Even in a 19-mile run, it's the little things that make running a joy instead of a chore.
This morning, it was when the alarm went off less than 6 hours after I got into bed, and yet my body was ready to go. It was the beautiful weather and the unknown course I'd plotted. It was each hill that I conquered. It was my pace, though slower than last week's, still faster than my goal for the day. It was the hundreds (no exaggeration) of other runners who were out this morning, many of whom took moments to share a smile or wave.
But most importantly, it was remembering to put band-aids over my nipples to prevent chafing. Silly? Of course. Necessary? Absolutely.
I got home late last night, but I still managed to get everything organized for this morning's run before I got into bed. Despite the late hour, it's always better to have my equipment laid out in order to decrease the amount of thought that I have to put into anything at that hour of the morning. While I would like to be out the door before 6 am, I knew that simply wasn't going to happen, so I let it slide half an hour before I made it out the door.
The sun is rising earlier and earlier, and I was actually almost in full light by the time I started running. I decided to run without music again, since I won't have any 6 weeks from today. Instead, I figured I'd keep track of my miles with my spiffy new ($10 at Target) watch. Miles one, two, and three were all too fast, despite going uphill on the third. Finally at mile four I got myself under control, and I just hoped it wouldn't reflect too poorly on my overall performance.
The course I'd planned out for today had several sustained hills, some much sharper than others, in an effort to best reflect the course in Seattle. Of course, nothing actually prepares you for race-day hills, and the RNR course has some doozies, but at least this way I know I can push them late in the race. And push them I did. The one thing I really focused on today, as far as improving my performance, was maintaining effort up hills. That didn't mean that I ran harder, or even at the same speed, but I put the same effort into hill work that I put into flat ground, which makes me slower up the hills, but keeps me on an even keel for the whole workout, which is very important.
By mile 7 I was in completely unfamiliar territory, something I try to do with my long runs. Looking at the new neighborhoods makes those parts of the run more interesting, and it gets my brain in a place where it's exciting to run unknown roads. Since I won't be able to do much course recon for June, I figure this is the best mindset in which to get myself.
I would end up stopping twice to refuel. Yesterday, I realized that I was out of my energy gels, and since payday comes next week, I was out of luck for today. So, I decided to take along a protein bar and just eat half of that at my two fuel stops. This was not the best plan. They're difficult to eat quickly, and I ended up stopping for several minutes. Of course, it doesn't matter in the long run, but I want to run the whole distance as close as I can to non-stop whenever possible. Still, given that these were really my only two stops of any significance, I'm not worried about it.
In fact, in the last 4.5 miles (after stop number 2), I began to think about potential spots to stop and rest on the rest of the course. As I approached the first one, with 4 miles to go, I made a decision not to stop, and instead to keep pushing myself forward. That one decision made it easier and easier to make that decision for the rest of the run. Through three more, "I can stop for a second" moments, each time I took a sip from the CamelPak and kept right on moving. As I crested the last hill, I smiled, knowing what I had just conquered, especially only three weeks off of injury. By forcing myself to slow down, I've actually increased my overall speed, as well as the likelihood of a PR in Seattle.
When I got home, my legs told me just what they thought of me, and I can't repeat it here, because my mother reads this blog. The good news is that tomorrow is a cross-training day, which I will spend doing a Walkathon to benefit a local shelter. As for today, well, today I just get to rest. It's a day off rehearsal before we start 6-hour-a-night rehearsals through opening on Friday, so I'll be catching up on whatever it is I need to catch today, eating just as much food as I want, and laying on the couch with my puppy.
It's always the little things.
67 Degrees / Clear, Sunny
2 Hours, 29 Minutes, 37 Seconds