Yesterday, three weeks and a day before the marathon I'm signed to run, I decided to explore a bit. A week ago I ran a solid 19.5 miler on the roads, my longest long training run in quite some time. Two weeks ago I ran a half marathon. So the question yesterday for me was, do I need to get another long run in before the LA Marathon on March 9th, or is it too late in the game for that. Would a 20 miler three weeks before marathon day prove detrimental?
I figured sure, why not. I've run plenty of marathons and have generally run my final long run in the 3 to 4 week time frame prior to the race. But since my training has been generally on the light side, I hedged my bets today and decided to try a trail, which would be a lot easier on my body.
The Arroyo Conejo Trail trailhead in Newbury Park is about four miles from my house. I ran to it with a bottle of water in one hand and a camera in the other. I'd never run this trail before. It was nicely maintained but, not having reviewed a map of the trail, I didn't know where it ended or much about it.
I ran at a nice easy pace and discovered this particular trail has not one, not two, but five stream crossings. I'm not a big fan of stream crossings because you have to slow down and usually stop to navigate how to get over them without getting your shoes soaked. I don't like running with shoes doused in water because I don't blisters on my feet. But nonetheless, they are kind of cool to do every now and then.
The first two crossings have little wood bridges on them that make it easy to get across. The next three took more effort as there were no little wood bridges...just strategically placed rocks. Not overly difficult or anything, but when you're not wearing hiking books...just lightweight, road-type training shoes, it's a bit more challenging. I stopped my watch each time I went over a crossing as I didn't want to include the rock navigation time in my training run.
It was either the 3rd or 4th crossing that for me was the most challenging. I stepped on a branch that I thought was solid, then my right foot dropped all-in to the water. Dammit. I didn't want that. So while navigating my right foot out of the water, my left foot slipped in too. Arrghh. Oh well. I mentally regrouped and found my way across the stream and thought positive thoughts, like, hey that cold water feels pretty good on my feet.
Soon enough I was at the Hill Canyon Wastewater Treatment Plant "Wetlands" - probably not something one would want to jump into for a swim. Slightly stinky around there (as one may expect, though not overpowering. I ran a path around the Wetlands and found myself on trails taking me past Wildwood Park on the right to the Western Plateau section of Thousand Oaks. I figured I would run about an hour and 20 minutes, then loop around through Wildwood Park, for a total time of about 2 hours, 40 minutes.
But I got sidetracked with the numerous trails back there, a veritable runners/cyclists playground. I ran past a group of Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency volunteers working on some trails and made it to a fire road overlooking the Conejo Grade. I stopped several times to take pictures, making sure to stop the timer on my watch each time I stopped.
I would have loved to continue running down the fire road towards the 101 to explore, but had a sparse amount of water in my bottle and was past the 1:20 mark of my run, so I turned back. My navigational skills while running are not very good. So after about 20 wrong turns and an extra 30 minutes of trail running, I decided I should find my way back to the trail that took me there.
Thankfully it was only about 70 degrees (tough winter) as I made it back to the stream crossings. My water was gone and I was getting a bit tired. The crossings were a lot easier for me going back down and my shoes and socks were pretty dried out at this point, as was my water bottle.
I made it to the trailhead at Rancho Conejo Playfields about 2 hours, 45 minutes into my run, with about 4 miles to go. I stopped at the park to refill my water bottle and take in a pack of GU. That was only my 2nd pack of GU of the day; the first one was before my run...basically my breakfast. The GU and water seemed to give me a bit of a second wind as I pushed my way home in a cumulative elapsed running time of 3 hours, 17 minutes.
This may actually have been my longest training run ever in terms of elapsed time. Three hours, 17 minutes at my typical long run training pace would be about a 25 to 26 mile run. But given a lot of my miles were on trails, with lots of stop and go, I'm going to credit myself with a 22 mile run, or only a 9 minute average pace.
Today, Sunday, I'm just slightly sore, but not too much. Time to eat some real food!