This morning was easily one of the oddest runs of my life. When I'm out the door at 5:30, I don't expect to encounter much of anything, and certainly not at the level of interaction that I found today. Still, when you've got something to distract you, the run can seem faster, and today was nothing but distractions.
At the start, I was going REALLY slow. One of my biggest issues when I tried to do this distance last week (besides the heat) was that I went out way too fast. I wasn't trying to run quickly at all, but my body has established a "normal" pace that is much faster than anything I should be running in training, at least for distances over 10 miles. A perfect example was my first energy gel today, which came at the same time in my run (52 minutes), but happened almost a mile earlier in the course. Clearly I was booking it last week, and I would not make the same mistake.
I developed an acronym for what I wanted to run: APT FIFE. Any pace that finishes is fast enough. I haven't had a really successful long run in almost seven weeks. My St. Patrick's Day run was broken into parts, the following week was the Capitol 10K, and the week after that, I had to take a long rest before the final three miles. From there, the workouts were cut short, skipped, and burned out. I needed to finish today, and finish is what I did. But as it turned out, pace wasn't the only thing I had to watch out for.
For one thing, there were feral cats everywhere. I saw three, all calico, all in different locations, and I found it odd that they all felt the need to wait until I was a few feet away from them to take off running. I'm not much of a cat person anyway, so I found this to be a little absurd.
Not as absurd, though, as the number of police that I saw. Seriously, I saw seven cruisers, all before 8:00 in the morning. I mean, maybe I was just catching them heading out to duty, but it seemed like an awfully heavy presence for so early on a Saturday morning. I did get a couple waves from them, though, and at least one real "hello" from an officer at a speed trap. It's always nice to be acknowledged.
The presence of cats and cops, while unusual, didn't bother me or anything. I just found it to be interesting. What did bother me was the five-foot snake I almost stepped on. Yeah. That'll wake you up. Shortly after my first energy gel, I happened to glance at what I thought was some rubber tubing stretched across the sidewalk ahead of me. I see a lot of car debris (mostly hubcaps), so I didn't really register it until I got close enough to see the stripes on its back. From about three feet away, I realized that it was a snake, stretched across the width of the sidewalk and then coiled up. Overall, it had to be at least five feet and it scared the bejeezus out of me. I would have taken a picture if I hadn't been so intent on getting the hell away from there as quickly as I could. Not okay.
And even all of this had nothing on the most dramatic moment of the run. Around mile 8, I glanced up and saw someone sitting on the sidewalk a couple blocks up the road. My first thought, based on the swaying and the location, was that someone had been out drinking all night, but I stopped and asked if I could help. My thought was wrong. It was an older woman who had fallen and hit her head on the sidewalk. She was very disoriented, so I stayed with her until she regained her senses. She wouldn't let me call for help, but she did accept me as an escort to her destination, the corner store, where seemingly everyone (staff and customers) seemed to know who she was. They accepted her, and among friends, she began to come to herself. I was assured she was in good hands before I headed out the door and back on the road.
With all of this, snakes and cats, police and injuries, I found myself five miles from home and feeling great. I mean, really good. So good, in fact, that I sped up for the end of the run, and ran the final four miles in under half an hour. I needed to build my confidence, and in the face of one distraction after another, I succeeded. Today was a very, very good run.
But I could really have done without the snake.
68 degrees, cloudy