Yesterday was 3 weeks out from my next race, Burning River 100.  This is typically my peak week of training, however I haven’t been following much of a training plan since my Bighorn fiasco.  There is only 6 weeks between the two races, which right now is just a bit too long to just do recovery work.  Especially since that ended up being more a walk than a run.  I needed to toss a little bit of stimulus at the legs to let them know what was heading their way.  So I decided to do 1 long twenty five mile training run this weekend and then my normal three week taper period.

The original plan was to do it around my house as normal, however the rest of the family changed plans at the last minute and decided to head to the NJ shore.  I’m not a beach person, but decided to tag along and log my miles there.  It didn’t take me too long to begin wondering how fast I might be able to run since the roads next to the beach are pancake flat versus the normal 80-100 feet elevation gain per mile I get around my house.  And if it was going to be a fast run, maybe I’ll just toss on an extra 6 miles and knock out a 50K PR.  I’ve managed to do two training runs of 31 miles at 5hr13min or just over a 10 minute pace.  Surely I could do better than that on an easier course. . .

For as much knowledge of running and my body as I’ve gained over the past six years, I can be a really dumb person at times.  While these thoughts fantasies of blazing fast times were dancing around in my pretty little head, my body was still recovering from the increased mileage I had thrown at it earlier in the week.  After 14 and 26 mile weeks following Bighorn, I had already dropped 31 miles on my legs before Saturday even started.  They had been a little on the sore side, but loosened up as the days went on and never really bothered me too much while I was out running.

Well, they started bothering me right out of the gate as I headed south from Strathmere.  If I had any chance of setting a new PR, I knew I needed to run a couple miles comfortably below a 9 minute pace.  You can imagine my disappointment when my first mile was 9:20 followed by a 9:15 and a 9:17.  Now don’t get me wrong.  These are decent paces for the early parts of a long run for me, but not considering how flat the course was.

Sigh.

The sun was out and the wind kept me very comfortable in the early going so I really wasn’t complaining.  Well, I wasn’t complaining out loud.  My legs were still sore and after four miles it was becoming apparent that I had put more stress on them earlier in the week than I had thought.  I briefly considered cutting the run short, however the pains and soreness was a little random and didn’t seem to linger in any one place for too long.

At five miles, I turned around in Sea Isle City and headed back north.  Smack!  While I had noticed it seemed rather windy out, it was more of a subconscious realization until I did a 180 and had the 10-20mph wind in my face.  I tried to relax as I ran not wanting to burn up too much of my energy this early.  My splits increased 20-30 seconds per mile, however I was still able to keeping it below a 10 minute pace.  This gave me a bit of a boost and I made it back to my car in good spirits.  I swapped out my bottles, chugged an Ensure shake, and said hi to a niece and her friend who happened to walk by the car while I was there.

I left heading north to Ocean City.  Crossing Bascule Bridge was a bit of an adventure as there was only about 18 inches of ledge to run on next to the road and the wind was whipping so strong I had to grab my hat with my hand or it was going to fly away.  At this point, I had given up any hope of setting a 50K PR. Heck, the wind was so strong, I was just focused on getting through the next mile.  And that’s basically what the last 15 miles were.  One slow moving, sucktacular slogfest.

My original plan was to run 5 miles, turn around, then do another 2.5 mile out-and-back.  As I got further and further into OC though, I really didn’t want to do another into the wind segment.  I wanted it over.  So I just kept going until I hit mile 17.5 at 13th street.  I made my turn and started my final leg back with the wind to my back.  Only there wasn’t much wind.  I never considered the wind would die down as the day progressed.

Even larger sigh.

I was in full on grind mode now.  My legs were sore.  My mind wanted me to take little walk breaks (which I never did, win!).  And my splits were now north of 10 minutes.  I’m counting down the miles and minutes until I could stop moving.  Six.  Five.  Four.  At three, I made the turn onto 55th street and started heading out of town.  Down a long road (OK, it was only a mile).  Back over the two bridges.  Past the Deauville Inn and then finally back to my car at the library.

I really don’t know why I’m ever surprised when my long runs end up being hard like this.  It is the norm after all.  And I know this will be worth it once I toe the line at my next race, but it can be a little discouraging when things don’t go according to fantasy plan.  Oh, well.  If I focused too much on the reality of ultras, I probably wouldn’t sign up for nearly as many as I do.

Time for bed and pleasant dreams of sub-24 hour finishes . . .

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