After having had some time to process Sunday's 20-miler, I feel just as good about it now, on Monday morning, as I did when I finished it. Physically, I have that good leg soreness, the kind that lets me know I put in some hard work the day before. Mentally, I have faith that I can do this upcoming marathon and perhaps even do it well.
I credit the high school track.
Now, this was always going to be a solo run. Since most of my running buddies were running the LA Marathon, I was set to fend this long run all alone. And twice during my training for the San Francisco Marathon, I faced similar circumstances for 20-milers. I vowed never again to run 20 miles by myself (talk about lonely) but had no choice on Sunday.
However, I figured out a way to stay close to home and still get my miles in - just log some miles in on the track.
I went the really long way to the track - ran a quick 3.8 miles out and back home, then went the really long way to the school. By the time I got to the track I was at Mile 8. I needed to get to at least 17 before heading home.
The first 8 miles went by quickly. Part of it was the thinking "How many miles can I get in before I reach the track?" I mean, I didn't exactly go the long way by mistake. Eight was great in my eyes. I hit the track running but I wanted to be smart about it. The thing that frightened me about the track was having to run so many laps. It's simple math, of course - one mile equals four laps, so nine miles meant 36 laps. Ugh. But I had an idea - what if I ran on the furthest outside lane? Would that make a difference?
It was nice at first to get off the streets and the track was lonely, which helped. After I hit Mile 11, Mrs. LB and the girls showed up. While it had been cloudy all morning, it didn't actually start raining until they were there, so they lasted until I hit Mile 13. But that gave me some renewed energy, especially since the girls tried running some parts of it with me.
Every time I hit the next mile, I celebrated. I'd clap, extend my arms to my sides or raise them over my head. I smiled a lot, throughout the run.
I got to 17 miles and decided to get to 18, since that would mean a more direct shot home. Once I hit 18, I went back on the street and, believe it or not, missed the track. I had gotten to the point where my mind wasn't wandering or thinking about anything but the next corner. It was like the treadmill without the "dread." I was a machine, not a fast one, but one that was chewing up and spitting out miles with regularity.
Throughout my time on the track, I straddled the number eight lane. And it worked. I did not keep track of how many laps I ran but it was not quite four laps per mile. It actually wasn't even close to four laps per mile.
On the street I had to contend with cars and sidewalks and dogs and traffic lights... sigh.
When I hit 20 miles, I was a couple of blocks from home. I stopped, raised my arms high over my head and smiled. Whereas I cried (yes, I cried) after my last solo 20-miler, sometime last June, this time I was more than happy with my feat.
I suppose I could gain confidence from just having run a marathon, since I did run one on Feb. 6. But I feel as if I need to prove myself during this training cycle that I can be in position to run another one here soon. If I rely on what I did in Surf City then I will come in overconfident and under-trained, and that's a horrible combination.
Now, though, I know I will be able to get the marathon done. I may not PR but I know I will be mentally strong when I get to Mile 22, 23, 24, etc. Running 20 miles solo, and 10 of those miles on a track, will do that for you.