May 16, 2010

Another 20 in the Books!

Yesterday marked another 20 miler under my belt, but at the same time it was so much more than that. For my Team In Training girls, it was their longest run ever and marked the peak of their training before the marathon in just 3 short weeks. It was inspiring to see everyone out there, overcoming their own unique challenges to finish something incredible, in honor of a cause so much bigger than themselves. And as always seems to be the case on a 20 miler, I learned a little bit about myself, too. I felt the best I ever have on a 20 mile run, and when we finished I knew I could have easily kept going. Our pacing was relatively consistent and we averaged an 11:30 pace (a tad slower than my marathon PR pace) and I actually felt like I was holding myself back a little for most of the run.

I ran with my roommate Jordan and had an amazing experience watching her persevere. It was such a great feeling to be able to focus on someone else and help them push through their struggles instead of constantly obsessing about the time, distance, or pace as we runners tend to do ; ) From the beginning, I told her this run was about her and I would do whatever she needed to do. Freed from the usual logistics and with the focus off of me I was able to enjoy all 20 miles in a very different way than in the past. And dare I say it, but 20 miles didn't seem nearly as difficult as I remembered!
Amazing friend, roommate, and running buddy : )
We started off at a shopping center 5 minutes from our house (which meant 15 more minutes of sleep!) and had our usual morning pep talk. We totally lucked out on the weather - overcast, foggy, and cool. Not so great for a beach day but perfect for running! Before we started our coaches gave us the details of the route. We would head toward then through the UCSB campus, down to Goleta Beach, then along the Obern Trail. To add on a little more mileage our coaches also included a couple short out and backs along the way. The route they mapped out was ~18 miles, so the plan was to run a minimum of 3:15 or 18 miles up to 3:45ish or 20 miles. The only problem was that since the route was short and most of the Team doesn't have GPS-enabled watches, they had no way of knowing how much they needed to add on (as a result I have my suspicions that not everyone reached 20). It would have been much easier if the route was a simple 10 mile out and back, without the added confusion of extra distance added on her or there. But I digress!

The point above only becomes more confusing when I consider what Jordan and I ended up running. The first few miles we wove through campus. It was a weird feeling to be running on the bike paths early in the morning when campus was totally deserted. The bike racks, which are normally overflowing with Santa Barbara-cool beach cruisers were almost barren. And the only things we came across were a couple ducks!
 Campbell Hall and empty bike racks.

We continued down to Goleta Beach and onto the all too familiar Obern Train. One of the first out and backs was on the Santa Maria trail that connected to the Obern Trail. I've always passed it but never knew where it lead, and I'm a little bummed that I only just found out! We were supposed to go out for no more than 10 minutes, but Jordan and I were really enjoying the new territory and wanted to see where it would lead us - plus, we preferred to add on some mileage along a new trail over having to add some on at the end. I really loved the trail, too! It was relatively flat with a couple dips under freeway overpasses and the surroundings were great - lots of trees, fields of kale and swiss chard, cute neighborhoods, and grassy parks. We ended up going out for about a mile and a half!
One of the tunnels along the Santa Maria Trail.
Smiling for now : )

Back on the Obern Trail we took Gu no. 2 just as both Jordan and I started to have stomach issues. Jordan had it pretty bad and started to struggle to maintain our pace, so I knew we needed to find a bathroom stat! We made it to the next aid station and I asked our coach where we could find one, then we made a detour out to busy Hollister Ave. where we finally found a gas station. Feeling much better we headed back to the trail and found the aid station once again. Since we added on about a mile finding the restroom, we didn't need to go all the way to the turnaround, so we just headed out for about half a mile. As we headed back toward Goleta Beach I did some figuring of our distance and determined that we would need to do yet another short out and back on the Santa Maria Trail. This was around mile 14 and Jordan was starting to slow. I could tell she was struggling as she had become very withdrawn, so I tried to break up the distance into small parts like just making it to the next water stop. We pushed on and made our way to the next aid station at Goleta Beach and had a little under 4 miles left to go. Running back through campus was really difficult since Jordan had hit her wall. She got a little emotional and was really hurting, so I just did my best to keep her moving forward, putting one foot in front of the other.
Heading into a water stop at mile 16...
I couldn't help but smile!
Again, I tried to break up the remaining distance into short, manageable stretches. We finally made it to the last water stop where we learned that we were somehow pretty far behind the rest of the Team - not sure how that happened since we were right on track with our mileage and time. Jordan just wanted to be done so we got moving. I told stories and reminded her how mental this whole thing was. I told her that I knew she would finish it, she had come so far already, but she had to dig deep. We continued on, her in focused silence, me chattering happily away. It's a true testament to our friendship that she didn't bite my chatty head off that morning! We finally got to the grad school housing which we were supposed to follow the bike path through, except I couldn't remember where the path started. Jordan pointed to one so we took it, only to discover a couple minutes later that we were on the wrong one, and the right one lay just on the other side of the fence. So what's a couple of runners to do at mile 18 of a long run in a situation like this? Hop the fence of course! This was undoubtedly the highlight of the entire run. I scaled the fence and forced encouraged Jordan to follow. At the top she froze, perched like a cat, unable to maneuver her tired and achy body over to the other side. So I made myself into a little ladder she could step down onto and helped lower her onto the right side. I seriously wish I could have a picture of us, it was priceless!

When we coming to the end of the bike path and were close to the start, I checked my watch and couldn't believe that we were still going to come up short! I didn't tell Jordan yet since I knew it would be too much to handle at that point, so when we got to the road that lead to the shopping center, I just said we had a little more and that I was going to do a loop around the marketplace, but she was free to go back and be done. She didn't want to finish alone so she decided to stay with me, and I reminded her that she had come this far and it would suck to do 19 miles when you had planned to do 20. And at that point, having run that far, one more mile would be purely mental. At each entrance to the shopping center Jordan thought we would be turning in, but we still had a little more to go. This was really tough for her, to be so close but have to keep going further. Every time she said she couldn't keep going, I reminded her that each time she had said that that morning she had indeed kept going. I reminded her to dig deep, and finally we headed into the parking lot and back toward where we started, nearly 4 hours earlier. We were still 0.1 short, so I did a loop in the parking lot til my watch beeped 20 miles : )

Unfortunately, most of the Team had left by that point, including all of my girls but one. I was a little disappointed, especially for Jordan, since this was such a huge accomplishment and part of being a team is supporting one another. Regardless, I was so proud of her! It's so different being on the other side of it now, and it made me think back to my first 20 miler ever with the Team. The morning was nothing short of amazing. Like I said, I felt surprisingly good afterward. But I had no time to rest or recover because I had to be at work in less than an hour! I will say that 4 hours on your feet after running 20 miles is not recommended as an effective recovery technique (although it certainly adds a little perk to your mood!). And so, another 20 miler in the books. Now on to marathon no. 4!!


  1. I sooooo wish you had a picture of you as a "ladder" - I love it!

    So proud of Jordan! Sounds like she had a wonderful support in you. I swear, I know there has been at least once where my running buddies have wanted to slap me for being chatty!

    Yay for another 20 miler! I do my last one this weekend, then 13 next weekend, then I'll see you in San Diego! (Will email you back today.)

  2. Aww it sounds like you had such a great run! I am so very proud of Jordan as well. It sounds like you did such an amazing job not only as her running support but definitely as a friend!! :)

  3. I love all your pictures! Hannah and I were talking during our run Saturday about taking pictures during our marathon in Seattle and I was like "I want to take a video like Rachel did!" It's gonna be so fun to look back at all those picture and videos.
    Congrats on another great run!

  4. Another 20 milers??? You are going to be soooooooo ready!