One of the most frustrating things about running is that you essentially have no control over how a run is going to go. I mean, sure... there are things you can do in preparation of a run to try to set yourself up for success. You can properly rest and fuel your body, you can do the training, you can stay on pace. But sometimes... no matter how much of that stuff you do, you can still have a shitty, shitty run. It's just the way it goes. And as sick and twisted as it sounds... I think that's one of the things I love most about running. There's a thin, fine line between an awesome run and an awful one. And everytime you lace up your shoes, you're taking a gamble on which one it's going to be.
That brings me to my long run on Sunday morning. I wasn't sure what to expect. I had a rough race the day before, my legs were dead tired during the last few miles of the race and I expected they'd be even more tired after the race. My previous long runs since the double marathons haven't been stellar. I've had to take lots of walk breaks and dealt with low energy and some stomach issues on some of those runs. And this time around... neither Matt nor Melanie were going to be there to pull me through. In fact, I didn't know anyone who was running this training run.
I didn't eat my regular pre-long run meal of pizza. I didn't get too much sleep the night before in part because of a late night drunken phone call from an old friend. My alarm actually went off (at 4:45am) while we were on the phone. I quickly got dressed and ready and headed out the door at 5:30.
Normally, I probably would have skipped this long run. I mean, I'm not really at a point in the training schedule for the Monkey Marathon that I needed a 21 miler. But, this is my favorite of all the Nashville Strider supported training runs: The Kroger to Kroger 21 miler. Logistically it's a pain in the ass, because you start the training run at a grocery store in Franklin, TN and you run 21 miles north to a grocery store in Belle Meade, TN. So, you've got to hitch a ride with other runners or get someone to pick you up afterwards, etc. Logistics aside... this run is amazing. Half of it winds through gorgeous country roads around horse farms and rolling hills and the other half takes you through Percy Warner Park and along the massive mansions on Belle Meade Blvd. For whatever reason, everytime I've ran this run, the weather has been perfect. Cool and crisp. It's magical and I love it. There was no way I was going to miss this training run. Even if I didn't need it.
We started out in the dark at 6am. I found my pace and trotted along behind a pack of runners until the sun came up. Once it did, I just took in the beautiful scenery. The fog lifting off the dewy meadows... the cows peeping over the fences to see what this group of crazy people were doing. It's Middle Tennessee at it's best. On foot, over rolling hills in the country, with only the sounds of the birds chirping, and your breath and footfalls to keep you company.
Along the way, a fella did catch up with me and we chatted on and off briefly through the run. He'd stop and walk for a good bit and then catch up with me for a mile or two. It was the perfect mix of company and solitude.
Throughout the run, my goal was to not walk at all. I wanted to shake myself of that bad habit and I'm happy to report, that I did! I ran the entire time (with the exception of stopping at the water stops along the way) and maintained a very consistent 10 minute mile pace.
It was easy. I didn't have to push myself, my legs felt great and it was the fastest long run I've ran since the spring. If this had been a marathon and not a training run, I could have easily PRed that day. I ended up running the 21 miles in 3:30. The exact time I ran it back in the spring, when I was in peak running condition.
The only problem? I was kind of sad afterwards thinking about how I don't have a race soon. Usually, this particular long run is the last long run before a marathon. And this time... it was just more of a "for fun" run. Special shout-out thanks to my friend Sara who did me a solid and picked me up after the run to take me to breakfast and then back to my car. I promised her a pic on the blog for it, but sadly... we forgot to snap one. Next time, Sara. Next time.
In other news... Monday morning, still riding the post long run high, I signed up for the Rocket City Marathon!