Monday, July 30, 2012

New Territory

The rain fell easy. More like a thin veil of fog. I could only hear the steady pit-pat rhythm of my shoes on the wet pavement. The stoplight to my neighborhood came into view as I rounded the soft turn. The odometer in my head continued to move farther past 400 and closer and closer to 70 with every step. I allowed myself a smile. It was going to happen. I turned into the neighborhood and my socks squished in those wet ASICS that had carried me so many miles over the last seven weeks. My legs turned over faster as I strode up the final hill. Then I stopped. I emptied the last few sips of water into my mouth and let the mist fall around me. I had eclipsed 400 miles on my morning run the day before. But this was the accomplishment I truly celebrated, the one I really keyed in on: a 70.5 mile week. The most mileage I’d ever covered in a week’s time.

That was more than a week ago. I deemed last week a “recovery” week since the mileage had climbed steadily since June 1. What the hell I thought I’ll just run 40 miles. But I slogged through last week’s mileage as though it were a 70 mile week all over again, forgetting just how crappy a recovery week can feel when you scale back the mileage and your body takes the time to mend itself and knit those torn muscles back together.

In those darker moments when the sun seemed to not only beat down on me but beat me up, I channeled my thoughts inward and relived the moments that took me over 400+ miles. To my surprise and pleasure, I found whole pieces of those recovery miles lost to those other memories, and a surge of adrenaline to carry me the rest of the way.

I thought about the circuit workout I did on the track when the temperature crept near triple digits for the first time. How I considered running my 800s on the shady 100m curve of the track to avoid the sun.

I thought about the double loop of Burke Lake that sent my confidence soaring, and the struggle the next day to complete a different double loop.

During that recovery week I missed my 5K morning miles and the way it helped me hop out of bed in the morning yet sleepwalk through the first half and drop the pace when the sun would peer over the trees.

I thought of the weeks that ended in the sixties and how the butterflies fluttered in my stomach for that long run, wondering just how I could put together 14 miles in one stretch, only to have the pace flow easily in 6:30s and 6:40s and renew my confidence for the upcoming week.

I thought of the confident 18:01 5K I ran on Independence Day after seven miles that morning and a 14 mile day the day before.

I thought of the empty bags of quinoa, having to buy two loaves of bread each week, and the odd cravings for chocolate milkshakes and fried chicken.

I thought of the way my eyes darted to friends’ plates of food had I finished before them, wondering if they “were going to finish that.”

I remembered the spring in my step that came on Friday evenings when my legs seemed to relish the rest of not having to run for once and the excess energy come Sunday night after *gasp* a full day off.

After that final Saturday run that put me over 70 miles, I didn’t feel that much different. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting. But I suppose like many running accomplishments, we celebrate them on the road alone or as we cross the imaginary finish line that concludes our runs. There was no one to greet me at the circle to high five. No tape to break or medal to hang around my neck. I only had the knowledge that I had done it and had become all the stronger for it.

Perhaps it’s because I know this is only a milestone on the way to the ultimate goal, where there will hopefully be a shiny PR to go along with that finish line and medal. Until then, the journey up the mountain continues….

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