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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Short, Quick Steps Up the Long, Slow Hill

"I came ten miles just for this high five!"

It startled me, to say the least. Nine miles into the first long training run I've done in more months than I'd like to admit, my brain was starting to get hazy. Nothing new, really. I've only got enough brain power to keep myself from tripping and stay out of the way of folks heading in the opposite direction. When reasonable, of course.

And one such person was on his way, a bicyclist who had moved out of the road and on to the sidewalk. I dutifully moved to the right of the sidewalk and out of sheer determination kept my eyes up, trying to keep my focus ahead of me and keep my feet moving.

Then he shouted at me. I turned my attention his way to see a huge smile on his face and a waiting hand in the air. I raised mine instinctively, and we shared one of the loudest, most satisfying high fives of my life. It was exactly what I needed at that moment.

Sometimes luck is like that. You get exactly the thing you need at exactly the moment you need it. It doesn't happen often, of course, because then it wouldn't be amazing when it did, but every now and then, it turns out all right. I was thinking about how completely lucky this moment was for the following mile, but I realized I might be thinking about it in the entirely frame of mind. True, there was no way I could have known that person would be at that spot to give me an emotional boost, but I was hardly there by accident.

First, I had to get myself out the door, which has not been an easy task for me in recent months. Combined with runs I did on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I have completed more training miles than I have done in either of the last two months. Still, I've got a half marathon on the horizon - well, honestly, it's more like around the corner, with just four weeks to race day. I just did the Run for the Water 10 miler and realized fairly definitively that I can't just go out and do those anymore. So I needed the miles. I needed the distance and the endurance. So, despite the three of four efforts of my brain to the contrary, I made it out the door.

Then, there's the mileage. I need to do some double-digits, and get used to working for 90+ minutes at a time. In the first couple miles, I considered peeling off and doing 9 instead, still a decent workout, but not what I really needed. And then I decided I didn't care if it hurt. I didn't care how long it took. I was doing 12.

But let's be honest, of course I cared how long it took. I kept my pace reasonable, but not easy, a bigger challenge after my turnaround point where my course goes from downhill to uphill. Honestly, it started to suck, and I remembered what I've learned before. Shoulders down. Head up. Short, quick steps, maintaining effort, not speed. And speed followed. And for all the correct choices I made, I was rewarded with a killer high five at just the right moment.

I've got a long way to go before I'll be "back." The Austin Marathon is three months away, and Boston is only two months after that, with a couple half-marathons and one 18 miler in the lead-up. I'm not as fast as I can be. I'm not as strong as I will be. But if I can keep taking those short, quick steps, I'll be back before I know it.

And it won't hurt to get a few knock-out high fives along the way.