Monday, June 13, 2011

#338: 11 miles?

Really? It looks more like 10 on the map, but my Nike+ says 11, and it's almost always short, not long. Whichever one it was, 10 or 11, it's the farthest I've run so far. So what is it like for a Fat Man to run 10-11 miles?

I started out at 6:45. I knew it would be a long run, and I wanted to beat the heat. The early morning air was cool, probably in the mid 60s.I brought my sunglasses, but didn't need them so soon, so I put them on top of my head. The streets were so quiet. I scared some rabbits and squirrels as I trotted along, and they skittered away from the sidewalk, just in case I was a predator. From time to time, I would pass another runner. "Good Morning." "Good Morning." There is a special kinship among early morning runners. Ordinarily, I'm pretty wary about approaching strangers alone on the street, especially women. I imagine myself to be pretty big and scary looking to someone who doesn't know what a teddy bear I am. So I tend to give a lot of room to folks. But when I'm running, people seem to understand that I'm not out for trouble. It's as if we know one another. I am coming to like runners more and more.

The first mile and a half, I felt some early morning twinges. My left calf has been warming up slowly, especially high up, toward the back of my knee. It doesn't hurt, it just takes a little while longer to loosen up than the rest of my legs. It usually takes between 1 and 2 miles for me to feel like I'm firing on all cylinders. Once I did, I became conscious of my pace and really tried to keep things slow. I was headed out into uncharted waters for me. I didn't want to run out of gas after 7 or 8 miles and have to call Mrs P to come pick me up.

There were a lot of crows out yesterday morning. They called vigorously as I ran by. I never noticed how much crow's calls sound like derisive laughter before. I swear, a couple of times I thought they were making fun of me. It sort of spurred me on.

The first 3 miles are a gradual climb through shady suburban streets. Newspapers lay waiting in driveways for their sleeping readers to make coffee and pad out to pick them up. My breath and footsteps worked peacefully together to form the soundtrack for my run. I've stopped wearing my iPod when I run. The sounds of the world are becoming too good to miss.

When the road turned toward the east, I started squinting, and reached for my sunglasses. Since they had been resting on the top of my hot, sweaty head, they were badly fogged when I slipped them down. I tried running with them that way for a bit, hoping that they would clear up on their own, but eventually wound up pulling them off and wiping them down with the front of my tee shirt. After that, they were fine.

After a brief little downhill stretch, miles 4-6 are the steepest climb of the run. This is also the stretch where there are no sidewalks. I kept my head up, my eye on traffic, and my feet on the white line. Most people gave plenty of room, and I returned a thankful wave. Some other drivers made a point of not veering an inch as they sped past me. I murmured something insulting about their parents, and trotted on.

Once you reach the top of this hill, the rest of the route is a long, gentle downhill slope, with a few little rises thrown in, just to keep you honest.This was also the part of the run where I started to feel tired. Not gasping for air tired. More like heavy-legged tired. I started to notice soreness in the front of my left groin, at the abductor muscles that help pull your leg forward after a stride. I wasn't sure what could be causing this soreness, unless it was the fact that my legs now felt as if they weighed 400 pounds apiece. I started to cringe a little every time my watch would beep to tell me that my 30 second walking interval was over and it was time to run again. By mile 8, my cringing had degenerated into a quiet curse every two-and-a half minutes. No wonder the crows thought I was so funny.

At what should have been mile 9, I crossed the last busy street and checked my sport band to confirm the mileage. It said I had gone more than 10 miles. That was insane. In the first place, I mapped this route out carefully. In the second place, that was 2 miles farther than I had ever run before. And I was still a mile from home. I had a sinking feeling that if I stopped running now, I would probably sit down in the grass and go to sleep. Although it was a lovely morning, the side of a busy street was not the place I wanted to power-nap. I pressed on and made it home. I had been running for two-and-a-half hours. Made it home just in time to shower and go to church. Then I took a long nap.

I have to be honest with you. I don't really believe it was 11 miles. My wrist gizmo has about a 10% margin of error, and on a long run, an extra mile is definitely possible. On the other hand, I don't really want to measure it out again. Worst case? I ONLY ran 10 miles. That's still a very long way for a Fat Man. I'll take it.

I wish I had some kind of philosophical wrap up here. The truth is, I haven't really digested the whole thing yet. I can't imagine how people can run a marathon. I'm having a little bit of a hard time imagining myself running a half-marathon, but I'm getting closer. The good news is, I no longer have to imagine myself running 10K. I've done it. Several times. The Bluegrass 10,000 isn't going to kill me. That's pretty good to know.

Peace,
Pennsy

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