Crosscut By Two: 20 miles on a bad leg

If I can complete this training run, maybe I can finish this month's Seattle Marathon.
Crosscut archive image.

The 2009 Seattle Marathon gets underway.

If I can complete this training run, maybe I can finish this month's Seattle Marathon.

Editor's note: Monte Enbysk, an experienced (but not elite) runner, was thrown off his Seattle Marathon training schedule by an injury last month. He's chronicling his comeback effort and — if he makes it — his race day for Crosscut. His first installment appeared here.

Oh, the thrill of a 20-mile training run. NOT! For many marathoners, it'ꀙs long and thankless, and akin to spending the day raking the leaves or cleaning the garage (adjusted for pain and soreness). However, a 20-mile run is a necessary evil if you want to be ready for race day. And that'ꀙs what I did on Sunday, rather than raking the leaves or cleaning our garage — both of which still need to be done, by the way.

I said in my first post, I normally try to do at least three 20 mile-plus training runs before a marathon. A leg injury messed up my plans for the Seattle Marathon. With the marathon three weeks away, I needed to do at least one, and do it not too close to the marathon.

Before I tell you how it went on Sunday, let me tell you about my choice of venue: the Sammamish River Trail. The miles are marked with posts along the trail (even the half-miles are marked), so you know for sure you'ꀙre going the distance. And the course is relatively flat, with mild inclines and declines but no major hills. One more selling point: You don'ꀙt have to stop for cars, anywhere. One drawback: A wrong move to the center of the trail and you could get nailed by a speeding bicyclist. So, smart runners hug the right (or run off-trail on the gravel lanes, where they exist).

I'ꀙve done this run more than 30 times since 2003. I always start at the Subway Shop at Marymoor Park and run 10-plus miles to Blyth Park in Bothell, where the Sammamish River Trail becomes the Burke-Gilman Trail. (I actually run past the 10-mile marker, up the small hill to the Burke-Gilman sign.) Then I turn around and come back.

Along the way, I pass Redmond City Hall, the Sixty Acres soccer fields, the road leading to Redhook Ale Brewery and Chateau Ste. Michelle, Gateway Park in Woodinville, and the trail to the UW-Bothell campus. I dodge bicyclists, watch roller skaters, and pass numerous walkers. On Sunday, there also were numerous fellow runners, probably training like me for the Seattle Marathon (or the Half-Marathon).

I began Sunday with considerable trepidation. Because of sharp pain in the back of my right leg, I hadn'ꀙt run longer than 12 miles in four weeks, and one of those weeks I couldn'ꀙt run at all. Would my leg get through it? Could I ramp up to 20 miles so soon? (In the weeks preceding the injury, I'ꀙd done 15- and 16-mile runs, but no 20s.)

Well, the run went surprisingly well. It took me more than four hours, but it usually does, because of pee breaks and fuel breaks (gummy bears and Gatorade) that I always take at designated spots. I actually ran closer to 21 miles because of the extra distances I go beyond the markers. And my leg, wrapped well, did not slow me; I could barely feel any soreness.

While I often listen to rock and roll music and dream of playing the drums on stage, Sunday I mostly listened to the Seahawks win ugly against the hapless Detroit Lions. In fact, it was 14-0 Detroit before I hit Mile 2. Fortunately, the Hawks turned the game around and finished off the win by the time I hit Mile 15. Then I turned on some rock and roll. I entered my last mile to the sounds of 'ꀜNight Moves'ꀝ by Bob Seger, which was appropriate because it was dark out and I had to run carefully because of poor vision at night. But I felt good, finished strong, and was surprised at the kick I had at the end. The second 10 miles went as smoothly as the first 10.

So am I ready now? I really can'ꀙt say that yet. It'ꀙs possible that fallout from this run will show up in one of my shorter weekday runs this week. I still have to be careful with my leg. Maybe some new problem will rear its ugly head. My legs are vulnerable in these peak training times.

But I am encouraged by Sunday'ꀙs run that I can go the distance on Nov. 29. And I may even attempt another risky 20-miler this Sunday (two weeks out). So stay tuned.


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