This is familiar — me, lying on my couch with my feet up, water nearby and reruns of Beverly Hills 90210 on the television while I nap.
Welcome to post-long run recovery.
But something was very different about this long run.
I didn’t break.
With my 70.3 in Galveston, Texas two weeks away, today was my longest training run to date. My plan — to run 14 to 16 miles. I could run any pace, any course I wanted. The point was to log the miles, not any specific time.
Even though my starting temperatures were in the mid-30s (as opposed to the 70s from last weekend) I took care to plant Gatorade and water on the course to avoid any dehydration crash or bonk which would induce singing of Ricky Martin tunes.
My course was hilly because (a) it was something I was familiar with and (b) the hills will make me stronger. And because, well, why not.
The first three miles of my run were solo as I ran to Chestnut Ridge Park. That’s when I hit my first water stop, took a gel, and started on the next segment of my run. At this point, the regular group of “Ridge Runners” were taking off on their organized (yet seemingly unofficial) weekly workout. This was planned, so that I knew I would see people on my run. Or if not see them, hear them.
Around my fifth mile I started to hear two women chatting behind me. We were climbing a hill — not a steep one but a long steady climb. I was certain at any moment they would pass me and I was trying to decide how I felt about this. I still had a lot of running left to do and didn’t want to leave it all to hold off two women whom (I presumed) were not running as far as I was. But I didn’t want to just fade and assume that the women would pass me.
But instead of thinking about them, I concentrated on my own run. I wanted to keep a steady pace, regardless of speed, and focused on the next mailbox, the next driveway, the next fire hydrant. Nearing the end of the sixth mile we came upon the Ridge Runners water stop where they did finally catch me.
“I was waiting for you to pass me,” I said to them as we stopped to hydrate.
“That wasn’t going to happen,” they told me. “You were powering up that hill.”
Huh. I certainly didn’t feel like I was powering up the hill, but I took the compliment.
Huh. Maybe I don’t suck as much as I think I do.
I continued on to the end of the road where my friend Mark was waiting to run the last half of the workout with me. There were some rough moments in the hills on that first half and there were a few more big hills left. I pondered turning off the course early and taking on extra miles in the (flatter) village. I wondered if I would have to walk the hill at some point.
At decision time Mark asked me if we were going to turn or keep going up the hill.
“[Expletive Deleted],” I said. “Let’s keep going.”
“Good,” Mark said. “Because I was going to convince you to finish the hill.”
The longer the hill, the more space we put between us and the other runners. Hmm. Never held off anyone before. And while there are many reasons why that may have happened, I choose to believe that in that moment it was because I was good at the hills, even if I still secretly worried that the slow pace by Mark’s standards would force him to fight off hypothermia.
One more water stop and then just two miles to the finish. No time to slow down. At least I don’t think I slowed down. Granted I couldn’t feel my legs and when I could feel my legs it was, um, dull pain. But I was so close to the end, there was no reason to stop or slow down.
In the end 14.6 miles. In the hills. And, at a pretty decent pace.
And, I didn’t cry.
OK, I had one small panic attack on the first half of the course, but eventually the sun, blue sky, compliments from other runners and good company pushed the negativity right out of my mind.
This was one of my best long runs. Perhaps my best long run ever.
Maybe that 70.3 won’t be so scary after all.