Thursday, June 9, 2016

It's the little things that matter

I just went out this past weekend to complete my 15th straight 20 mile weekend run.  Nothing more, nothing less.  In fact, on Thursday night I had run 12 miles, including a set of 7 hard quarter mile efforts that left my legs feeling sore the next day.  At least when I woke up my legs weren’t sore, although they were certainly carrying some fatigue.  That’s the idea, however, to find different ways to simulate how my legs and body will feel when I get off the bike at my next Ironman.  Over the past fifteen weeks, this has included a multitude of approaches, including doing a hard 100 mile bike the day before my run, or running in the oppressive heat and humidity of Florida after a few fifteen hour work days.  This run already had it’s stress component, but I had added another.  After warming up with a fairly typical 5 mile effort, I jumped into a half marathon.  I was just planning to use it for the water stops and just enjoy the day, but there’s always something about a race that gets into ones head.  I knew the course included some dirt trails, but what I didn’t know was that most of those trails were fairly technical single track that required both close attention and care in order to avoid falling (one of my favorite habits historically).  I also didn’t quite appreciate the fact that there would be over 1500 feet of climbing on the course, packed into the middle 7-8 trail miles.  Furthermore, the many of the technical downhill sections would not allow me to gain back time or speed, but would slow me down.  Not that knowing this would have mattered.  After 15 weeks of 20 mile runs every weekend, I don’t really think about obstacles any more, I just go out and run.  That was the point of this endeavor in the first place!  And, so, the “race” began.  I actually started a little faster than I should have, running into someone I knew from a previous race (or, rather, they knew me).  When I realized that I was running too fast, I let them go ahead (they would finish in 14th place, 20 minutes ahead of me), and got into my rhythm on the first four miles of roads.  A number of people passed me during these miles, and then we hit the trails and, immediately, the hills.  What I didn’t think about, but recognize now, was that I almost immediately started attacking the climbs.  Not too hard, but hard enough.  A few people still managed to pass me, but I stayed in a comfortable rhythm and effort.  I only tripped twice, both times catching myself from an injurious fall.  I concentrated intently on my footing.  It was on the way to the turnaround point of the course, mile 8 of the race, mile 13 of my day, that I saw some of the people who had passed me earlier, that I would ultimately catch on my way to the finish.  Fortunately, the technical trails were almost over by around mile 8-9 of the race.  I had been passed repeatedly by this one guy on every downhill, which he would just “bomb,” but I would pass him back on the uphill portions.  I put a lot of space between me and him on the last long uphill, and even warded him off on the fire road on the way back down, passing others while feeling very comfortable running downhill, again, at about 15 miles into my day, which was encouraging.  There was one last very technical downhill section where I had to slow down and the downhill guy caught me just before we hit the roads for the last 2 1/2 miles.  We decided to run together, but he couldn't hang with me as I think I laid down a 7:30 mile.  My brain was in race mode as I could see a couple of guys who had passed me much earlier in the race.  I kept gaining on them as we reached the last half mile.  With a little more than a quarter mile to go, I made the pass.  Male's being who we are, they picked it up and passed me back.  I knew that the finish included a sharp right turn and an a 150 yard ramp uphill.  The moment we made the turn, I hit the afterburners.  They both tried to stay with me, but it wasn’t even close.  By the time I hit the finish line, I was a good 10-20 yards ahead of them.  I finished strong 18 miles into my long run.  I ended the day jogging the 2 miles back to my car and getting an Aroha drink at my kid’s restaurant!  I had only subsisted on water for my entire 20 mile run, which is something else I've been working on.  It's hard to believe that I only have five more weeks of 20 mile runs to go to reach my 20 miles for 20 weeks goal.  What's remarkable to me is how my brain no longer even notices that I'm doing a 20 mile run.  I don't notice the hills, and I don't notice any obstacles.  I just go out and get it done.

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