The accidental 21-miler, fueled by two Gu’s at the same time

Know what I’d do if I had a million dollars? Two Gu’s at the same time.

I slurped down two of these bad boys in one shot during a rough spot of my long run today.

I slurped down two of these bad boys in one shot during a rough spot of my long run today.

This thought, which occurred to me after consuming — wait for it — two Gu’s at the same time sometime after the 10-mile mark of my long-planned 20-miler this morning, carried me through a good two miles of my run. These were an important two miles, as my crazy, “I’m eatin’ two of these bad boys” moment came moments after my trusty Nike-plus for my iPod randomly stopped, then erased all my previous workouts. This includes the 10-ish miles I had just run, including my exact distance, time and pace. Since I was improvising a version of the Marine Corps Marathon course to get familiar with the route I’ll be running Oct. 25, it was really, really important that I keep an eye on my mileage, which made my Nike-plus really, really crucial.

So. Two Gu’s at the same time, and a butchered quote from “Office Space,” and I was on my way again. Luckily, the Nike-plus worked, as did my iPod, so I just started a new workout, and vowed to run 10 miles from that point to make sure I wasn’t shortchanging myself on the only 20-miler I’ll be running. I’m pretty sure I was closer to 11 than 10 when the iPod malfunction occurred, but better to be safe, right?

Other than that unfortunate moment, I had a truly amazing long run. I Metroed over to Rosslyn after a Luna bar and a few sips of coffee, armed with a plastic baggie with my iPod, ID, credit card, route map and cell phone, plus a big bottle of PowerAde Mountain Berry Blast (thank you, Marine Corps Marathon, for choosing a blue-flavored sports drink for the course. They’re my favorite!).

I set out around 8 a.m., checking my course map and Nike-plus intently to make sure I ran the right distance on Lee Highway. I almost immediately failed at following simple directions, adding about a mile total to the route on the unlovely, hilly Lee Highway. Oops … My main take-away from this portion of the course is that I will NOT have to worry about holding back, pace-wise. The hills are going to take care of that for me, and I’ll be lucky if I can hold even the conservative pace I’m shooting for.

Things got lots better as I crossed the Key Bridge into Georgetown, where adorable brick homes worth more than my entire family’s life savings distracted me from the slight uphill on the way out. And that downhill on the way back! Whee! I’ll definitely appreciate that on race day.

My iPod malfunction occurred while running out to Hains Point, through a gorgeous park bordering the Potomac River with flat, runner-friendly roads and tons of trees just on the cusp of changing color. But I was thrown by the iPod mishap, feeling tired at the halfway point of a long run, and starting thinking about how on race day, this part will feel very, very lonely. I may or may not have whimpered out loud at the realization that I had three miles to go before heading back into downtown D.C.

Then, I glanced at the street sign: Ohio Drive. My inner monologue: Ohio Drive! Sarah is from Ohio! She can run fast marathons! I can, too! Right? Right! Heh! Heh, heh, heh!

My imagined serendipity continued as I headed up toward the memorials and the monument. Remember those summer-reading drives in which Pizza Hut promised a personal pan pizza to whoever read five, or 10, or however many books? I never got a pizza. Not because didn’t read enough. Sweet little dweeb that I was, I would read 30 to 40 books in a summer. Show me the sweet, dweeby second-grader who will admit to that?

I mention this so you know just how awesome it was to see the National Book Festival, with dozens of booths of authors and banners exclaiming, “Books!” on the National Mall. It felt like a personal shout-out, especially since the theme-color is purple — my favorite. “This one’s for you, Dweeby McGee,” I told myself as I picked up the pace.

Here’s the cool thing: I kept on picking up the pace. I managed the first 10 or 11 miles at something like 9:30-minute miles, and stayed relatively steady throughout. I slowed down a bit when I was trying to find my way from Potomac Park to the National Mall, but once I was on the Mall, I picked it up a few seconds per mile, finally ending at mile 20 (or 21? Who knows?) with an 8-minute mile.

I picked up the Red Line Metro to head home to Silver Spring at Gallery Place-Chinatown. Why did I weave around to this particular spot? Because there’s a Starbucks right next to the Metro stop, and I started thinking about a Vivanno for the ride home as soon as the 13-mile mark. A bonus: When I walked in, sweaty, dirty and bedraggled, the barista said, “Wow! You must’ve had quite a workout!” When I told her I had just ran 20 miles, she, after confirming that I did this all in one run, seemed genuinely floored. “I have a lot of respect for you for being able to do that,” she said. Awww.

I don’t know my final time (thanks, Nike-plus), or my overall pace. I just know the run felt great, that I stayed close to 9:30-minute mile pace the whole time, that I finished much faster than I started and that I ran more than 20 miles, maybe as many as 21. And, most importantly, the IT band that was acting up in the beginning of this training cycle was the absolute least of my problems, and has continued to behave through a delightful afternoon of watching college football on the couch, with my husband and my nachos by my side.

Stay tuned … the best long-run playlist in existence is on the way. Again, if anyone knows how to copy the text of an iTunes playlist to another document, I’ll post it, like, now.


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16 responses to “The accidental 21-miler, fueled by two Gu’s at the same time

  1. Ron Harvey

    Don’t you just love how the mind works as the distance traveled increases?

    I can’t tell you how much I enjoy reading your posts. As someone who has had to rely on nothing more than a creative writing class in high school (a long long time ago) I look to your blog as a “refresher course” on how a well written story should be told. It should be noted that, as I did not win the shoes, my comments are genuine and not driven by a recent contest that I obviously should have won.

    Based on your 9:30 pace on this training run, I would think that you are in for a very respectable marathon time on the 25th.

    Well done Amy!

    All the best,


  2. Great job! Don’t you hate when things malfunction during a long run? I ran into the book festival too this morning, and that’s when a long run turns into tourist dodging. There were so many lines and people to run though! It was during my last mile and I wish I had your optimism, instead I was just frustrated!

    Less than a month to go!

    • Full disclosure: Toward the very end, with both IT bands throbbing, I discovered I could. Not. Stop. If I did, I’d sorta half-run, half-limp for several strides until I loosened up again. This led me to become increasingly angry at tourists who seemed hell-bent on placing themselves in front of my path. I may or may not have said the following out loud: “AWARENESS OF PERSONAL SPACE!”

  3. katekirk

    oh dear…did you get as far as the safeway or even farther? those are killer hills past spout run.

    I had a GPS malfunction on a 13-miler a few weeks ago and it turned out to be good for me to just run and fugeddaboutit (mileage markers on mt vernon trail worked fine). This was a fun story to read!

    • Got past the Safeway … didn’t realize that was a bad thing until now. 🙂 Ah, well — guess it’ll serve me well on race day, when that long hill on Lee will seem like a shortcut! THANKS again for the route suggestion— truly worked wonders!

      • Courtney

        when you make that right turn onto spout run… think of me… that is where I lived, in those apts diagonally across from the Italian store. Each marathon that i lived there, I was awoken by the claps for the first runners, threw on clothes and headed down to cheer. imagine me on the corner yelling for you!!!

  4. katekirk

    oh…and I don’t know how to copy/paste iPod lists…when I do my music running journals (like the one I sent you), I have half-windows open and just sort what played by date/time and have to type it. Actually helps me with the recall of where I was and what my state of mind was.

  5. Enjoyed the post! Great job on the run!!

  6. Great job on the long run!

    And don’t worry about your pace on Lee Highway – it’s still so crowded at that point you can’t go fast. I ran that hill many times while training for the MCM, but still ran it very slowly on race day because of all the chaos. Oh, and Hains point doesn’t feel lonely when you have 1000s of other runners with you.

  7. Great job and what a trip. Enjoyed reading it.

  8. hooray! congrats on an excellent long run. gu’s are hard to resist 🙂 they definitely help me press on in a long run ’cause i want to run another few miles so i can take another. glad you had a solid run!

  9. Sounds like you’re right on target for your marathon. I’ve heard so many good things about marine corps…it’s on my list of marathons to run.

  10. Very nice run! And it sounds like a visually inspiring run as well. Great job but I’m sorry you had to start your mileage over again! I hate it when that happens!!!

  11. Alexis Milam

    awesome, sounds like more of an adventure, than a run!

  12. Pingback: Perfect playlist: The Marine Corps Marathon (and the long runs before it) « Amy’s Training Blog

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