This past weekend I was in Virginia Beach for my friend’s baby shower. Sticking to a marathon training plan while traveling is never easy. But I was faced with an especially challenging problem on Sunday. I had a 16 mile long run on my training schedule, and I was staring down a 6 hour drive home from the beach that day. Initially I thought my options were to either run and then drive home, or drive home and run. And I didn’t like either of those options. But then I realized Farmville was roughly the halfway point, and I could run at the High Bridge Trail State Park. Let me back up a minute, though.
I arrived in Virginia Beach on Friday. Saturday morning I was up bright and early to run 8 miserable miles in the suffocating humidity. Then my friend and I headed over to the hostess’ house to help set up for the baby shower for my other friend (she’s due October 10!). The party was a lot of fun, and she got so many cute baby clothes. Then we headed back to my friend’s house (where I was staying) to watch the Virginia Tech football game, which started at 8 PM. The game was awesome and we pulled out a big win over Ohio State! But it was 1 AM before I got to bed, and I had been going since 6 AM that morning.
I slept terrible Saturday night and woke up every hour. When 5:30 AM rolled around it was time to get up and hit the road to make the 3.5 hour drive to Farmville. I had planned to arrive in Farmville around 9:30 AM so that I could get my long run done before it got too hot. I was so tired during the drive and was wondering how on Earth I was going to run 16 miles. But once I finally got there it was time to rock and roll, and the only way to get a long run done is to get going. So that’s what I did.
I was pretty lucky weather-wise for this run. It was in the low-70’s at the start and had only crept into the low-80’s by the time I finished. The humidity was only around 60% and there was a slight breeze every now and then. The sky was mostly overcast, too, which helped. I decided to run in the direction of the High Bridge first, which was about 4.5 miles from my starting point. I figured I would do a 10 mile out and back in one direction and then a 6 mile out and back in the other direction. The miles ticked away and before I knew it I was at the High Bridge.
I have talked about this trail, and have run on it, several times in the past. The trail is an old rail bed that is made up of crushed limestone. The trail’s namesake, the High Bridge, is 2,400 feet long (nearly half a mile!) and 125 feet above the Appomattox River. It is also the longest recreational bridge in Virginia and among the longest in the country. I really enjoy running across the bridge, although it makes me a bit dizzy to look down while I do so. Here’s what the bridge looks like from a birds eye view:
Once I crossed the bridge I was at 5 miles, my intended turn around point. But then I decided to run a bit further before heading back to my starting point. The High Bridge Half Marathon and 5K had been the day before, and the mile markers were spray painted on the trail. I just so happened to have started my run at the race start line, so each of the mile markers matched up with my distance. Why not turn this into a personal half marathon?
However, when I arrived at the turnaround point I was still feeling good and decided to carry on to mile 7. I was really amazed that I still felt so fresh. The cooler weather definitely helped, but I don’t know where the energy was coming from. A greasy slice of pizza, baby shower cake, and 4 hours of sleep are not exactly the recommended way to prepare for a long run. When I got to mile 7 I could have gone on to 8 and just made the run a true out and back. But I decided I’d rather turn around. I was 2 miles past the High Bridge and I hadn’t seen anyone, which felt a bit creepy.
On my way back I stopped at a porta john just before arriving back at the bridge (right at mile 9). As I was answering nature’s call, a bee started dive bombing me. He was trapped in the porta john with me! Let me tell you: Nothing will make you pee faster than being trapped in a small enclosure with a stinging insect. I was back on the trail in less than 30 seconds and on my way back across the bridge.
I hit a bit of a low point from miles 10 through 14. But I just tried to focus on the mile I was in, and breaking it down into half mile increments when needed. Slowly but surely the miles ticked off, and I found myself back at my car with just two miles left to go. I should also mention I was right on my long run pace. I had been struggling the past few weeks to hit the pace (I kept running too slow or falling off pace by the end of the run), so it felt great to finally do what I was supposed to be doing.
I decided to listen to some music for the last 2 miles, so I got my iPod hooked up and headed out in the other direction for the final two miles. Just after mile 15, I was running along thinking about how I was on the last mile and I stepped right on a snake! It was just a small green garden-type snake, but it reared its head up and startled me. It turns out I still have pretty good reflexes even after 2.5 hours of running. I totally would have taken a picture of the snake, but there is no crouching down at mile 15. So here’s another one of the trail:
Finally I hit mile 16 and I was done! My joints were a bit achy and my muscles were sore and tired, but I felt great. It felt like such an accomplishment after all of the traveling and minimal amount of sleep from the weekend. After I stretched and changed into a dry set of clothes (and used a Shower Pill athletic body wipe for the first time!) I headed over to a gas station. All I had been thinking about during the last hour of my run was a blue slushie. So I got myself one of those and a chicken sandwich. I didn’t take a picture because I’m pretty sure y’all know what a blue slushie and a sandwich look like.
Once fed, it was time to hit the road. I had about 3 hours left to go. Surprisingly I never felt sleepy on the rest of the drive. I guess it helps to break up a long drive with a run. Next time I’ll probably just keep it between 3 and 6 miles, though. 🙂
This was the best long run I’ve had so far during training. It seemed like everything just kind of came together, which is pretty neat since it happened at the end of a 54 mile week. With the lack of sleep and all of the driving I keep wondering if I’ve reached the point where training is as hard as it’s going to get. I have two more 16 mile long runs, and they come at the end of 56 and 57 mile weeks. So hopefully it will be very similar to this week. Maybe I really can do this Hansons Marathon Method thing.
If you were in my situation, which option would you have picked: run then drive, drive then run, or run in the middle of the drive?
Do you prefer exploring new trails, or do you gravitate towards the old and familiar?
P.S. Funny story – I’m back in Farmville right now. I had to drive here on Monday evening for work and I’m here through this afternoon. I actually did last night’s strength workout (4 x 1.5 miles) over on the good old High Bridge Trail .