I have heard runners talk about the zone. I have heard runners want to be in the zone... but I had NO IDEA what the zone was... or why I wanted it until...
Let me start at the beginning. Yesterday, I had 15 miles on my MTP. Bob picked me up at 5:15 and we headed to Bethesda to run on the Capital Crescent Trail. (To remind you, Bob is training for a 1/2 marathon, so he isn't running all of the miles on my long runs. He teeters between 10 and 13.)
Last week, I ran the extra 2 miles before meeting Bob at the trail. This week, he had a different plan. We started running towards Rock Creek Trail - to scope out the end of the Park 1/2 marathon that we will be running on September 12th. We turned around and made it back to the start of the Capital Crescent Trail where we both "hit the head" before we continued. We had 6.7 miles under our belts and headed towards DC.
At mile 9.7 miles, Bob stopped at a water fountain and seated area and he told me to run 1.5 down and back (to get the extra 3 miles) while he rested. I was doing well. Mile 10.7 was 9:04, and mile 11.7 was 9:08 but as he pointed out on the way back, it was all slightly down hill. Around 11, I had to go to the bathroom, so I ran the little extra to Fletcher's and used their facilities (I tried Hammer Gels for the first time - more on that in another post).
As I started back on the trail, I was so surprised at how tight my legs got from a little stop at the porta-potty. I kept running strong (slightly up hill) and when I reached Bob, I had completed 13.1 miles (mile 12.7 was 10:05 - which included a walk to take my last gel). I was thrilled that I was almost done.
We started to run a pretty good pace... between 10:15 - 10:30. Bob was a little tight, but rested and he felt good.
And now I need to go back and tell you something else. We had chatted a lot on our run (and while driving there) about my plan for next week. You see, I have a family reunion in NC and I have 16 miles on my MTP. I did not want to run 16 miles by myself in a strange area, and did not think I could run with the speedy girls, Patty and Stacy from NC that I ran my 13 with as 16 miles is farther than I have ever gone and I would need someone to pull me through, and I DID NOT want to miss the reunion... what to do? We had chatted about me doing my 16 miler during the week before I left - switching my Thursday 8 miler with my Saturday 16 miler (which was my sister-in-law, Kirsten's idea) and just how I was going to do it. So... we had 16 miles on the brain!!!
Okay, back to our run. So we started back on the slightly up hill and I was starting to feel it in my legs. I was getting tired. When my Garmin beeped 14 miles, I thought... wow, only 2 more left. (you see, I was still thinking 16 miles). Bob was AWESOME and started to go over the Chi Running posture with me. I could tell my that left hip was hurting because my form was really bad. As he is going over this, I start correcting my posture: "Imagine you have a string on the top of your head and I am pulling it straight up..."
Then we had a big hill over a bridge, I almost said, "Let's walk up it" when Bob started back with the Chi Running technique about leaning from the ankles. His voice is so calming and I started to listen and do it. I was determined NOT to look up at the hill, but rather in front of my feet. While we were running up, my Garmin beeped 15 miles.... and I thought... "Yes, only 1 more to go!" As we reached the top and I saw the hill down, I knew I could do this.
I asked Bob to repeat the posture check again (poor Bob was getting so out of breathe because I wasn't talking at all... but he was AWESOME)... and then he said, "imagine that there is a big rubber band around you and that girl up there with a black top on". And I promise I could feel that... and I was staying with her. Bob reminded me not to go faster but to just stay with her. Bob then said, we have two choices, "You can go to the water fountain or stop when you Garmin says 15." I immediately thought... I am SOOOO stopping when it beeps. My legs hurt. My hip hurt.... I was TIRED!
I looked at my Garmin and said, "Well, I'm at 15.8 now.." He asked, "Do you want to stop and walk?" My first thought was, "Why would I want to stop with only .2 left? Is he crazy? I said, "No, we are almost done!" And THAT IS WHEN IT HIT ME!!!! No wonder I was exhausted. No wonder my legs were hurting and my hip hurt. I was running further that I was supposed to. My eyes started to tear up and I said, "I cannot believe this... I have accidentally ran more" Bob said, "Not by accident, you are in the ZONE!"
I was determined to run until the fountains and we stopped at the mile marker... 16.16 - 2:37:20
I started to cry... I could not believe it. And I found the ZONE!!!!! I immediately asked, "So do I run 15 on Thursday or 16?" and Bob said, "16!"
We ended our run with yellow watermelon - DIVINE and our EAS shake. How was your long run?