My first half marathon in over 2 years is coming up in 27 days and I'm nervous and excited. I want to run well, but there are always those little uncertainties that creep in and threaten my confidence. Will it be too warm for me to run well? Will I give up at mile 5 before I've really gotten into a comfortable rhythm? Will I got out too fast and screw up the whole race? And the biggest one of all - will my Achilles tendon be okay?
I haven't run 12 miles since my last marathon in February. I ran 11 in March plus several 10 milers both on the treadmill and outside this summer. But 12 is kind of the "holy grail" for me when it comes to half marathon training. It's only 1.1 miles short of the half marathon, and I know I can always push through just one more mile, so if I can get in a decent 12 miler I have the confidence going into the race, knowing that my body will hold up. I did my 12 miler yesterday morning, taking advantage of the lower morning temperatures and lower humidity. It was 11 days after my last long run of 10 miles, so I felt fairly rested and very much ready for the challenge.
When I woke up at 5am it was 71 degrees and only about 40% humidity. It was projected to drop a couple of degrees over the course of the next 2 hours so I was going to be in great shape weather-wise. My ankle felt "okay," a bit tight but not in pain. I was hydrated and fueled.
I forgot how incredibly peaceful it can be when you're running at 5:30am. It was absolutely beautiful out, with a nice full moon to help with visibility. I didn't see a lot of other runners out at all, which surprised me. Although they are more likely to be out on Saturdays, and this was a Sunday. I took it very easy the first couple of miles and was actually surprised that my quads felt slightly fatigued. I had run 4 miles with my training group (in a conservative 39 minutes) the day before, but I didn't figure that would make too much of a difference in how my legs felt. I'm definitely not used to running the day before a long run so perhaps that made a bit of a difference in how my legs felt. I shook it off and just focused on maintaining a nice pace.
After a few miles I definitely was getting into a groove. I felt like I could keep running a little bit faster with every mile. I could feel a bit of fatigue as I crept up on double digits in my mileage, but that was to be expected. The middle miles flew by fairly quickly. I missed this feeling! It's been awhile :) The only thing that was slightly unnerving to me was that my ankle felt kind of tight during the run. I wouldn't call it painful, but I was aware of the tendinitis.
I did a couple things differently in this run. Instead of hydrating with a sports drink like Pure Sport, I was using Nuun (very few calories) and getting my calories during the run strictly with gels. Usually I go lighter on the gels because I'm fueling with a calorie-filled sports drink. I prefer Nuun more than anything else now, so I wanted to test it out. Second, I never looked at my pace on my Garmin. I checked my mile splits to see if I was slowly increasing my pace, but I strictly did this run by feel.
I'd say these two things were a huge success. The Nuun and extra gel worked great. I never felt super fatigued or under-fueled. By focusing less on "expected" pace and more on feel, I was able to listen to my body better and it paid me back with almost perfect negative splits: 10:00, 9:56, 9:45, 9:42, 9:37, 9:27, 9:26, 9:20, 9:18, 9:12, 9:03, 9:05 for just under 1 hour, 54 minutes in 12 miles. It didn't feel like I was running that much quicker at the end of the run versus the beginning, and that's always my goal....to make a quicker pace feel natural to me. In a race, if I kept this up and gave it my all during that last mile, I could potentially have a 2:03 half marathon time. I would be THRILLED with a 2:03.
So I think I was able to accomplish what I set out to do: comfortably finish a 12 mile run, do it with little Achilles pain, fuel and hydrate properly, have negative splits, and build confidence going into my half marathon.
Bring it on!