Nailing the long run

Hurricane Irene tried to make my run miserable today, but I was having none of it. I'm far enough inland to not get impacted by heavy rain or wind, but the humidity she's brought with it and slapped on most of Virginia was brutal this morning.

Sorry, but the weather wasn't winning today.

I headed to Lynchburg for my 18 miler for a change of scenery -- the plan was to run about 6 miles by myself, meet my friend Scott I met via Daily Mile a few months ago for about 7 miles, then finish the run off by myself.

What I didn't anticipate was how dark it was just before 6 a.m. -- I was a bit scared to park where I planned on parking and it was too dark to get on Percival's Island for about 30 minutes.

So I parked near the downtown market where people were setting up for their busy morning, ran about a mile on the streets then headed down to my planned run along the bike path on the island.

The first 7 miles by myself were weird. I started intentionally slow -- a 9:52 first mile -- but gradually picked it up. I had that feeling of a good run on my hands. When I met Scott I was already drenched; the humidity was nuts. Where was Irene's breeze?

Fortunately as Scott and I took off, we caught a few breaks with the wind. Our conversation was good and all over the place, but we had a nice pace throughout. I was not feeling tired at all.

When we separated, I still had about 3 miles to go. With no music like the first third of the run and no one to talk to, it was all about focusing on my breathing, my form and finishing the run strong.

I had no idea what my overall pace was. I knew that I set out with a goal of a 9-minute mile pace today, and in my head the only thing I could figure out was 162 minutes -- 2 hours, 42 minutes. (I did the math as 9 times 9, then doubled it.) I looked at my watch with about a mile and a half to go and realized I could probably walk and hit that mark.

Besides a few glances at my watch after the first mile, I had no idea what I was doing. It turns out I was having the fastest long run beyond a half marathon that I've ever had and a negative split that I couldn't even imagine.

My first half splits were: 9:52, 9:18, 9:12, 8:51, 8:51, 9:11, 9:22, 9:08 and 8:14 for a total of 1:21:59.

My second half splits were: 8:12, 8:36, 8:19, 8:27, 8:09, 8:20, 8:26, 8:39, 8:29 for a total of 1:15:37.

Really? A 6-minute difference? An 8:45 pace overall?

It's such a different way of training for me, but I can't help but like the feeling of a negative split. While today was a bit flatter than usual, I was intentional about doing something different and doing it faster.

The weather didn't win and my mind didn't win. It may have been the best long run I've ever had, but my focus is what lies ahead for the next 7 weeks before the Baltimore Marathon. My immediate focus is on a short recovery run tomorrow and a recovery week next week to give myself a break.

And then ... my first 20 miler. After today, it's a run I can't wait to get to.