34°-56°. 26.55 mi/05:55:41 @ 8:04 AM. The Big One. Lime Pegasus. 2:00 run/1:00 walk. Stopped at all 3 YMCA's. A little cold, but otherwise, a fantastic day for a run! Time to start tapering.
I realize that my enthusiasm probably gets monotonous. I'd apologize for that if it wasn't so genuine. But the truth is, I find something to love about every run. Here's what I loved about The Big One.
I was up at 5:30 with the dogs, so I spent some time on Garmin Connect revising my course for the day. The day before, I had laid out a huge circle: one that hit the biggest hill I know in Lexington at just about the same distance as the mountain climb in the Pittsburgh Marathon. That afternoon, I got in the car and drove the route, just to be sure I was familiar with all the turns. It was deadly dull. Lots of miles along Man O' War Blvd, the bypass that orbits about 3/4 of the city. There are sidewalks, which is a plus, but there are also lots of cars zooming past, and fairly new residential developments surrounded by privacy walls and other barricades. As I drove it, I noticed how uninspired I was feeling. It was like miles and miles of the same hill again and again. I did not feel eager to run this course, and I took that as a very bad sign.
Plan B was to plot a more urban course. No giant hill, but lots of rolling climbs through city streets. To keep myself interested, I chose a gimmick; I would run past all three YMCA locations in the city, starting and finishing at North: my home Y.
I loaded the course onto the Garmin, and waited for the sun. Coffee and toast with jelly. Grease the feet and nips. Don the running togs. Hit the bathroom. Check the weather. 34... huh? 34°? What's up with that? We just went through the warmest winter in my lifetime and barely ever saw 34°! Now was a puzzler. How should I dress? I knew it was going to take me between 5.5 and 6 hours to run this distance. By the time I was finished, the temp might be in the low 60's. In that heat, tights and a jacket would cook me. I decided to tough out the cool morning temps in shorts, gloves, and a long sleeved tech shirt. Feed the dogs. Kiss Mrs P. Hit the road.
I tried to start out easy, but the shadows were long, the wind was cold, and running felt a lot better than walking, so I just kept going. One measure of the shock of starting was my heart rate. My pulse averaged 149 BPM that first mile, about 20 BPM faster than my average for the run. Early on it spiked at 169, which is my theoretical maximum heart rate. Consequently, I ran that first mile a minute and a half faster than my target pace. My heart soon settled down, and so did my split times, but it took me a while to really find a comfortable way to move through the chill.
The first leg was a 5 mile jog to the North Y. The Garmin quickly scolded me. In the fog of early morning, I had planned my course to go to the Beaumont Y first, on the southern end of town. By the time I realized this, I had gone about 2 miles, and did not relish the prospect of doubling back and adding 4 miles just to get back on course, so I stayed on Broadway, moving north. From here on in, I would improvise.
I reached the Y in about an hour. Way too fast. I stopped for a pee and to top off my water bottle. Said "Hi," to Coach Melissa who offered to come get me if I crashed on the road. I had one of my PowerBar gummy energy chews, scanned my card at the door, and headed off toward the High Street Y.
High Street is the downtown Y in Lexington. I moved south through neighborhoods that had seen some hard times. The houses needed repairs that no one could afford. The dogs behind chain link fenceswere tough and loud. The sidewalks were rough and perilous. I kind of liked running here. People on the street sometimes nodded at the goofy old white man jogging through the 'hood. I smiled back. It was actually a very nice leg of my trip. I reached High Street in good time, chatted with the girl at the desk. Scanned my card, used the can, and topped off my water bottles. Then it was off on the long trek to Beaumont.
|"Bow to the Brow"|
Beaumont Centre is an amazing facility. It's the size of a small high school, and has multiple pools, basketball courts, and more class rooms than I can count. A nice young man joked with me about all the monitors I was wearing as I scanned my card for the third time today. Along with the Garmin, I was wearing my Timex to beep the Run/Walk intervals, and the heart monitor was visible through the damp spot on the chest of my shirt. I guess I did look kind of silly. But then the boy had no idea what an odyssey I was on. I decided not to brag about it, hit the can, topped off my water bottles, and headed back toward North.
Pennsyltuckians say "ver-SAILS". There's one in Kentucky and one north of Pittsburgh and they are both pronounced the same way. Snobs in Lexington love to make fun of this, and I always ask them if they call Paris, KY "pear-EE." I really should work on being less of a wise guy. Versailles Road is not pretty, at least not in town. Bridges over train tracks. Old strip malls. Seedy motels. One of Lexington's toughest public housing developments. I jogged past a bus station where two guys with that rough urban redneck vibe were dancing the preliminaries of a fist fight. A friend drove by and honked. Another witness. I climbed the three big hills that lead to the last turn toward home, noting the moment when I passed 23 miles. Farther than I'd ever run before. At 25 miles, I swear I could hear crowds cheering, even if the only person around was a little Latino lady, squatting beside a table full of perfumes she was selling. We exchanged smiles and I have no idea what she made of me. I looked down and was pleased to see there was no blood on the front of my shirt. Aquaphor had done the trick. I was within a mile of my goal, and it felt like a victory lap.
|How 26.2 feels|
26 miles. 26.1. 26.2. I didn't want to stop. I wanted to go for 27. 30. 50. I understand now why some people burst into tears at the finish line of a marathon. It's a completely insane and nearly impossible goal that eliminates your fear of anything in the world. As I hit the stop button on my watch at 26.5 miles, I thought to myself that there was no challenge that could possibly frighten me. I was going to be able to run a marathon.
So that was The Big One. I won't be going that far again until race day. "The hay is in the barn," runners like to say. For the next four weeks, my runs will be about maintaining my conditioning, building my strength, and raising money for LIVESTRONG at the YMCA. A month from today, it will all be over. But then, I don't think this one will ever really be over. This experience has changed me in way I never thought would be possible. There's just no telling what other changes are waiting for me between here and the finish line on the Boulevard of the Allies, right down the street from the newspaper where my father and his father earned their living. There's still a long way to go.
And I'm going to love every step of the way.