I took the bagel to go.

The only thing standing between me an that amazing 20 mile bagel was the long trek across the kitchen to get a knife from that drawer....

The only thing standing between me an that amazing 20 mile bagel was the long trek across the kitchen to get a knife from that drawer…. #thestruggleisreal

Although it didn’t hurt that bad during the run, my left leg was killing me by this point. I needed to lean on something just to use my left leg; stairs were nearly impossible. For only the second time ever, I took an ice bath. Things didn’t turn out well last time. 

Thanks, mom....

Thanks, mom….

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Later last night I spent nearly an hour in the hot tub, which really helped my right leg. Honestly, my right leg feels so great today I could run another 10 miles if both legs felt that good. My left leg, however…. feels like it was repeatedly beaten with a baseball bat.

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This morning I substitute coached my mom’s 5k/10k group with another girl from my group, and then met Aaron and Katie afterwards. I warned him I might not be able to walk, but i tried – I only made it .25 mi out before I had to turn around. 😦 The poor dog seemed horribly frustrated to be walking so slowly haha

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I’m not really sure how to analyze yesterday’s run.

It was a success because a) I RAN 20 MILES, b) I ran it faster than I expected to, c) I felt physically and mentally strong throughout nearly the whole run, and d) I learned that the Zealots are keepers.

It was less than stellar because a) I tried a new fuel halfway through which made me have to walk and b) I could barely put weight on my left leg afterwards. I still can barely walk.

The biggest takeaway is that I RAN 20 MILES!!!! Mentally that’s a HUGE hurdle. I’m still nervous about that extra 10k that I’ll have to run to finish the marathon, but that’s another issue for another day.

The biggest problem is that I’m not even sure what exactly I injured or how I injured it, but my left leg and knee are not happy with me. At all.

I already had the PT on the schedule for tomorrow morning, but I may be calling the ortho for a proper injury eval. Not words I wanted to utter this late in training.

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Mid-week recap

Seeing as I didn’t have any photos when I wrote my last post, here are some photos of me climbing Saturday!

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this wall actually started like 8-10 feet below the bottom of the picture

So much fun – and I certainly hope to do it again (you know, after marathon training ends and I can reclaim my life)

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Sunday races/long runs always throw me off – I’m such a creature of habit! Instead of my usual recovery day after the race, I went straight into my usual Monday cross training and strength routine – and felt amazingly strong after it.

Tuesday, as usual, was speed work at the track. My reward for a faster 10k PR? Faster speed work. D’oh! 8 Partner 800s at 5k pace meant I was now aiming for close to a 9:00min pace. If you’re not familiar with partner 800s, they’re pretty cool – runner A runs 400 by themselves, runner B joins in and they both run 400 together, and then runner A falls off after the end of the second lap (having run 800) and runner B finishes up their last 400 by themselves. It’s a really great way to break up the monotony of 800s and it keeps you honest – assuming you both run about the same pace, you only get to rest however long it takes for the other runner to finish their independent 400. The girl I ran with, Jennie, is a speed demon at shorter distances and was chomping at the bit every time we did our lap together. I am grateful that she was able to drag me along, though!

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I’m not sure if I was still recovering from Sunday, or if I was overstraining, or if it’s the constant left-hand turns on the track, but I was not feeling so hot during the workout. My left leg just hurt – not anywhere in particular, but all over, from the hip down to the foot – so much so that it definitely affected my stride, cadence, and in the last two repeats, my speed.

With this workout, I surpassed 100 miles for the month! Wow!! My highest monthly mileage ever is just over 107 miles, so that’s huge. And I still have a lot of month left!

Yesterday morning when I woke up I could barely walk without flinching. I spent as much of the day sitting as possible because whenever I walked I limped and had a shooting pain throughout my entire hip and leg. Not knowing what was going on, and having a 20 miler breathing down my neck, I made an appointment for a massage.

First, though, was the Alter G. That thing truly is a lifesaver. I was able to get in 4.45 miles in 40 minutes. Even with the weight resistance down to 70%, it still hurt quite a bit to run, though upping the incline to 2% and the speed to nearly 7mph seemed to help.

As soon as I got off the Alter G, I wiped down and hopped in the car to make the cross-town rush hour trek to get to my massage. I don’t typically get massages. I’ve only had two in my life. But I’ve heard so many good things about the use of them in marathon training that I’ve been considering getting a few; waking up in pain just made it much more of a priority. I only went in for 30 minutes, but it was worth every penny. I explained to her the issues I’ve been having and that I wanted to mainly focus on the left leg, and she took it from there.

Now I’m a major fan of the foam roller and foam roll as often as I can, but with her pressing down on my hamstrings, it felt like I had never rolled in my life. You don’t realize just how tight your muscles get until it’s too late. She worked on my hammies and piriformis, primarily, and loosened up the calf muscles as well. Oh my piriformis… she hit one spot and it was all I could do to not moan. It hurt so good. (Be honest, you know exactly what I’m talking about).

After the massage I felt better, but not insanely better. I didn’t wince when I got off the table, but there was still some sharp pain. But I knew that it wouldn’t be a miracle. I went home, had dinner, and hopped in the hot tub for about 15 minutes before the lightning just got too close. I’ve gotta say though, I feel about 90% today.

I’m substitute coaching for a 5k/10k group this evening (and Sunday!), which I’m super excited about, but am also super disappointed because my PT doesn’t want me running on the track for a while. Unplanned/forced rest days are the worst. There’s also that .75 mi run from the parking lot to the track, which normally is nothing, but has me pretty nervous with my left leg situation. Maybe I’ll break the rules and drive to the track…. Until then, you can find me perched on my foam roller…

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Race Report: Too Hot to Trot 10k

I ran this race last year and had a blast, but given the distances that are required during marathon training, I had all but put it out of my mind until I saw the race director at the trail last week, mapping out the distances.

Originally we were supposed to run 16 miles, but our coaches told us we could go down to 10 miles this week if needed (and boy did I need it). Plus, this allowed me to go rock climbing yesterday 🙂 (more on that when I get some pictures) So the plan was to run the Too Hot to Trot 10k and then follow it up with 4 miles afterwards to bring me to a nice 10 miles for the weekend.

Considering that I’ve been focusing on the longer distances for the last couple of months, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with the race. When I left the house, it was unseasonably crisp – couldn’t ask for better racing conditions 🙂

I got to the race early, registered, and just spent some time relaxing. About 10 minutes before, I started my warm up, running about a half mile easy, and then a few strides.

My goal going into this race was a) to beat my time from last year and b) to break 60 minutes – to do this I’d need to maintain a 9:39 pace, definitely a tall order considering that I’ve been struggling to maintain that during speed work.

The plan was to start off slow and then pick up the pace, but even my slow was faster than I expected! I certainly felt like I was racing, but I never once felt like I was pushing harder than I could. My form felt amazing, and it sounds silly, but almost effortless. At the turnaround, I have unofficially set a new 5k PR – 29:27. I took one of my remaining cliff chomp blocks, which is much harder running than standing, and pushed on. I tried to keep my pace somewhat conservative on the return trip, as there’s a slight uphill tilt to the trail, but even that kind of went out the window.

As soon as I was within the final 1.2 miles I knew I was okay to start pushing the pace again. My legs still felt amazing and my breathing was more than comfortable. When I hit the house that’s 1/4 mile from the end, I push even harder, and kicked it in to second gear as I could see the finish line appearing around the bend, through the bushes. I was honestly astonished to see the time on the clock – 58 minutes. Whoa! As I sped towards the finish, I knew I had totally decimated my goal. My official time was 58:08!! Ahh!!! *happy dance*

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My Garmin sometimes loses signal on the trail, which is why it comes up a little short.

After I had my own little personal celebration, I spent some time chatting and watching the other finishers, including the final finisher:

Yeah, his arm's in a sling.

Yeah, his arm’s in a sling. What’s your excuse? 

I stuck around for the awards ceremony, but couldn’t hang out too long, because I still had more miles to run! Off I went, and got another 5.25 miles in. My legs definitely felt worse for the wear, but I got it done. Not too shabby 🙂

Who have I become?? 😉

The best part of the day? Seeing the official results posted and finding out that I WON MY AGE GROUP!!!! HOLY CRAP!!!!! Only once before have I ever placed, and I absolutely had no expectation of that today. The 30-something women in these races are amazingly fast. But I guess they all graduated to the 35-39 group 😉

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What a way to end an awesome weekend 😀

P.S. – the shoes worked out well 🙂


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I thought new shoes were supposed to be fun??

Remember in middle school when buying gym shoes was so easy?

Step 1) Walk in to the sporting goods store
Step 2) Find the coolest/best looking/whatever floats-your-13-year-old-boat shoes
Step 3) Whine until your parents break down and buy them in your size

Easy, right?

Yeah, I wish it was still that easy.

There is so much conflicting information out there about what kind of shoe you should be in or avoid. Some people swear that all pronation should be controlled, while other say only extreme pronation should be controlled. There are lots of well-meaning articles out there touting the dogma of pronation control, and this has been the accepted practice for a long time now. New(er) research says that you should just buy the shoe that’s the most comfortable to you, regardless of what it’s specs are. Then there’s the minimalism vs. maximalism debate (not to mention the myriad options on the spectrum in between). Then there’s the colors. I know “they” say color shouldn’t matter, but I’m sorry, it does. Clashing is lame, no matter how fast your mile. #sorrynotsorry

And that’s not even taking into consideration the people who argue that people shouldn’t even run in shoes!

Geeze, that’s exhausting…

Admittedly, I have long been of the mindset that even though your feet may over-/under-pronate, most people don’t “fix” that in their daily lives. Your body adapts to whatever your quirky gait may be by adjusting accordingly throughout your life. If I don’t “fix” it in my daily shoes, what impact will “fixing” it have on my natural mechanics and what might the unintended consequences be? Basically – if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

Of course, as soon as persistent injury – or even a single injury that can’t be assigned to a particular, acute event – enters the picture, it’s time to re-evaluate.

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For the last three years, I’ve been running in the Brooks PureCadence line – a 4mm drop shoe with moderate cushioning and a smidge of stability. I ran in the 1st gen and 3rd gen. I have loved these shoes since day one. Truly. They served me well through so many races and were wonderful through the half marathon distance.

I don't have a problem.

I don’t have a problem.

However, when I decided to take on the marathon, I considered switching it up for two reasons: a) more cushioning for the greater distances, and b) a higher drop to help my persistently achey achilles.

Given my past experience with finding new shoes, I was pretty nervous to go through the ordeal process again.

Several weeks ago I met with a physical therapist (who is now my new PT), who recommended trying out an 8mm or 12mm drop to help my achilles, when I came hobbling in to her eval clinic. I first tried the Saucony Guide. They didn’t feel awful, but they didn’t feel great. And they irritated old shin splints which had been behaving for the last year.

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So I took them back and exchanged them for the Mizuno Wave Inspires. (They clearly didn’t leave much of an impression on me – I had to go look back at my receipts to remember which pair came second!) They were nice shoes, but the rise on the shoe was really high and irritated my ankle bone.

Sooooo I exchanged them for the Asics Gel Kayano. This is a well-known powerhouse shoe that tons of people have had success with. It must be good – it’s in its 21st iteration. Third time’s the charm, right?? It’s a 13mm drop and super, super cushy. Honestly, they felt like slippers when I tried them on. I took them out for a hilly long run, but had to switch out of them halfway through – although they made my achilles feel amazing, they were causing some serious pain in my left forefoot on the uphills and flats. The pain got so bad that I switched back into my PureCadences halfway through the run, willingly sacrificing my achilles’ comfort for my forefoot’s comfort.

After this experience, I think I figured out what the problem was – too high of a heel-to-toe drop, along with too-cushy of a shoe, seems to cause the excruciating forefoot pain. So back to the (oh-so-amazing and accommodating) running store I went, for option #4. Brooks Ravenna. Cushioned but not squishy. Slightly lower 10mm drop. Supportive with a noticeable arch. I took them out for a spin on the track and they felt okay, so I decided to run my 18 miler in them. The arch support was higher than I’m used to, though, and that caused foot and leg discomfort for the first several miles, and then around mile 7 the forefoot pain came back and didn’t go away for the remainder of the 18 miles. Hoping that that was just because we were running on such a hard surface, I ran one more track workout in them, but no dice. Plus, they absolutely destroyed my feet! The 4th time was not the charm, either… *sad face*

I swear I'm not diseased...

I swear I’m not diseased…

I spoke to one of my coaches, who is also the manager of our running store, about all of the issues I’ve been experiencing and all of the shoes I have been through and she recommended the Saucony Zealot. It’s a lot like the PureCadence – lightweight with a minimal drop – but it has a cushier (but more adaptable) ride. It’s technically a neutral shoe, but has a flat, solid sole that doesn’t allow for a whole lot of motion. I took them out tonight and so far they feel good (*fingers crossed, knocking on wood*), but I’m not getting my hopes up just yet. Having been in the higher drop shoes for the last several weeks, my achilles is feeling better than it’s felt in a year (yay!!) and I’m nervous about returning to a lower-drop shoe. Plus, they are kind of squishy, which makes me nervous.

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So next time you’re due for new shoes and plan to go in to your LRS for a proper fitting (something which, despite all of my opinions, I still totally support), be an educated consumer. The fitter may be an expert on shoes, but you’re an expert on you. Only you know what works and what doesn’t work for you. Only you know what feels comfortable and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to question them or speak up if something just doesn’t feel right. And don’t be afraid to take full advantage of their return/exchange policy. Trying out shoes is part of the game – don’t feel guilty about putting mileage on shoes and then returning them. Running shoes are no small investment and can totally make or break the running experience. It’s so important to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth – and getting the best experience for your feet. You can’t #findyourstrong or #runhappy if your feet hurt. 🙂

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Follow the red brick road… follow the red brick road…

I both love and hate running downtown. I love it because Baltimore, for all of the issues it has, is a gorgeous city first thing in the morning. It’s truly enjoyable to watch the city wake up. I hate it because, well, where do I begin – it’s super far away so I have to wake up super early, it’s flatter than a pancake, and there’s brick. So much brick.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to run on brick, I can’t honestly endorse it. It’s hard. It hurts. And sometimes bricks heave and create a tripping risk – and lends to you spending more of your run looking at the ground than the scenery.

Saturday was a rather perfect day for a run in Baltimore. Upper 60s/low 70s, a nice breeze, a gorgeous sunrise. As I drove from the countryside into the city, all of the farms were covered in a gentle fog, which flowed across the road to the next field like a thin veil.

This was to be my longest run to date – 18 miles! Whoa!

We started off nice and easy, knowing the trek ahead of us. Our first “landmark” was a spin around the Under Armour campus and Domino Sugar facility (which had a rather unsettling smell…), then we headed for the Inner Harbor, running past the Ritz Carlton, the Science Center, the Constellation, the Torsk, and the Aquarium, meandering up and down every pier to squeeze in as much mileage as possible. We were up and out so early even the ducks on the harbor were still curled up and asleep!

After a quick water stop at the Aquarium, we headed east through Harbor East, past my b-school haunts, and Fells Point, through the Fells Point Farmer’s Market, and on towards Canton.

When we reached the end of the Promenade at the Canton Waterfront Park, my Garmin read 6.98 miles. That’s it?!?

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So we started back, past the sleepy dog walkers clutching their coffee and early-bird tourists. Through the upscale waterfront homes, past the Pirate Ship, and back to the Farmer’s Market we went. Up and down each pier, arms stretched out like wings on the tight turns.

We were told the Aquarium water stop would still be functional when we returned, but alas, the well had run dry. As our water supplies dwindled, we aimed for as much shade as possible, hugging the west sides of buildings and running perhaps a bit too close to the folks sitting on the benches (hey, it’s where the shade was). One more lap around Domino and Under Armour and we made a pit stop back at the store to refill. Despite all of the running, we still had 3.75 miles to go!

So back out we went, heading west for Fort McHenry. The last time I had been here was almost exactly 15 years ago to the day, and I was really looking forward to seeing it again.

Boy, how times change!

Boy, how times change!

We ran down Fort Avenue, enjoying all of the shade from the trees lining the road, saying hello to the old men sitting on the benches. A bridge loomed in the distance, mocking our tired, achey legs. And then the Fort. We ran through the gate, as others ran out, and followed the path around the Fort – a wonderful, 360 degree view of all that is Baltimore.

End to end: the Canton Waterfront Park, seen from Fort McHenry

End to end: the Canton Waterfront Park, seen from Fort McHenry. It looks so much closer from here!

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As the sun blared down on our shoulders, we made our way past the visitor’s center and back out of the gate, over the bridge, and past the old men on the bench.

My feet were screaming, my shoulders ached, and my mind tried every coercive method it had in its bag of tricks to get me to stop, but I kept going. No matter how much I hurt, I was not about to stop this close to the goal.

Yes, we looked silly, and yes, we thought about stopping more than once, but we kept going, back and forth, up and down Fort Avenue as the Garmin slowly crept closer towards the goal. After the third pass, we turned in towards the store, and it finally beeped. 18 miles. 18 miles!!!

We stopped running, and our walk was as slow as a crawl – a horrible, painful crawl – but we did it. 18 miles.

There wasn’t a spot on my body that didn’t hurt, but my mind felt nothing but pride. 18 miles!! The girl who used to come up with every excuse in the book to get out of gym class voluntarily woke up at 4:45am on a Saturday and ran 18 miles.

Damn straight the runner’s high is real! 😀

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Running in the Rain

It’s funny how something so simple can completely change your day.

Yesterday was a shitty day, for a whole host of reasons. I’ll spare the details (they’re really not all that interesting), but it ended wonderfully.

To try and console myself midday, I turned to a shit ton of sugar. Hey, sugar = carbs, right? Just go with it. At least it was fuel for my track session.

judgmental bitch.

judgmental bitch.

I got to the track extra early – the traffic gods were on my side – said hello to everyone (it’s one of the few times the HM and FM groups have been at the same place at the same time this summer), but mostly kept to myself and waited for our session to get underway. It was sunny and hot, but not humid, when I got there. Not too shabby for the first week of August.

Our workout was simple: 2 miles at HM pace, 5 min of recovery, and 2 miles at 10k pace. I ran the first two or so laps with a guy who has been battling injury, which worked out surprisingly well because it kept me from going out too quick. He fell off after the second or third lap, and I ran the rest of the workout by myself. Usually I prefer to run track workouts with someone, but this was the perfect workout and the perfect night to just run by myself and get lost in the zone.

My target for the HM segment was 10:15 pace, and a 9:45 pace for the 10k segment. And dammit if I wasn’t on target! With negative splits, to boot! *happy dance*

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I was feeling damn good at the end of the session, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Throughout the workout, the clouds moved in, providing us a rare bit of shade on an otherwise scorching track. Just as I was finishing up my cool down, I felt a few little drops of rain. Not surprising – they were calling for scattered showers. I walked out from the track to start my easy jog back, and a few more drops came down; then a few giant, cold drops plunked down on my head. Another 20 seconds – the deluge. It was like being at Brooklyn all over again.

For about 7 minutes it poured so hard I had a hard time keeping my eyes open, but I couldn’t help but smile the entire jog back to the car 🙂 The rain came down so hard that the road began flooding – a perfect excuse to aim my brand new shoes for each and every puddle 🙂

It’s amazing how something as simple as an awesome workout, running in the rain, and splashing in puddles can completely turn around an otherwise craptacular day 🙂

Mother Nature was quite accommodating, though – the rain stopped just as I got back to my car.

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When Everything Clicks

Today’s run was AWESOME.

As awful as last weekend’s run was, as horrible as the asthma attack was on Tuesday – this was that awesome and then some. Well, except for that early wakeup call thing. That wasn’t so awesome (nor was the infomercial I suffered through until the local news came on at 5:00am).

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Last night’s blue moon was still hanging around this morning – which was extra spectacular when the sun rose opposite of it.

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We were at the super hilly reservoir, which as much as we all like to bitch about it, is really quite ideal for training for the Baltimore Marathon. No better way to train for a hilly race than to run on hills courses! 🙂

After last week’s near-bonk, I made sure to pay extra close attention to how I ate this week and reevaluated my fueling plan for the long run. So basically I spent all day yesterday shoving any and all carbs into my face.

Despite the five blisters I picked up in DC on Thursday, I laced up my third pair of new shoes (Asics Gel Kayanos), filled my hydration pack to the brim, and off we went! Jennie was still a bit stiff from her training this week and I was more than happy to keep a slower pace so we could get through this run in one piece. Around mile 3 we saw a bald eagle soaring over the reservoir – so pretty 🙂  The hills are coming more and more easily, though they’re not easy just yet.

The new shoes felt really great, except for my left forefoot. I get this odd pain there, something I’ve been dealing with for as long as I can remember. It was noticeable on the uphills, but not on the downhills. I’m going in for a running evaluation this week, so I’m interested in picking their brains as to why this is.

Because of the length of our run, we did two passes of the reservoir. On the second pass, I switched out my shoes and put my old Brooks PureCadences on – instantaneous relief for my forefoot. Not so great for the achilles… but I’ve got to pick my battles.

We took the second set of hills in stride, making sure to hydrate early and often, and keeping up with our fueling strategy. Towards the end of the run, I actually started to feel hungry – which is why I brought along a Honey Stinger to try out! They’re not half bad – but they are a bit dry, which made getting it down more entertaining than I really ought to have been… Once that was down, we tackled the last hill pass. Bad choice. Problem a) my stomach isn’t used to solid food on the run. Problem b) when you run hard, your stomach gets last dibs on blood. After the first hill I had to walk for a quick bit to let things calm down, but then was fine for the rest of the run.

I didn’t want to jinx it by saying it out loud, but I felt amazingly good during the run. So much so that I added a little extra distance to my 16 miler – and did 16.25 miles! My longest run yet!! *happy dance*

IMG_1362I remember – not that long ago – when I struggled to hit 16 miles in a week. Talk about progress.

find your strong

So now I rest, have a good lunch, and take a nice long nap. I’m calling today a success. 😀

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