I know there are a lot of athletes who can knock out successful Ironman marathons without doing any 20 mile training runs, but I'm not one of them. I will say though, in my experience as an athlete and as a coach, many runners and triathletes do actually benefit from them (mentally and physically). 4-5 years ago I ran 20 milers fairly often, and I got to the point where they were no big deal and I could knock them out without really blinking. In the last 3 years though I don't think I've run a 20 miler in training? I've also not run a decent marathon in that time frame. So. I know I can get better at 20 milers, but the only way to get better at 20 milers is to run 20 milers.
I ran 17 miles a few weeks ago and it went just fine so I think I didn't give the 20 miler today the respect it apparently warranted. Somewhere around mile 12 today, the riding I've done the last 3 days showed up not only in my legs but in my brain. I think I was fueling and hydrating plenty so that wasn't the issue. It was just straight up fatigue. I was hot, and tired, and bored. I'd arranged my run so I was basically doing out/back segments and using my car as an aid station so I'd have ice and cold fluids every few miles, which I guess is a decent way to arrange things when you're running in the middle of the day in Hawaii in June, but it's not exactly an interesting way to get the miles done!
I felt like my legs were on the verge of seizing up for much of the last 4 miles (hamstrings, quads, adductors) and had to really focus on staying calm and relaxed and not get pissy with myself. Managed to do that (yay me) and finished running without doubling over... Later though in my car driving home I was feeling irritated about that run b/c it just felt crappy to me- not only b/c it was pretty slow but mostly because of how hard I had to work to get my brain to shut up and stop whining about it all. I have suspected for a few years now that when I'm on the verge of cramping, negative thoughts are the thing that throw me right over the edge, and sure enough as I was driving my diaphragm just knotted up in the most painful spasm. ARGH. And I couldn't get it to release, which made me more mad, which caused it to grip even harder. There was no place along the road where I could safely pull over so I kept driving, one hand on the wheel while the other was jammed under my rib cage and my hips were lifted up off the seat trying to straighten out my midsection while swearing out loud, taking deep breaths, and trying to not crashing my car... Finally I pulled into my neighborhood where it was safe to pull over and I got out of my car to stand and stretch and that's when that spasm finally released.
So. Apparently I don't have the cramping problem solved. :( I drank 6x bottles of Osmo, SOS, and that new NBS hydration drink, so its hard to believe dehydration was the issue (though even with that I did lose 2lbs during the run, but that seems within the normal range of what you'd expect to lose during a 20 mile run). Extreme muscular fatigue was likely an issue given the riding I did the last few days. I'm sure I was depleted going into the run today, which was by design. Apparently it was too much though.
Today was not a confidence building run. I would like to fit in another 20 miler prior to Vineman and I think I have time to do that if I knock it out in the next 10-15 days... Next time though I'll time it so it's not done on legs that are already thrashed. And I'll continue to experiment with products that might help my muscles work more effectively! I will say, I do think 20 milers get easier the more you do them, and I'm glad I didn't save this shitty experience for race day. That's what I did at Louisville last year and it sucked!
Anyway, I spent an hour or so like this before I had to go pick up Moana and be a functioning human being again.
Friday Recovery Day
Swam 2k super easy flop didn't time anything. Included some light kicking. Felt like shit to start but better by the end.