An oral history of the final stages of a 20-miler:
"How do you feel?" my biker companion asked me around Mile 16.
"Keh," I grunted.
"Do you feel OK?" my biker companion asked me around Mile 17.
"Geh," I gasped.
"Way to pick up the pace. How are feeling?" my biker companion asked me around Mile 18.
"Fah," I whispered.
"You're doing great," my biker companion said around Mile 19.
"Than," I huffed.
The first 10 miles on Sunday felt great. The next five miles even felt pretty good, considering I had run a 10-mile tempo run the day before (9:09 per mile; 47:04/44:22 negative split). Then, the run got hard. Very hard.
Miles 15-18 nearly broke me. I could feel my legs getting heavier with each step. It didn't help that a short stretch of the Towpath had recently been paved with asphalt, and I swear my feet were sticking to it. Every rise was a battle.
Shortly before the 18th mile marker, a pebble found its way into my shoe after I got off another paved section of the path to run in the grass (the majority of the Towpath is crushed limestone). I stopped to remove the bastard at the next bench. I didn't want to get back up.
I felt like I was running 20 miles -- after 10 miles the day before. I felt like I was running the most I'd ever run in a week, which is exactly what I was doing. I felt beat.
After removing the pebble, I had to climb up an underpass ramp. My biker companion went ahead of me to maintain momentum. I mumbled to myself like a crazy person as I charged uphill, exhaling short guttural syllables that at one time had been words.
Night was falling fast, and I did not want to be in the middle of a park in the dark. I reached the top of the incline and picked up my pace for the home stretch. Words returned to me, and I realized that was my wall.
The end of the run did not feel as triumphant as my 18-miler two weeks ago. Although my final mile felt strong, I was spent. I finished with a positive split second half (1:42:05/1:44:21). I was disappointed about falling off pace during the final 10 miles, but the overall pace was still within my goal range.
This is another step-down week before the Summer Un-Solstice Challenge on Aug. 15.