This past weekend I reached the point in my half marathon training program where the weekend long run was farther than I had ever run before. Having done 7 miles the week before, 8 seemed daunting, but doable. While I’ve been following Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 training plan to a T, I hadn’t actually read any of his descriptions of each of the workouts. To my surprise, I discovered that you’re actually supposed to run 30-90 seconds slower than your race pace during long runs. My theory up until this point had been that you should run as fast or faster than your race pace in training to make it feel easier when you were actually racing. Given the strain keeping this pace put on my body, I was more than happy to oblige Hal’s advice and run slower than I had been. This also eased some of the anxiety I had about my first foray into what I consider true distance running.
I was on Cape Cod this weekend in Orleans with a friend from school. Before leaving for the beach, I did some googling of places to run on the Cape. The most appealing and accessible appeared to be the Cape Cod Rail Trail, a 22-mile paved trail, running from South Dennis to South Wellfleet, passing through Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, and Wellfleet.
My friend and I drove to the trail and entered at Nickerson State Park. After a massive rainstorm the night before there was no humidity and at 10am it was about 78 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny. We began running SW towards Brewster and Harwich. There were tons of bikers out, in addition to runners. The company was welcome in the way in which seeing other people out there working and suffering gives comfort and solidarity.
I am accustomed to city running, which can be frustrating regarding pedestrians, but I find enjoyable because the scenery is always changing both in terms of landscape and people. The Rail Trail was beautiful, but monotonous. The entire thing was virtually a concrete road encompassed by a tunnel of greenery, with occasional breaks of sun when town roads crossed the trail. The greenery provided very welcome shade, but virtually no variation, which got a little boring. My friend and I fluctuated between 9 and 10 minute miles, meeting our goal of 9:30 average miles. Due to my city running, I stop pretty often for stoplights. As this was a rural trail, there was no reason to stop except pure exhaustion. In the end, we ended up stopping every 2 miles (3 stops total), which I am very proud of!
Last week on my 7 mile run, I tried running with a water belt. I found it wildly uncomfortable and ended up just carrying the bottle in hand. After that, I went to Marathon Sports in Boston and got a small bottle with a hand strap. I tested it out on the 8 mile run, and while not the most comfortable thing ever, it did the trick! The other thing I got at Marathon Sports was a bunch of gels/chews to experiment with. I took the Chocolate Outrage GU Energy Gel with me on this run and stopped at mile 6 to eat it. I loved the taste and when I finished my run, and later into that day, I didn’t feel as depleted and dehydrated as I had after my 7 mile run.
Overall it was a great experience and made me feel as if I might actually have it in myself to finish the half marathon. While I’m very excited for the half, I’m really nervous about actually being able to run that far, and being able to run 8 miles was the first time that I really thought, okay, if I can do this, I can do 13.1. And if you’re looking for a place to run on the cape, look no further than the Cape Cod Rail Trail, despite the monotony it was beautiful and nice and shady.