i got out of my car almost ready to run, but i had to stop at the trunk to get out my water holder. i put it on, and it felt like i had gained some weight since my last run. i sucked it in, fastened it up and off i went. started out with a slow nonchalant walk toward the start of the trail… transitioned to a light march…. and finally a slow jog as i entered the trail. it had been a couple of days since i last ran, and i’m not sure if i had shut down properly the last time i ran, because my legs, arms, and back were all a little stiff.
within minutes, the trail became very muddy, forcing my mind to stop thinking about the creaky, stiff, awkward limbs, and to start focusing on just keeping up-right. one of the things they never teach you in running school is how to run up hill in the mud. you can’t run it like a normal up hill. the tendency, at least for me, is to over compensate for the hill by leaning forward and kind of tiptoeing up the hill. the way to do it at least the best way for me is to run as perpendicular as possible to the hill, and to land as flat footed as you can. this way you apply more surface area to the ground. my mud hill technique may seem weird but these slopes are well over 15% grade, and anything else will surely have you slipping face first into the mud.
the first little hill happened very quickly and my body was not warmed up prior to it, but afterward it quickly started to heat up. the next couple of kilometers or so were semi-flat with enough rolling hills along the way to keep me “honest”. before long, i was completely loose and i could feel my pace subtly inching up as i sloshed through the mud.
after about 5 kilometers of mud, snow and rocks, i actually thought of shortening my run. i don’t know why. i think i was just getting a little tired of maneuvering through the terrain. i was also starting to worry about my muddy foot prints and their long term effect on the trail. i kept going because i didn’t have another plan and i always hesitate when it comes to shortening my runs. after a couple more kilos my mind started to think less about the snow, less about the rocks…and more about my breathing, and my posture. i was now running, at a more aggressive pace and the terrain seemed much less intimidating. without even thinking i stepped over and around rocks and ice as if i already knew where they were. i was much smoother and more fluent than earlier and all i could think about was running further and faster.
before i knew it, i was 10 kilometers into the run, which should have been the turn around point. i didn’t feel like turning back already. my goal was 20k and i could have easily done it, but i had done the same thing last week. i was feeling much better than last week at this point. so after some careful endorphin induced thought, i decided to take the long way back. this would add about 10 more kilometers to the run. my “plan” was to head out to the other trail head which was next to the highway. if i was hurting by the time i got there, i would hitch a ride back to my car. i had never hitched a ride before but it seemed like something i could do.
now that i was committed to my new journey, my mind slipped out of focus a bit. i started to worry if i made a mistake by making my run 30 kilometers. i was also worried about how i was going to ask for a ride. my mind raced around these thoughts for a few more kilometers, until i hit the point of no return. the point at which it would be longer to turn back. at this point all the noises were silenced and i could hear my self breathing once again. and out of no where like a magical spell, i could feel the endorphins kicking in. my goal was clear, i was committed, and feeling perfect. nothing was nagging at me, nothing was distracting me, all i could feel was everything working properly. rare!
i still had one more big hill to climb, before things would flatten out and i could get a feel for my pace and effort. i felt fast… not real fast, i’ve been faster, but for where i am in life, this was pretty fast. i did a pace check with my gps several times and found that i was about 7:45/mile pace after 20 kilometers of trail running. at that point i was at the second trail head, and there was no one around to ask for a ride. it didn’t matter, i had decided many kilometers ago that i would get back to my car under my own power no matter what. it’s funny, but this run was not a big deal, no one was watching me, no one even knew i was out running, i could have bagged the whole thing and got a ride to my car. however, when i lock on to something, i lock on. it would have been pretty hard for someone to keep me from finishing this run.
i got out to the highway and i was still feeling pretty good. as each kilometer clicked off, i could feel myself not feeling as good. i was still going at a pretty good pace, but now i was struggling a bit just to keep form. all i could think about was my form. i tried to keep my back straight, and keep my arms moving. that’s all i need to focus on when times start getting rough. each stride now seemed a little more difficult than the previous…and each breath seemed to have a little less oxygen.
i was running next to traffic and i could feel them approaching and i could feel the gust of wind as they passed. each time i looked over at them i could see the passenger looking back at me. kind of weird for my current state, so i decided to not look at anyone anymore. staring into the vanishing point of the road was a little disheartening, except for the fact that now it seemed far, and my original estimate of distance was probably correct.
focusing was getting easier and more difficult at the same time. easier since i had more things to focus on, and more difficult because now the distractions were coming from inside me. more little aches and pains from my knees, and ankles… and now my stomach was hurting a little.
i was now completely out of water, but the end was near, and i wasn’t worried. i could see my turn-off from the distance. still full of little aches and pains, but trying to keep my form. as i was running up to the parking lot i passed a person walking the other direction. i smiled quite greatly and said hello. i was very happy to be almost done. …and then done.
i walked around the parking lot a few times, before opening my car. i stretched for about 10 minutes, and i could feel the stiffness that was causing me discomfort for the last 7 kilometers. my head was light and airy, not completely grounded yet. i think it was later that night when i finally came “down”.
i didn’t plan on having an epic day. this turned out to be my longest run in almost 15 years…. and my funnest run in i don’t know how long.
it’s all about listening to my body. i’ll hold it back when it tells me to, but more importantly, i’ll let it go when it wants to go.