20 Mile Smile

Do it smart and you’ll probably do it right. I did it smart this time. Hey, maybe this will become a habit.Of course, it should have already been a habit, but as the saying goes, One day at a time.

Trying to run 15 miles in the middle of a hot summer day was undoubtedly a mistake, and I vowed not to do something that stupid again. Of course, my determination was tenuous at best, given that I had done such a thing many times. It had always cost me in terms of performance, but after an exhausting work week, getting up early on a Saturday or Sunday wasn’t an appealing agenda item. But in training for a marathon, sometimes-many times, you’ll have to do what you have to do. It’s all worth it in the end though. Crossing that finish line after 26.2 miles is something that will stay with you for life. Doing my long runs in 90+ degree heat wasn’t going to get me across the finish line. With a 20 mile run coming up, I knew I had to get up early to beat the heat.

Sunday morning was it. I got up early, had a high carb breakfast of a bagel with peanut butter and headed over to the the park for what would become my lone 20 mile training run of this marathon training cycle. I chose the Pearl Izumi N2V2 shoes for the run, one of two selections still on the table for the upcoming Chicago Marathon. The other is the Adidas Galaxy Elite, apparently not known as a long distance shoe at all. Well, it worked for me last year, and it just might work again this year. For this day though it was the Pearls.

When I arrived at the park it was nice and cool, with even a little morning mist. still a little warm for distance running, but overall, very good conditions in comparison to what I had been running in. It would get very hot this day as well, so time was of the essence to get this 20 miler in-if possible. The question with the Pearls was if they would hold up for long distances. I liked the shoes, but are very-sandal like compared with the Adidas and 26 miles is a long way to go with shoes that just weren’t cut out for the job. When you get to about mile 18 in a race you want shoes that will offer some relief from the pavement. I would find out if the Pearls could do it.

After a relatively quick warmup I set my GPS and was ready to go. Apparently, half the city was as well. It was very crowded, with runners, walkers, cyclists and dog walkers all vying for space on the bike path. I normally run along the side of the bike path, leaving plenty of room for anyone that wanted to pass. It was a slow start-as usual, and those first few miles were the rest of the warmup that I had neglected at the start. Once I settled in though, it felt pretty good. It was a 5 mile loop around the park, and the first round was fine, albeit a bit crowded. I took it all in stride though (pun intended), because those folks were just there to get some exercise while beating the heat just as I was.

10 miles and I was still feeling good. The sun was up now, and although more difficult to notice after running a while, it was starting to get warm. Nothing like direct sun to zap the energy out of you. As I plodded by the man made lake the heat started to take its toll. I was starting to slow, and starting to feel a little dehydrated. This was the second half split where my time would be slower than the first half. But how much slower?

Three rounds-15 miles, and by now the sun was starting to blaze. Could I do another five? I was about to find out. So far, the shoes were good. But this last round was where the final determination would be made. It was getting tough. Half shuffling and half walking made up the last five miles. It was a poor omen marathon wise, but there was still time in training, and after all, this was my lone 20 miler and it probably wasn’t going to go well regardless of the weather.

Finally I arrived at the lot where I had parked my car. I had completed the 20 miles. Not my best run to be sure, but I covered the distance and the Pearls held up. Better than me actually. So although the average speed ended up being embarrassingly slow, most of the speed reduction coming in the last five miles, I had done it. The Pearls were still in the running for Chicago and so was I. Speed and endurance though. Both of those things still needed work.

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