So I had two tests for myself that would be a good indication on how well I was responding to endurance running and whether I was improving at all. The first I already passed, which was to run the day after the marathon and not feel sore doing so. The second was to run a long run within a week after running a marathon.
So I decided to do test myself by running a half marathon (or close enough at least as a shortcut I took decreased my run by .4 of a mile), one that I have wanted to do for a while but haven't been able to because of some race or other that prevented my from this test, besides the fact that I knew I couldn't before. I would park at the bottom of the hill my parents live on and run to their house, which was about 6.5 miles away. The trick here was that there is about 947 feet of elevation gain for the whole run, most of which was in the first half going to my parent's house.
Starting out I felt extremely strong. My legs were solid and I knew today would be a good run. Almost immediately I started on a 1/2 mile of flats and then went straight into a steep hill, which lead into some more not as steep hills. This continued on all the way to their house with only two respites: one a downhill section, which of course meant I had to go back up, and two a flat section. So I knew getting to their house would be a little slower. It ended up taking 59:54 which was a 9:26 pace. Not bad at all and I wasn't feeling any ill effects from the marathon the Sunday before.
So I rested for about a half hour and talked to my parents for a while before refilling the water and heading back out. In the beginning it was tough, even though it was all downhill, because of how cold it was, which caused my sweaty shirt and cooled down body to become very cold, and because I filled my water bottle up with ice water and had to carry it, thus making my hand very cold. Anyway, about a half mile later I finally warmed up again and was flying down the hill, onto the flats, and then to the first minny hill, which I walked. I started feeling a little tired at this point because I was about 9 miles in and 1 1/2 hours of running and I hadn't eaten anything more than a doughnut and a small glass of OJ since 7 AM (and it was 11:45 AM).
To this point I was running around 8 minute miles down the hills, so I was still taking it a little slow. But then I hit the one massive hill that was on the way back and slowed considerably. This hill took me a little over 11 minutes to complete the mile, but it was another victory. Last year before the SF marathon I attempted to run this hill. I went into it thinking I would conquer it and start getting into shape. I didn't even get half way up it, and at that very slow, before I stopped and sat on a bench to rest my aching legs and overtaxed lungs. I turned around and didn't run again, other than a mile or two on the treadmill, because of how out of shape I was. Of course it was about 90 degrees and I had zero training before that run, but the mind is hard thing to fool sometimes. Anyway, this time I attacked it and kept at it, and this isn't some small hill. About 300 feet elevation gain in less than a half a mile.
Once to the top it was a race to my car to see how much I could better the second half of the run. Eventually I came in at 1:55, or a tad over five minutes faster than the first half. My pace for the 12.7 miles was 9:06 a mile.
I think I passed this test with flying colors and now feel very secure in how well my body handles the endurance runs and the hard pounding on the legs. And with 3 marathons and 1 ultramarathon under my belt I know I can go the distance. Now all I can do is work on improving my speed, which will be a test in and of itself.
No goals with this one, though, and no personal tests. This one is simply: run faster!