I've had a string of bad long runs lately - I tried for 17 twice and missed it both times, and I think I missed another run in there somewhere, too. I've done an 11 and a 12 miler, but my last truly long run was June 25 when I did 15.5 miles. That's a month ago!
Today I was supposed to do 19 and I was a little nervous about it given how my last long runs have gone (or ended) and considering I slept terribly last night and ate non-running-friendly food yesterday (doughnut, tons of car munching, cheese, cheese curds... barely any veggies save at breakfast). The couple we stayed with in Iowa this past weekend are training for an October marathon, so running ended up being a conversation topic quite a few times. Aaron is a cross country and track coach and suggested that the reason my last marathon went so poorly is because I started out too fast, causing me to bonk. He said he didn't think it was the humidity that killed my race, but the way I ran.
This morning I decided to take Aaron's advice and start out slow, deliberately holding myself back a little bit so that my pace was really nice and easy. I ran that way for the first hour, then gradually let myself settle into whatever pace I wanted, which ended up being a little quicker. What a difference. I ran 19.5 miles at a 9:28 pace (that includes 5 fuel breaks for water/raisins) and felt great the whole time. I didn't feel like I was fighting myself to run, or trying to make myself do it... I just was running, easy and comfortably. I do think the weather helped (it was cooler this morning and cloudy) but I think the main thing was that easy starting pace. Last year I wanted to cut time from my half marathon, so I had really been focusing on speed and pace and getting faster. And it worked. This year I'm wanting to focus more on distance and mileage, but I've been running as if I were still going for speed. I think this new "start slow, end strong" strategy is going to be key for me!
I also tried new fuel this run - raisins. I put about 1/2 cup in a ziploc and stuck them in my pocket. I munched a chunk at 1:20 and again at 2:15 and they really held me over! I probably ate 1/4-1/3 cup over the course of my run. I definitely think raisins are going to be my go-to mid-run fuel. Plus, they taste way better than Gu.
What's your running strategy? Are you running for speed right now? Distance? Just for fun?