24 Mile Run – Northern Virginia

This was a tough one. A really, really tough one.

We’re 10 weeks into our combined 50K ultramarathon/Ironman training plan, and it’s peak training time for the ultra. Today was our 24 mile run (the second longest run we’ll complete during the 50K training). To say I got destroyed – mentally and physically – would be accurate.

Distance: 24 miles

Trail: Bull Run Occoquan Trail

Mile 1: We start from Fountainhead Regional Park in Fairfax Station, VA. It’s a chilly day (in the upper 30’s) and windy, so we start running right away without a warm-up. Bad call. I’ve noticed that I feel stiff and winded for the first few miles if I don’t start with a brisk walk or warm-up exercises for 2-3 minutes.

Mile 2: “Are you going that slow on purpose?” Tyler asks. Trust me – I don’t have enough energy to play around with my pace just to annoy him.

Mile 4: Do you ever have those days when you start doing something that you know you can accomplish, but suddenly it feels much, much harder than you anticipated? Your ego is saying, “This shouldn’t be so hard! I should be crushing this!”

Sometimes I think the laws of the universe require mandatory ego checks every once in a while (usually around the time when your confidence is really starting to build).

This was the first time I cried on this run. (Note that I had to specify that this was the first time…)

Mile 6: Is it going to be this hilly the entire time?

Mile 8: Surprise porta potty! I’ve gained a true appreciation for porta potties since we started long-distance running. And this one was a real gem. Clean, extra roomy inside, with a working lock and an abundance of toilet paper. Plus…the cherry on top…hand sanitizer. My spirits have lifted!

Mile 9: Face plant #1. I’ve tripped on roots and rocks many times, but I’ve never, ever fallen during a run. Until today.

Have you heard the term “scorpion”? It’s the pose you hit when you fall and your legs curl back, up and around towards your head (creating the shape of a scorpion). Try Googling it. According to Tyler, I had an excellent scorpion pose.

Mile 11: Face plant #2. If you’re going to trip and fall on your face, you might as well do it twice.

Miles 12: The turnaround point! Hallelujah! Only 12 miles to go…

Miles 13-19: A blur of shuffling along at a glacial pace, my spirits low and my knee pain high. This portion also featured cry #2.

The highlights: Taking bites of my snacks every 1-2 miles so I would have something to look forward to. Today’s menu featured a Bobo’s Nut Butter Stuffed bar and Honey Stingers Energy Chews.  Sometimes it’s the small things that keep you going…

Mile 20: “Just keep making forward progress. One foot in front of the other. That’s all you have to think about.” This advice from Tyler is going to become my mantra every time I’m in a situation like this.

Mile 21: Lost track of our distance and thought we were only 1 mile away. Cry #3.

Miles 22-23: 20 minutes of putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how ugly it looked. Tyler quotes one of our running idols, Dean Karnazes. “If you can’t run, then walk. And if you can’t walk, then crawl. Do what you have to do. Just keep moving…”

Mile 24: Victory! I hurt, I’m dirty, my left hand is bruised from falling (did that really happen twice?), and I feel awesome.

Lessons Learned

  1. Snacks are the best. If you’re going to log more than 90 minutes of intense activity, have a healthy snack ready. The mental pick-me-up is just as valuable as the energy it provides
  2. “Just keep making forward progress.” Keep this one in your back pocket if you’re ever having a tough workout (or a tough day in general)
  3. Falling on your face is a good way to bring you back down to earth (literally). I don’t necessarily recommend doing it on purpose, but if you do fall on your face enjoy the fact that you’ll get a good laugh out of the story later

 

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