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….

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Closing in on 400

I was suddenly in the street and moving with purpose. Judging by the light reflecting off the city’s skyscrapers, it must have been late morning, bordering on noon. I dodged oncoming pedestrians as we made our way in opposite directions through the crosswalk. Something caught my eye down the side street to my left. When I looked over, I saw, wait…could it be?

“Ryan.” A voice called out to see if he’d look up.
“Ryan!” this time louder. He did look up this time, as he pulled a fresh pair of blue Oakleys from a plastic shopping bag and adjusted them on his face. Shaggy bleach blonde hair, almost yellow, stuck out in all directions around the earpieces.

“Yes, it’s Ryan Hall,” his wife Sara called out as she pushed her way through the crowd converging on her husband, as if to say, “I’ll wait for you on the other side.”

He started handing out autographed postcards that had a long desert road reaching back into infinity and the caption: “Do what you love” on some and “Never give up” on others.

I fumbled in my pockets for my iPhone to snap a picture then cursed myself, pursing my lips and realizing, of all times, that I’d forgotten my phone.

As Ryan neared me, he looked down at his watch that had started beeping. “Sorry, guys,” he said. “Gotta jet.” But as he disappeared, the beeping got louder rather than softer. My shoulders dropped. “Gotta jet, indeed,” I said aloud.

My eyes snapped open. The dawn began to filter into our room, about the time I usually think that I have another merciful hour to sleep. But not this morning. I gently shook my wife to make sure she too got out of bed.

I stumbled to the dresser and pulled on my Brooks shorties, brushed my teeth, and willed my legs to loosen up as I Frankensteined down the stairs. I took my water bottle from the freezer, and in no less than seven minutes since Ryan Hall’s watch beeped in my dream, I was out the door to tackle a 9.2 mile loop before work.

If all goes according to plan, my 400 miles between June 1 and July 31 is less than 24 hours away. To put it simply, it’s been a lot of running. So much so apparently, it has infiltrated my dreams.

It’s funny. I normally reserve the afternoons for my longer runs, opting for what feels like a blissfully short 5K to start the morning of which I sleepwalk through half of to “feel the day.” But yesterday, the mercury rose to 98 degrees and coupled with the humidity, it pushed the “feels like” temp well over 100. To get my p.m. mileage in for the day, I had 10.8 miles on the agenda with strides and drills at the end making it 11.1 for the afternoon. Dedicated? Maybe. Stupid. Most certainly. I commanded myself to keep the pace light and easy as I circled my 5.4 mile loop twice, giving myself the option to bail if things got too hot.

I finished the run ok but the last two miles left me lightheaded and standing under a cold shower when I returned home. The heat advisory for today had already been issued, so I slugged water bottle after water bottle, got to bed early, and set the alarm for 5:30 to *gulp* get those nine miles in before it got unbearable.

After falling immediately asleep, I awoke several times thinking I had to get up and get moving, only to realize that the room was still dark. I rolled over. I slept on my back. I tucked a pillow between my knees. I tried to focus on the hum of the fan. But the harder I tried to fall asleep, the more awake I became.

You see, when I take on longer runs in the morning, I get nervous, worried that I won’t have enough to complete the run or take too long that it makes me late for work. It’s not until a mile or so into the run that I let myself relax and realize that I’m out there, doing it, and I’m going to finish it.

So, after laying awake for so many hours or minutes, I’m still not sure, that must be why Ryan Hall seemed so real walking toward to me. While I puttered around the house, the dream stayed with me, and I thought, Ryan Hall waking me up for a run in the morning has to be a pretty good omen.

Gotta jet.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Limit

I remember slowing to a trot after a logy eight miler, the third in as many days. I had racked up 24 miles for the week at that point and the thought of sweating through another eight miles in 24 hours hit me all at once. I stopped walking back to my house for a second and went hands to knees. Put simply, I was exhausted.

That was June 6, meaning just day 6 of base building. Three days earlier, I’d run the North Face Endurance Half Marathon, and while I would normally take a day off following a race like that, I figured an easy “recovery” jog couldn’t hurt. Plus, I didn’t want to start taking days off already and fall behind on the mileage.

That’s how I found myself bent over at the waist. Tired. Sore. Sweat running into my eyes. And the overwhelming desire to curl up right there and go to bed.

There’s a scene in Once a Runner that describes this feeling pretty well. Cassidy narrates what it’s like for someone to train with famed Olympian Bruce Denton, someone looking for "The Secret.” The pace is always moderate. If someone picks it up, that’s where it stays. The days "go well enough, but [you] notice something peculiar. There was no let-up....[and your] outlook began to darken. For one thing, [you were] getting very tired. No particular day wore [you] out, but the accumulation of steady mileage began to take its toll. [You] never quite recovered fully between workouts and soon found [yourself] walking around in a more or less constant state of fatigue."

This was the part of base building I’d forgotten about. I’ve lived in shades of exhaustion since June 1. Some days, I wake up alert only to have the tiredness seep in during the afternoon. Other days, I have a sudden burst of energy, the pace drops, and my confidence soars.

I knew though, that if I could make it through that week, if I could just make it through my long run on Saturday, I could get to that recovery day and tackle the next week. And I did. I went in and out of sleep poolside, then grabbed 11 hours of sleep Saturday night. When I didn’t lace up on Sunday, I almost felt giddy with energy as my legs knit themselves back together.

Then, as the days and weeks wore on, I found that the tiredness relaxed some. The soreness evaporated. And I woke up refreshed in the morning, groggy maybe, but with a zip in my legs. I remembered this feeling, but I didn’t have it last year until late July.

Last year, I thought I’d found the limit. Now, it was time to see what I could really do. My original mileage plan had been to do 40-50-50-40 for June and then ratchet things up to 50-60-60-50 as I did last year. Instead, I added in an extra day of running and took the mileage up to 50 right away. When I clicked stop on my watch last Saturday, the last day of June, I forced a smile through the humidity induced fog that clouded my head. That capped off a 220.3 mile month. Just 179.7 miles from my goal of 400, from Base Camp and four weeks to get there.

But while I continue to wail away on my quads and build the foundation, the sword, I started thinking about just how far I could take this. My thoughts drifted to running as they often do during work last week. I pulled out a post-it, stricken by the sudden urge to do some math…a rarity for this writer.

I jotted down 60, 65, 70. And went to work breaking each of those numbers down into six days worth of running. I’ve never run more than 63 miles in a week before but I’m flirting with the limit or what Adam Goucher would call “The Edge.”

And it’s time for the journey to continue on….
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...