Thank you so much for the incredible comments I got on Instagram immediately after that ill-fated 20 miler and for all the kind words I received after the Meltdown post. I took another shot at 20 miles during week 23 and I got it. It was not what I would call a redemptive run. It was gritty and humid and hot and slow and painful and stubborn as fuck. I didn't exactly set myself up for success the night before, as I had concert tickets that had been purchased months ago, but that was the decision I made and I'd live with any consequences. I slept decently for the 5 or so hours I did get and didn't have an issue getting up when the 5:30 am alarm went off.
I was not anxious about this run the way I was the week before. If anything, I was almost detached. I knew it was going to get done, that I would get it done no matter what, so I didn't let my mind start going down the what-if road to hell. A couple things that may have contributed to that: the route and my fueling strategy. I decided that my usual haunt might be playing into my anxiety and it wasn't worth the risk so I decided to try a new spot. I'd done a few smaller sections of it in the past, mostly at dusk, so it was unfamiliar enough to be distracting. It allowed me to do 7 miles out and back, hitting my car at 14 where more fuel and company would be waiting for me. I'd then go out and back the other direction for the final 6.
At Nora's urging, I set a 45 minute alarm on my watch for fueling. Every 45 minutes, down the hatch with fuel. I was, and still am, trying out different foods and looking for something that I can get down and has enough calories. The rice cakes are great, albeit labor intensive and since I am traveling not something I can easily recreate for race day. At the advice of another ultra runner I tried using Uncrustables (strawberry, because it is the only jam that matters). They are super portable, thaw on your person (esp. in recent weather here in NC), and check all the requisite nutrition boxes (calories, carbs, protein, etc.). The only problem I encountered was reaching the center of said treat and the gob of remaining PB triggering my gag reflex. Not cool. It washed down easily and sat well otherwise, so I am hopeful that I can make them work come race day.
The combination of 45 minute fueling intervals and no single stretches of route longer than 7 miles helped keep my brain occupied but I was struggling when Becky met me on her bike between miles 12 and 13. The weather was taking its toll. I was glad that I would only have 6 left when I got to my car and yet had no idea how those 6 would get done. Becky dropped her bike at the car and laced up to keep me company for a few of those 6 (BLESS HER). I was walking more often at this point and had fallen behind on my fueling (my fault). At her suggestion I made a last minute change to do the final 6 out to end at her house rather than 3 out and 3 back to my car. I'd be running past one more water fountain with this plan and she'd drive me back to my car. Not retracing my steps sounded like a good idea at the time and I knew the trail well enough to get to her house on my own.
She could only stay with me for a couple miles before heading home to her kiddo, so I slogged out the last 4 on my own. I ran, walked, and lurched my way through the greenways of Cary. I don't remember what I was telling myself in those remaining miles. I knew I was doing math, as I always do. Take the most recent mile split and then start guessing what my finish time might be if I got slower, stayed the same, sped up, etc. I do not recommend this and wish it was not a habit. The math, no matter how I did it, was unsatisfactory but there was nothing I could do about it. It was going to take as long as it would take. So will race day. Am I still moving forward? Yes? Then I'm doing it right. Maybe that's a pretty low bar for you. Maybe you bite me.
There was no jubilant finish at 20. There were constant glances at my watch until it FINALLY clicked over, a ceasing of forward movement, and a tired sigh. It was done. It was over with. At this point I didn't actually know if I had one more long run to go next week or if this was it, so I didn't want to celebrate prematurely. It also just didn't feel like that big an accomplishment. Perhaps because I was wondering how those legs of mine would get another 12 miles done the next to round out the week. I mostly just wanted to go home and lie down. Hopefully the enthusiasm for new levels of exhaustion will appear on race day, along with more temperate conditions. Week 23, you're excused.
Week 23 summary:
Miles scheduled: 48
Miles ran: 48
Time on my feet: 10:07:26