22 Miles: I Fought for This Taper

On Saturday, the day I was supposed to run the longest run of this training cycle, I was plopped on the couch nursing a head cold. Well, the cold wasn’t really the issue — it was more the decongestant I took too close to bedtime on Friday and the resulting sleepless night. At 3 a.m., I thought maybe I could still pull off a run. At 4 a.m., I turned on my red-eye sleepytime playlist and tried to at least doze. At 5 a.m., I gave up and turned off my alarm. When I finally did sleep, it was a couch nap from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and hell if I was going to run 22 miles after that.

I’ll admit it: I cried. It was my longest run, my last long run, and I felt like missing it was somehow erasing everything I’d been working toward. (Rational Brain says: No, Kimra, you’re working toward Berlin. But Rational Brain was not on duty.)

At that point, my options seemed to be:

1) Hope I felt well enough to run Sunday, though I wouldn’t be 100%;
2) Run something this weekend but not 22; push 22 to late next Sunday, after a weekend of wedding festivities;
3) Run something this weekend but not 22; never run 22 and hope the 20 from two weeks ago would be enough.

Option (2) was OK, as I’m a designated driver for this wedding and thus won’t have that sort of recovery … but I still plan to stay up too late and dance too hard and even the 12 miles already scheduled for the day seems daunting. Option (3) felt awful; my 20-miler looked good on paper, but I was hurting during it and took a week off running after, so not really a confidence booster.

That left Sunday, which I knew would be rough and maybe risky, a gamble on how my recovering body would react to a stressful run. But after getting a good night of sleep (and officially banishing Mucinex from my life post-noon), I wanted to try. At any other point in training, I might have made a different decision, but knowing I was staring down taper, I went for it.


I’d had the basic route in my head for weeks: Run from home to the Ferry Building; follow the SF Marathon route over the Golden Gate Bridge; wind into Golden Gate Park; run a bit along the ocean; follow MLK back through the park; roll downhill home. (Originally, the plan was to end at Wise Sons Deli and celebrate the start of taper with pastrami, but that was more like 24 miles, and anyway, Pete did his 22 on Saturday and there would be something less gleeful about pounding a giant sandwich solo.)

I started late but didn’t care; in fact, I convinced myself, running at midday could be good prep for Berlin’s unpredictable weather. (This week: high of 81 on Monday; high of 59 on Thursday.) One thing I didn’t consider was all the stoplights in the first couple of miles, but things got better when I hit the Embarcadero, still early enough to miss the biggest crush of tourists.

My pace took a hit on the bigger hill up to the bridge, but no surprises. The bridge sidewalk was a bit like Frogger, but the gorgeous day kept me from getting too angry. I took a break at the Marin end to take a picture; it’s not every day (it’s barely any day) that San Francisco is this clear.

Itty bitty skyline

On the way back, I made a tactical error. It was time for food, but I’d drained my water, and I have a history of stomach cramps if I eat without, so I decided to get back across the bridge and eat later. I was sure there would be a fountain, but I couldn’t find one and ended up buying a $2.50 bottle smaller than my handheld. (Probably should have bought two.) After that stop, and some misguided parking lot navigation, it was well over 2:00 in run time before I ate my Shot Bloks. Still, I was on a long downhill, and I thought I’d be OK.

Except — what goes down in San Francisco must go up.


Behind on calories, I started up 25th Avenue and bonked. My first big bonk of training. I thought: This wasn’t so hard in the half! (That, self, turns out to be because the half route goes up 27th.) I was a little too grateful for stoplights and milked them a little too long. I walked some. I started thinking things like, “Does this run even count?”

I crossed 13.1 and noted that this still wasn’t my slowest half-marathon.

I crossed 14 with a mile about 2 minutes off my goal pace.

I was listening to the pain-themed Radiolab right about then. Very funny, playlist-making self.

I spotted a water fountain and took my sweet time refilling my bottle.

I headed into the park on a trail and spotted pink up ahead. The end of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day. More Frogger.

A bathroom stop, more precautionary than necessary. There was a line, short but guilt-inducing: stopping again? I fished out my backup Nuun tab, looked at my watch, and made a plan. I could get home by 3.

My next mile was the fastest of the day.


And then I turned for the hill home. Three miles up, two miles down. Ugh, that hill. I walked a little in each of those first three miles — about 10 minutes running to two minutes walking. Funny: Though slow, those were my three most consistently paced miles.

At the start of the Panhandle, I was sure I’d make it all the way to 22. It was literally all downhill from there, and almost all in the shade. And … a whole mile short? I swear I stuck to the route I mapped, other than maybe a .25 detour when I ran out of sidewalk going into the park. And I didn’t pause when I walked. But my watch was stubbornly at 19.5.

Hmm. OK.

At least it kept my mind occupied: Add on the extra mile? Where? Was I actually running 23 miles? (I don’t think so, but I also haven’t figured out where I “lost” the mile.) Could I be trusted to keep running if I passed my apartment? I ultimately decided to loop the last segment of the Panhandle, deducing by run-math that that would get me close enough.

Three Shot Bloks down the hatch. Pause at the end of the Panhandle, cross back to where I’d just come from. Now I was really heading home.


I did run past the apartment, in the end, but just to get to 22.1. Just to be sure.

I felt OK as long as I was moving, but when I got inside, I forgot how to sit down. My glutes were burning. (Which I noted with some pride — Hey, glutes, nice of you to fire — but also, I couldn’t figure out how to sit down.) I tried legs-up-the-wall, which was more like legs-three-quarters-of-the-way-up-the-bookcase-OK-that’s-good-enough, and Pete brought me a smoothie, and I slowly MYRTL’d and hydrated and eventually plugged in my watch to prove it.

I ran 22 miles. It was damn hard. And it was done.


Minutae, as if that wasn’t minute enough:

  • Final stats: 22.1 miles in 3:57:28, a 10:44/mile average. I was right at a 10:22 average until the bonk and never really got back on track after that, but I ran solidly from miles 19-22.
  • But: There was a lot of stopping — for stoplights, for water refills, for the picture on the bridge, for the bathroom, for checking the route. I didn’t pause my watch when I walked, but I did pause when I stopped, out of instinct rather than pride — but it was my pride that got me down about it: Sure, I’d “run” 22 miles, but what about all the time I wasn’t running? Nike+ recorded my start time as 10:33 a.m., and as best I can figure, my end time for 22 miles was 2:58 p.m., for 4:23ish total.
  • I’m OK with that, but it took a while to be OK with that. I have said, and meant, that I’m not running Berlin with a specific time goal, but I also know what I should be able to do based on training, and I’ve been thinking of 5 hours as my not-quite-worst-case-scenario time (a normal bad run, vs. injury/puking/getting locked in a portapotty). 4:23/22 miles could squeak me in under 5 hours, but it would be tough. That said: I would have taken some of those breaks in a marathon, but not all. I would have stopped less and walked more, and walking = forward progress. Plus, I know I wasn’t running at 100%. So yeah, I was briefly disappointed, but Rational Brain showed up and told me there was no reason to be, so I’m not.
  • A day removed, I feel pretty good, though there could still be some major DOMS lurking. Niggles are my right Achilles and left IT band, neither bad. Stairs are fine. The worst pain is from blisters — both little toes and the spot on my right Achilles between the top of my sock and bottom of my calf sleeve.
  • Let’s talk about Hoo Ha Ride Glide. It is not just for the ride, nor is it just for the hoo ha. A generous coating of BodyGlide + Ride Glide under the sports bra resulted in the least chafing, and least-painful post-run shower, in weeks.
  • Less so: Banana Boat Natural Reflect sunscreen. It’s a lot to ask any sunscreen to completely protect me for 4.5 hours, but I still expected better, especially because I hoped this would be my magic bullet physical sunscreen. My go-to (chemical, creepy) sunscreen is discontinued and I have about 2 total ounces left in my hoarded stockpile, so I’m scrambling.
  • Nutrition/hydration: pumpkin bread and 20 oz. of water with Nuun pre-run; 40-ish oz. of Nuun water + another 20-30ish oz. of regular water throughout the run; Gu at 1:00, 3 Shot Bloks at too damn late (2:10-2:15ish); Gu at 2:50; 3 Shot Bloks at 3:25-3:30. My stomach was solid, so I’ll plan to eat this basic way on race day, though with better timing (1:00-1:45-2:30-3:15-4:00). I also may eat something (more pumpkin bread?) if I have a long wait before the start.
  • One option I didn’t consider when figuring out where to move the 22 was running it the week before the marathon. Because: Who runs 22 miles the week before a marathon? But I’m wondering if I should have given it some thought, given how much better I’ve felt on long runs where I was building steadily from the week before (14, 18, 20) vs. runs where I was jumping up after a cutback (16, 22).
  • What I’m saying is, I’m afraid of the taper. What will it feel like to run so much after not running much for so long?
  • That said: TAPER! I’ve never doubted I’d finish this marathon if I could just make it to the start. I’m finally starting to believe I’ll get there.
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6 thoughts on “22 Miles: I Fought for This Taper

  1. John Burlingham says:

    Kimra don’t worry about the taper, it will actually work to your advantage. I just ran my 20 mi yesterday which is my longest for my training schedule. I had to take some time off of long runs since my 18 miler three weeks ago because of a little knee problem and I ran my best 20 ever by 15 min. Now I will taper again up until the marathon, just some light 5-8 milers over the next few weeks. The biggest thing to overcome now is you own head. You did the work physically, now put your head in the right place and you will breeze through!

  2. Angela says:

    Yay!! 22 miles at any pace, on any day, even with a little walking, is a GOOD run. Way to hang in there & make it happen.

    I was on the bridge earlier that morning and it was absolutely gorgeous! But certainly did get warm later. So 22 miles is extra impressive.

    You are going to looooove running after a nice taper! If you’re anything like me, you’ve forgotten by now what fresh legs feel like & just accommodated to having tired, heavy ones all the time. Going into CIM last year I did one 16-miler, one 18-miler, and one 20-miler, and the race itself was easier than any of them. Taper really does work magic!

    And finally, I might need to check out this Hoo-Ha stuff. Body Glide is just not doing the trick.

  3. shelby says:

    It definitely looks like you’ll go sub-5 if you’re getting through 22 in 4:23 (including all stops/breaks). You’ll go a little faster on race day!

    Happy taper!

  4. Kristina says:

    Congrats on pushing through those 22, especially while feeling under the weather. I’m terrible with training plans, but I do know that they work for a lot of people and that everyone says the same thing – ‘Trust the taper’.
    And enjoy it!

  5. Kelly says:

    You got the run done, and that’s great! Don’t be afraid of the taper. Just embrace the fact that it may suck but make a big effort not to focus on it, and just get excited for race day!

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