I ran my long run of 11 miles today. I felt like this was a make or break run; if I did well it meant the half marathon next month would go well, and if I did poorly, then maybe I shouldn't be thinking of running the half. So I did everything I could think of to give me an advantage. I had a good dinner, went to bed early, and got up an hour early in order to eat breakfast before I headed out the door. And the run was great! My pace was slower than I would like to see, hovering right at the 12 minute mile pace, but that's ok according to my McMillan calculations, it's just on the slow side of ok.
I tried something different for this run. I've been reading a lot lately about visualization and how it can help with long runs. So I approached this run exactly as I would if I were in a race. Whenever I thought I wanted to stop or take a walk break, I visualized myself running the half. I pictured myself on the course with other runners around me, thought about how the course felt under my feet (kind of crunchy-it's a lot of packed gravel), thought about how you can smell the strawberry fields, and how good the fog felt on my bare arms and legs. And I reminded myself that if I were in the race right now, I certainly wouldn't take a break at that point. It did seem to help, we'll see if it works next week for my 12 miler.
I've noticed the weirdest thing that happens on a lot of my long runs. Somewhere around mile 8 I seem to catch a second wind and it gets easier. I actually opened up my stride and speeded up a bit and it felt good. It doesn't last long, maybe a mile or so and I'm back to my customary slug pace. I'm thinking this might be the point that I gain a little ground during a race; maybe I can work on extending that distance a little each time it happens.