I've gone and on and on about my favorite route of the Nashville Striders Training runs... Kroger to Kroger. The point-to-point 21 mile run through horse country, lush suburban neighborhoods, challenging parks, and a finish that has you sprinting across 4 lane highways just to get your adrenaline pumping for those last 2 miles. For a runner... it's the perfect route. This was my 4th time to do this route, and everytime I finish feeling challenged but envigorated. And the time of year for the runs makes for a spectacularly scenic route. (April and October in Nashville are two of the most beautiful months of the year).
So, I wasn't even the least bit upset to be crawling into bed on Saturday night around 9:30pm with my alarm set for 4:15am. (Doesn't hurt that I did a fairshare of drinking on Friday night, so... ya know... I wasn't going to go the WHOLE weekend without booze). I was excited. I was pumped to be running my favorite run in the morning.
The run started off well. Matt and I and started together and managed to chit-chat about The Bourbon Chase for about 6 miles and maintain a nice 9:30 pace. At the 6 mile water station I heard someone behind me, say...."hey!" I turned around and discovered that it was two Bourbon Chase teammates! I had mentioned the run to them awhile back and they had decided to come out for it! We left the water station as a group of 4 and started running together.
Initially, I felt like we had picked up some speed when we picked them up. I briefly glanced down at my watch and indeed we had, but instead of freaking out... I just went by feel and decided that at some point, I'd have to let them all go ahead, but as long as I was feeling good.. I was going to keep up with them. (Typical Crash and Burn Amy).
We got to the next water station... around mile 8 or so, I think and I was still feeling pretty damn good. So, we kept on... It was nice to have two new people to run with. Sure, I know them, but I'd never ran with them before. By the time we hit the mile 12 water station. I knew I was going to be able to maintain. Sometimes you just have this feeling. Your legs feel fresh, your mind is in it. It's an awesome feeling that rarely happens for me on long runs and as we headed into the most challenging part of the run, I felt confident that even with the hills to come, I was going to be able to keep up with the group. We also picked up another runner at this point... so now we were rolling in a posse of 5 and dude... you know I love rolling with a posse.
When we hit 7 mile hill in Percy Warner Park, I shortened my stride, slowed down and fell behind the group a little, but kept plugging away and by the time we got to the top, I was able to easily catch back up without the posse having to slow down too much.
It was at this point in the run... around mile 15 that I started feeling really good (well, really good for running 15 miles) We had to run a bit on a treacherous road with little shoulder and I got nudged to the front and for whatever reason that pumped me up. The rest of the run, I pretty much kept in front and I think mentally that helped. I was feeling good, but I was also tired. In other runs, that's usually the point in time that I dont listen to my body and instead listen to my head telling me... dude! You should be fatigued now! Yesterday, I ignored my head and told it... "dude! I'm in the front, I gotta run hard!"
As we were running the last mile I was definitely ready to be done and I picked it up a bit. And as we cruised to the end, I was definitely experiencing a runners high. I looked down at my watch and discovered that I had just ran 20.8 miles with a 9:19 average. And not only that... but I felt GREAT and I felt that I could definitely run 6 more miles at that pace or maybe better.
It's huge for me. I've got Big Sur in exactly 2 weeks and after a training run that would put me at an 8 minute PR (9:19 miles is about a 4:04 Marathon). I'm starting to set myself up for possibly attempting the sub 4:00 marathon that I didn't think I was ready for.
It's been a tough training session... full of unfulfilled expectations and shitty long runs. But, I think, that maybe, just maybe, I'm finally peaking at the right time.
Check out these splits (I'm so freaking proud):
Mile 1 9:32
Mile 2 9:36
Mile 3 9:30
Mile 4 9:30
Mile 5 9:30
Mile 6 9:06
Mile 7 9:11
Mile 8 9:08
Mile 9 9:16
Mile 10 8:53
Mile 11 9:12
Mile 12 9:27
Mile 13 9:39
Mile 14 9:26
Mile 15 9:28
Mile 16 9:06
Mile 17 9:11
Mile 18 9:19
Mile 19 9:10
Mile 20 9:24
Last .8 9:04
Now let's just hope that this groin muscle I pulled this morning is nothing serious.