My Farthest Run To Date: 18 Miles!

Over the weekend I hit a huge running milestone. My longest run ever completed at 18 miles! When I started long distance running after I graduated high school, I think the most miles I totaled that summer were 15-16. I know I attempted 20 miles at one point, but hurt my back during the run and had to be picked up and driven home. I'm happy to report there were no major injuries in my 18 mile run, and that it went way better than I could have ever imagined. 

Now that I'm in the later stages of training for my marathon, I've become fairly anxious about the distances that I have to run on the weekends. There is just a lot of mental prep and planning that goes into it like, will I carry a water bottle? How many gels do I need to bring with me? Should I carry water or gatorade? Will I have enough calories... the list goes on and on. I find it a lot easier for me to pair up my long run with an actual race so that I can let all the aid stations do the nutritional work for me, and all I have to worry about is pace and how I actually feel.

This weekend at the last minute I signed up to run the Lucky 13 Half Marathon in West Jordan. I did 5 miles before the race, and then did the 13 in the half Marathon. I got to the race grounds at 8am, and had just enough time to get my 5 miles in, meet up with one of my Georgia besties who was running the 5k (and got 2nd place overall and totally killed it BTW), and then the gun went off and I was on my way for another 13 miles.

You might be a long distance runner if it takes you 8 miles into a run to feel your stride and to feel like you're actually enjoying yourself, and that is always the case for me. When I got to mile 3 in the race (mile 8 for me for the day), I totally had hit my stride and my legs just really wanted to go for it. I kept looking at my watch and my pace was 9:20/mile several times throughout the race. I was pleased with the time, but was constantly worrying about whether or not I could actually sustain that pace for the entire race. 

I kept trying to slow down, but my legs just wouldn't let me. Finally by mile 5 in the race I decided to just give in and let me legs do what they wanted to be doing. I'd passed quite a few runners over the next mile and a half, which is such a strange thing for me because I think I went all of high school without passing a runner in track, so doing it now always feels surreal to me. 

By mile 6 in the race I could see the 2 hour pacer for the race and kept thinking, "that pacer must be super far behind because there is no way I should be able to see them right now!" For the next 4 miles, I could see the 2 hour pacer just ahead of me in the distance. I wasn't trying to PR the course, so I didn't put in the effort to chase them down and catch up, but I was so happy to be able to be in sight of them. 

The last three miles, the pacer I think really picked up their pace, and I couldn't see them anymore. I also was getting to the point where I could feel myself going into the pain cave, and knew I was heading towards a nutritional bonk. (Term runners use when they're running out of fuel and things are going downhill quick for them). I feel like I can force my legs to keep going for a long time, but I get these side stitch cramps every now and then, and when they happen, it feels like death. My pace was dropping to 9:45/mile at this point, and I had one more gel in my pocket that I could eat, so I took that, and drank gatorade at the last aid station, and then just had to use some sheer grit to hold pace and make it to the finish. 

In the last 1200m of the race, it turned into an absolute blizzard! The snowflakes were massive, and it was cold. I could literally feel my fingers freezing up, and since I decided not to wear gloves for the race there was nothing I could really do about it. I remember pumping my arms and moving my legs as fast as I could, and feeling like I was getting no where. Finally I finished the race at 2:04:45. My second best half marathon time ever. I couldn't believe how comfortable I felt at that pace for most of the race, and totally know I can chase down a sub two sometime soon! 

Yes, super unattractive picture of me, with my 26-year-old wrinkles and all their glory. 

After the race it took about 5 minutes of me blasting the heat in my car so that I could even move my fingers to drive home. I was trying to call Derek to let him know how I did, and I remember only being able to use one finger to stab my phone to dial and text people. It was hilarious and pathetic at the same time. Once my fingers were thawed, I chugged my chocolate protein down, and was on my way home. I took a warm bath, followed by two bowls of ramen noodles, and then an ice bath, and now I'm over here gearing up for another week of running, and 14 miles and another half marathon this upcoming weekend! 

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