Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Holiday Miles

I may not have gotten around to writing much over the last week, but that hasn't stopped me from logging some miles.  Last Tuesday I had planned to get up early and run 14 miles before work.  However on Monday night, because of various family, work and holiday obligations, I didn't make it into bed until about 1am.  When the alarm went off at 4am I surprised myself by actually getting out of bed and heading downstairs.  I was in the kitchen, in the dark, dressed like an out of shape superhero when I realized that, with only three hours of sleep, I would be able to finish the run just fine, but I would be worthless at work for the rest of the day.  I crawled back into bed and caught a few more Zs.  I  decided that I would take the last two hours off of work and take care of the run.  My wife agreed to pick up both kids from school, so I was all set.

Work kept getting more and more hectic and there were a million reasons I should have stayed.  But there were 100 very compelling ones that told me to get out the door and run.  Despite an overdeveloped sense of guilt and responsibility that plagues me every time I take off of work early, I knew I needed to run.  So, with work phone in the pack and a plan, I headed out for a slow 14 miler.  I was very pleased when I reached the 7 mile mark about 6 minutes ahead of what I thought I would be running. I managed to maintain that pace on the way home and finished with an 8:45 average.  I ran along a fairly busy road that was without a sidewalk for a couple of miles.  This experience convinced me that my time and energy is much better spent on the trails.  Sure running in the woods has its own set of hazards.  But these in no way compare to harried motorists, in their urban assault vehicles who are busy texting, tweeting or talking and can't be bothered to keep their eyes on the road or in any way pay attention to their surroundings.  In spite of my best efforts to be visible (reflective clothing and a bright LED headlamp) these "drivers" didn't seem to notice me at all.  Either that or they don't care.  I'm not sure which is worse, incompetence or indifference. Either way, I'll be staying off the roads for a while.

On Saturday, I got a respite from the self-absorbed motoring public when my wife and I left the kids with the grandparents and headed out to Umstead for a 16 mile run. The weather was beautiful and I felt really fresh once I got loosened up. We mixed single track with dirt road and covered the 16 miles without any difficulty.  (I was able to stay upright for the entire run, which was nice.)  Running single track always reminds me of my youth when I spent a lot of time in the woods and backpacking on the Appalachian Trail with my dad.  I was lost in those memories as the miles ticked away.
Christmas Eve on Turkey Creek
I normally run on both Saturday and Sunday but this Sunday was Christmas so the only running I did was from one family's house to another and in circles with the kids.   However, this lack of exercise didn't bother me because my training partner, Tim, and I had been planning a long run on the 26th.  We decided we would run our own Boxing Day Trail Marathon this year.

We met in the pre-dawn hours and hit the trail together.  We ran the Umstead Trail Marathon course, just slightly out of order.  It was the longest either of us had run since early November and we could both feel it as the miles piled up.  My legs were getting tired but still felt pretty good.  Around mile 22 it dawned on me that I had not adequately planned my nutrition.  One pack of Power Bar Blasts was simply not going to cut it.  Too bad that was all I had.  Even though my stomach felt like it was eating itself and I was quickly running out of gas, I kept telling myself that this was good training.

Every time I get tired or feel like I'm about to give up, I just picture myself at Leadville in August. I imagine I'm huffing my way up Hope Pass at 12,600 feet and that motivates me to push harder.  While I love the easy runs because they are fun and exciting, I know that the hard ones, the ones when I really suffer and want to quit but don't,  are the ones that make me stronger.  These are the runs that make me better. I frequently tell myself that if I suffer more now, I'll suffer less later.  With that mantra in mind, the First Annual Boxing Day Trail Marathon became a beautiful experience.  One that was run on a crystal clear December morning, in a beautiful setting with a good friend.

How can a run in this setting ever be bad?
I can't decide if I loved it because it was beautiful or because it was difficult.  Probably both.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome run! It was a big jump up in miles for me, so I was definitely suffering, but it was the kick in the butt I needed to spend the next 6 weeks or so getting ready for Mt. Mitchell. I love the idea of making the Boxing day marathon a tradition (26 on the 26th has a nice ring to it!).