Today I ran my scheduled 20 mile run. I've been following the 18 week Hal Higdon Intermediate II marathon training schedule in preparation for the Smuttynose Rockfest Marathon, which is on October 2nd. I actually started with Week 2 of the schedule because I ran a half marathon during what would have been Week 1 of the program. The program has been fantastic and for the most part, I've done a good job of following it. I didn't quite make the milage on two of my runs - each was on a really hot day and I was spent.
The program steadily increases the milage until you reach 50 miles in week 11 (10 for me), so I've mentally designated this week as the "hump" of the training program. Not only did I clear the hump, if you will, but it was a solid run for me and was largely due to the cooler temperature today (~70°F). Another big piece of this being turn out to be a great run for me was knowing that I was going to stop and take off the gloves - the foot gloves. Prior to taking off my Vibrams, I kept thinking of running the last few miles barefoot as my "shaved knuckle" (i.e. ace in the hole), it was quite the motivator.
If you read my "Freedom!" post from last Sunday, I discuss my grueling 19 mile run on that day thanks again to the heat. But at around 17 miles on that run I decided to take off my Bikila LS' and finish those last two miles barefoot - it was a real eye opener, both my feet and body became reinvigorated allowing me to finish those last two mile, which, up to that point, might as well have been 10 miles.
So today, that was part of the plan. I ran my first 16.5 miles in my Bikila LS', then did the last 3.5 miles barefoot. Slowly but surely, as my feet felt the texture of the asphalt, they lead the way and my body followed - my running form just fell into place. Once again, as I drew energy from somewhere, my pace quickened and I was feeling great, so great in fact that at mile 19 I really picked up the pace and ran the last mile in ~9:30 minutes and I still had plenty of energy left at the end.
I ran that last 12.4 miles on the Nashua River Rail Trail, opting to run the first part of my run on roads. While the rail trail is a great option, I've found that it can be a little boring if run too often. The other problem with the trail, which really irks me, is some people don't bother cleaning up after their dogs. Which, btw, if they are too lazy or have some principled objection to clean up dog mess, they could just guide their dog off the trail to mess in the woods. But I digress.
The advantages of the trail are no cars, and because it was built on an old railroad bed there are no steep hills. The roads I ran on prior to the trail lacked significant hills too. I run hills every other day, I don't really have a choice if I want to start and finish my runs from my front door, and to be honest I kinda like them, but I'm not at the point where I feel I can complete a hilly 20 miles. The marathon is a relatively flat course along the coast, so training on the this route is appropriate. At some point, I'll start running marathons with more aggressive elevations changes - there are plenty around here - but for now, just covering 26.2 miles in a time I can live with is the goal.
Now that I'm over the "hump", my training for the next five weeks will alternate in weekly total milage. Since I ran 50 miles this week, I'll run 34 mile the following, then 50 again. This program calls for three 20 mile runs done during the 50 mile weeks, with the last one done 4 weeks from race day. At three weeks before the race I'll run a 34 mile week, followed by a 26 mile week. On the week of the race, I'll run only 9 miles not including the 26.2 on Oct. 2nd (Sunday).
I'm feeling good, and I'm confident that my performance at Smuttynose will dwarf that of my first marathon, which I ran this past February and is a post for another time.