Don't let anyone ever convince you. Twenty milers are *not* easy. They certainly get easier. But I really really doubt that they will ever get easy....
I was not going to let this run be like the previous week's run, so my fist stop was the local donut shop to grab some quick energy. What the heck, I was about to burn 3500 calories - what's wrong with a sweet sugar pill? I also had my fuel for the day packed away - two Hammer Gel packets with two Endurolytes attached and a Clif Luna Bar with two Endurolytes attached. I quaffed a couple of Endurolytes and was full of piss and vinegar as the group took off.
My plan was to keep this one slow and deliberate. No pushing. This is the first of at least two and hopefully three 20 milers on this training cycle. I need to make sure that I wasn't going to have such a horrible experience that I would be tempted to bag the next one. I set off slowly. Ever so slowly. Kind of like the tortoise. I shuffled on through the first fueling point at 5 miles. Turned off the main San Diego Creek trail at mile 6 and head up toward the hills. Honestly, before I knew it I was at the turn around point. Interestingly enough, the 10 mile point was right at the finish line of the Make Room for Santa 10K. That was a 20 minute drive last month! Crap. That's a long way!
At this point, everything was going to plan. Based on McMillan, my long run pace should be between 10:22 and 11:22. I was right at 10:56. Fluids were good. I was sweating a lot, but heck, we're in a drought here in California, so I figured I'd just sprinkle the plants along the way. I downed my Luna Bar and Endurlytes and got my legs moving again.
Through mile 15 I was still plodding along like a champ. At mile 15, I pulled up in the park for my final fueling stop and to fill up my now empty water bottles. I took a load off for a couple minutes and took a seat. Anyone out there a skier/boarder? Ever been on the slopes on a cold snowy morning, come into the lodge for some food and a warm drink? Ever want to go *back* out into the cold?
The rest of the day was a struggle. It *was* a good mental exercise. I reminded myself that I had only a few miles left, less than an hour to go (sound familiar fellow marathoners?). My pace started tanking. By mile 18 I was just shuffling along. 12:15. 12:30. Then the final hill. Ugh. Would you believe 13:58?
But, I finished right at the upper end of McMillan's target pace. And a full 10 minutes faster than the last 20miler run. All is not lost!
This was my fourth 20 miler in the two plus years that I've been running. Is it easier? Absolutely. I know what to expect. I know I need to fuel properly. I know I *will* finish. I know that this isn't the race and that I should keep it slow and deliberate. I know I should respect it. Is it easy? Nope. Probably never will be.
P.S. - The one thing I did learn yesterday was when I get tired I have a tendency to lengthen my stride. I guess I learn something new everyday!