I think I've come to a conclusion about me + marathon training: the 16-miler in my 16-18-20 cycle is cursed. And I am OK with that. Evidence:
Detroit Marathon, 2009: shooting pain from an ITB injury, cut the 16-miler short and limped back to my car frustrated, defeated, sad (read that anti-pep talk here). I repeated the 16-miler the following week and went on to a huge personal victory with the race (here).
Lewis & Clark Marathon, 2010: The 16-miler was a total disaster. I didn't hydrate properly and waited an hour too long in too hot weather to start the run. The 18-miler the following week went really well and I went on to PR the race by over 27 minutes. (now I'm just bragging)
Cleveland Marathon, 2011: Last weekend's 16-miler didn't go badly, it didn't go at all. Thank you all for the comments. You made me feel so much better about it, and convinced me to be easier on myself. I still wasn't convinced that I could spread my 13.1 mile success from Martian into 26.2. My workouts went well this week, but I was still apprehensive. So when I started out today's 18-miler, I wasn't at all sure how it was going to go. Here's how it went:
Mile 1--9:34 (whoa lady, slow down! You know from experience not to run long runs at race pace! What are you doing?!?)
Mile 2--9:40 (well, this does feel easy, but cool it, lady. Cool it.)
Mile 3--9:55 (ok, slow-down enforced. But I wanna go fast.)
Mile 4--9:36 (I might pay for this later)
Mile 5--9:54 (now KEEP IT HERE)
Mile 6 & .3 (end of first loop)--9:45 pace
Second loop: 9:38, 9:36, 9:37, 9:31, 9:35, 9:28.
Holy consistency, Batman! By this time (total, 12.6 miles), I'd decided that the pace was fine and I probably wasn't going to pay for it. But I've never pulled a pace like this at this distance. I was sort of in disbelief!
Third loop: 9:31, 9:28, 9:33, 9:23, 9:31.
I felt awesome. AWESOME. I felt as fresh at mile 16.5 as I had at mile 2.
I don't want to get cocky here. Believe me, I'm still terrified/excited/terrified about race day. But I'm really pleased with today's run, and I got a little confidence back. One more (very) long run to go--20 miles on deck for next weekend.