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Monday, September 5, 2011

All A Blur

If only marathons were run in flat 2.12-mile laps.

This weekend was an incredible adventure. When last I left this blog, I had just run, one day early, a rather exceptional 9 miles. From there, it was a drive down to South Bend, where we had dinner and drinks with an incredible number of friends before heading off to more drinks with more friends. Saturday morning came far too quickly, and it was out into the hottest day of South Bend's year (because why stop now?) to await a football game. In the meantime, I spent too many hours in the sun, and was only too happy to see some clouds rolling in.

If I only knew.

You see, the clouds that were providing such incredibly needed shade were more than they seemed. As the announcer had mentioned at the start of the game, the National Weather Service was tracking a storm on its way to "the area," and as the first half came to a close, they announced that the band would not be taking the field. In fact, everyone had to get out of the stadium. Seriously. They evacuated.

Now, this was likely an overreaction based on recent events. The death of Declan Sullivan, a Notre Dame student who was on a scissor lift that collapsed in high winds at a football practice last year, no doubt had some bearing the school's decision. And I am sure that the recent stage collapse in Indianapolis was on the mind of the decision-maker as well. Seeing that the sky didn't look quite as threatening as they were saying, we got some shelter under a tent and continued the party. After some time, we headed back into the stadium, only to be evacuated again with 4:30 left in the game.

As it happened, the Irish were losing this game in rather embarrassing fashion, so when they sent us out for the second time, we decided that six hours was enough time to spend awaiting the end of a football game. We headed to shelter and caught a ride from friends visiting other friends, where we ended our evening with a ride to the airport.

After that, Sunday brought a quick breakfast, a ride back to Chicago and two flights, followed by pizza and movies a mere three hours from home.

You'll notice that conspicuously missing from all of this craziness is any mention of a run, and I really did not expect one to happen. I intentionally moved my rest day to Saturday, and I knew I had the buffer of a "cross-training" day on Monday. Assuming (without much imagination) that I would be out with friends later than was reasonable, I didn't see much chance of getting a 19-mile trudge in while up in the Bend. Sadly, this meant that I would be returning to Texas weather to do my long run, which is disappointing, but still preferable to getting up early while among college friends.

And so the run came this morning. Without my water pack, I knew that I had to have a good plan in order to bring me near refreshment at reasonable intervals. Eventually, I decided on a tedious but safe plan. I knew of a 2.12-mile loop around my inlaws' neighborhood, at the start of which, I could leave water bottles. It happens that nine laps around this loop comes out to 19.08 miles, which was just too perfect to pass up. And so, feeling confident that I only had 9 laps to do, I started out on lap one, hoping that the lap would at least be less than 16 minutes long. And it was. Very much less.

Each time I came back past the beginning, I took note of the time and added 16 minutes, hoping to stay better than an 8-minute pace for as long as I could, and each time, I was easily better, even taking short breaks for water. By the time I got to my first energy gel, I was 3.5 laps in and feeling surprisingly good. For this, I credit the weather, which was in the high 70s with very low humidity. For once, I felt like an actual human being while standing outside in Texas, and it was very encouraging for the near future. Of course, it's hard to be encouraged with fires burning out of control half an hour away, but at least there is some hope on the horizon.

One side of today's loop ran into the wind, which made the end of each lap a little more difficult, but there was not much in the way of hills, and as soon as I turned out of the gusts, life got good again, helped by the water stop a tenth of a mile away. I took down my other energy gel as I finished lap seven, and realized something about my time - I was still going fast. Faster than I'd ever run anything over 15 miles. True, I still had four miles to go, but I refused to give up at that point. Even the wind seemed to know what was going on, gusting higher and higher as if to make my victory that much greater. I finished off my water before my last lap and buckled down. Stronger. Faster.

As I entered the house, my wife asked how the run had gone, and I had to wait until I'd entered it into my schedule to give her an answer. When I made sure that I'd been accurate about my pace, I told her that I'd just had the best long run of my life.

With the craziness of the weekend, I could not have possibly expected today's run to go as well as it did. There was simply a combination of good weather, flat terrain, and an extremely positive attitude that all converged to run 19 miles at better-than-Boston pace. While I won't be trying to do anything like that again (the three-hour drive that followed was less than pleasant), today's workout put to rest a number of fears that I've had about my training, and have got me excited to get started again tomorrow, which is good.

Because tomorrow starts my first 50-mile week.

Monday's Run:
78 Degrees / Sunny, Wind
19.08 Miles
2 Hours, 14 Minutes, 10 Seconds

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