The Day I Learned to Trust My Legs, for 20 miles

I’ll be honest – I really questioned whether “20” was in the cards today.

After last week’s 18-mile fail (i.e. 16 miles of altitude acclimation), I went into this run knowing full well that 20 might be too much. After Monday’s 7-mile confidence booster, I went into this run ready to see what I could do.


When you wake up and think “I get to run 20 miles”, it’s a good sign that the muscles are up for the challenge. I’ve learned that LRs should never be approached as something I “have” to do, or “should” do. Nope, I get to – because I’ve trained for it, I’ve carb-loaded, I’ve hydrated, I’ve stayed injury free (luckily!), and I’ve reached the next level of endurance.


Today, I happily took my ego back from those mountains.

The run: started with a 6 mile loop, on my own. I realized that the trail goes both ways (shocker!), and if I could start in the opposite direction to take off a few extra miles, it would help my mentality and my attention span. Win, win! D met me after an hour, and we started the next out-n-back for the remaining 14 miles.

In other words, I broke 20 up into 6-7-7. This helped tremendously. Each section was its own, a mangeable (mentally and physically) distance.

The fuel: started with Cran-Apple Gu Chomps mile 6. Up to this point, I’d had no water or fuel, so my stomach and pores were ready for some refreshment! From this point on, I rehydrated every mile or so.

Hydration Sources: Water (obviously), and Accelerade powder + water (shake it up!). D calls this my “Go Fast Juice”, I’ll let you decipher that one. 😉

Peanut-butter Filled Pretzel Bites at Mile 13 (one of the turn-around points), which involved a quick walk-break for Pretzel-bite fuel and water (to wash down said fuel). I took in ~160 calories worth of these little treats.

Last, but not least, I chewed on 2 Lemon-lime Clif Shot Blocks at mile ~16.

Of note: this is the most fuel I’ve ever taken in during a run, and I can happily say there were no stomach issues! I love that my body is getting used to this, because I know it’s necessary and I know it helps.

The Trust: when I turned around for the last leg of 7 miles, I knew I’d be fine. My legs were accepting all challenges; rolling hills, changes in terrain, extra fuel sources, and extra distance. Sure, there were the usual aches/pains and moments of “whoa, that feels tight” towards the end.

But they didn’t complain. Not once did I feel overly fatigued, drained, or exhausted.
Alright legs, you’ve caught up! I trust you; we’re in this together.

D is always along for the ride, providing entertainment, Go-Fast juice, snacks, and encouragement. When I say “2 miles left!”, he says “Psh, you’ve got it.” I think sometimes he knows these muscles better than I do. 😉

The Stats:

20 miles, 3:09:50, avg 9:30 min/mile
avg HR 174


Finishing out the last 0.1 miles…

Yup, I kept my shirt on today. If you look closely, those shorts will tell you that yes I was sweaty – but we’ve seen worse. Just sayin’! Thank you, Cloud-cover.

Another one for the Training Log, check!


Good luck to Sassy – as she tackles the same distance tonight, post-work day!

Who else has some mileage on the agenda this weekend?

I’ll be packing up for the Healthy Living Summit tonight (which is why this run took place on a Thursday, not Sautrday) – more on that soon!



Filed under early morning, learning, loooong runs, Nutrition, things that make me Happy, training

25 responses to “The Day I Learned to Trust My Legs, for 20 miles

  1. Have fun at HLS! I was going back and forth and in the end just wasn’t sure if I should pull the trigger. Now I wish I would have just made it happen, but next year I will be going for sure. Good luck on your presentation! Nice work on the 20 miler!

  2. Great job on the 20 miler! I too love those days when I wake up and my legs just feel excited to go.

    Have a fantastic time at HLS!

  3. Nice run and thanks for this because I am heading out for a 20-miler tomorrow morning! It looks like you had some beautiful scenery..

  4. great job on the 20 chica! Is it weird that I’m missing the uber long runs? Oh well they’ll be here before I know it…

  5. lainie

    I am really enjoying your blog. I am currently in Boulder until the 20th and have loved running here too. I am curious where you are doing your long runs… table mesa? flatiron vista? the res? eagle trail? I can understand for safety’s sake why you might not want to post where you run publicly on the blog, but I would love to know what trails you’ve been running. I have some long runs coming up in the next week and looking for some new runs (was here training in May too)!!

    I am thinking about moving up here when I am done with my RD internship in June of 2011. I love this town.

    Austin, TX

  6. I love your attitude toward long runs! I need to look at them like that instead of as a chore. Haha.

  7. Great job on running 20 miles at a good clip! I like to break my runs into segments, too. It helps!

  8. Great job and have fun at HLS! I hope to start training for a half marathon soon 🙂

  9. great job on the LR beez! love it! 20 milers are my fave distance when it comes to LR’s… you feel so awesome after its epic!! i love your positive attitude! keep it coming gf! love the pic of you & tha man! ❤

  10. DAYUM GIRL!!!!!!!!!! WOOO HOOOO!!

    I’ll save you a drink to celebrate this weekend. OW OW!

  11. WHOO HOO! Good work lady! Reading this is psyching me up for 17 on Sunday 🙂

  12. what a great post! i just started reading because i’m in love with colorado and want to move out after i graduate this spring. now i’ll be reading because of your great content! thanks to this post, i can actually picture myself doing a 20-mile training run and taking the first marathon leap! thanks 🙂

  13. DANG-you go girl. I tried to like running several times in my life. I even had someone coach me.
    I just don’t like it!
    But, I am in awe of those who can do it for long distances. Just incredible 🙂

  14. Awesome! Good for you. You take care of your body and it repays you well.

    So…tomorrow I’m racing the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half, then this week tapering just a bit for my big race next weekend. Enjoy a gorgeous CO weekend…maybe you guys should come down to Buena Vista next weekend…

  15. Elizabeth

    That photo makes me think that you’re running through a postcard. Gorgeous.

    And very nicely done, of course. I knew you’d have your ego back in no time. 🙂

  16. I really like how you write your training recaps and how you mentally break up the miles. And great to know what fuel works and again, I think it’s great that your boyfriend bikes along with you! 20 miles is incredible!

  17. great job on 20 miles! so glad to hear your body is cooperating with all the changes!

    also, I will probably never stop being jealous of your gorgeous mountain scenery.

  18. Hi… I’m a new follower.

    Congrats on the 20 miler. I’m training for my first marathon in December, and I’m mortified of the 20-mile training… somehow I always find it in me on race day, but motivation on training days is harder. I like the segment idea. Awesome job!

  19. Good for you lady!! That is definitely no easy feat 🙂 I admire your ability to put a positive spin on your training plan–loving what your body can do instead of self imposed tasks that make you dread the process. Awesome.

  20. Nice job, Heather! I like that you broke up the run into segments. I’ve never tackled a long run that way. It sounds genius.

    I have to ask – when you take walk breaks on your run, do you stop your Garmin? If I’m on a long run, I always stop my Garmin during walk breaks so that the crappy splits don’t factor in. I kinda feel like that’s cheating, but then I justify by telling myself that it’s alright since I’m not running.

    Katie from Run Little Legs!

    • heatherdc

      Nope! The only time it stops is when I stop moving (i.e. “auto pause” is set to that). 🙂 It does make for some slower splits, but I figure I’m still moving and covering the distance, so it should be factored in. Just my opinion though, your run is your own!

  21. Wow! 20 miles is such an accomplishment! I like the mentality of saying “I get to run __ miles today”. Sometimes I just don’t want to run but that’s a good way of thinking of things.

  22. Great job on the run! I am training for a marathon and ran 14 miles today–the longest distance I’ve ever run! I’ll be doing 20 in a few weeks. Have fun at HLS 🙂

  23. J

    I tried those Cran-apple chomps and they tasted pretty good! Great job on the 20 miler! I like breaking runs into parts as well, really does make it easier mentally!

  24. sounds like a great run! those last couple of miles are always the hardest, but once you push through them you feel like a million bucks!
    ps i love your blog–genius title!

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