Sunday, November 22, 2015

To love running because I just love running

The late winter/early spring training cycle of 2015 treated me well. It's my favorite time of year to run in the deep south. On my days off, I can sleep in late, meander over coffee and breakfast, and go running just before noon in near-perfect temperatures. 

Summer is pretty much the complete opposite. I have to wake up early (re: muggy as hell) or plan my run late (re: hot as hell) to escape the midday feeling of simply wilting while standing. I'm still not really sure how I made it through a whole summer of ultra training. It did pay off in dividends at Woodstock and I think I am still reaping the rewards.

In mid-July, knee-deep in the inferno and among the piles of miles, I ran 10ish miles on the Greenway. It was 101 degrees real feel.
I carried my vest pack which has 2 25-ounce bottles to run 10 miles.
And despite my shorts/sports bra combo, I was still overdressed. But somehow I gutted out 10ish miles and hustled out an average of 8:00 minute miles. Sweet!
This was slightly slower than a MP run, but I cut myself a bit of slack given the temperatures.

Enter November 22nd. The first morning that Atlanta had seen temps with a "3" as the first digit since, um, at least April. I was like a kid on Christmas morning. I had even fueled with Christmas beer the night before!
And actually eaten a dinner that wasn't nachos. Perhaps this was actually the beginning of my alien takeover?
I had some coffee, ate a bowl of cereal, and put on my capris (!), short-sleeved shirt, and arm warmers (!!!). Sunny and chilly is my absolute favorite. The weather at Marshall last year was like, runner heaven.

When I got to the Greenway, I was all hyped up on caffeine and cold weather and I nearly skipped down the trail head. I told myself I could still play it cool though. This was just supposed to be an easy 10?

But I didn't really do the 8K-10K race as Pfitzinger maybe I could tempo the middle miles. If I felt good...

The first mile was relatively uneventful, but as I got close to the mile marker, Garmin clicked off and I saw 7:33. I likey. And it felt good. I tried to maintain a similar feeling pace through the next mile. I loved feeling chilly in the shade of the Greenway.

As I headed through the next couple of miles, I knew it was more of a tempo pace, but my legs felt strong and my form felt absolutely perfect. Plus, all my favorite jams were blasting on Pandora!

There is one small incline just before mile marker 4 that crests at a major intersection. I look forward to a short rest break most days as I normally have to wait on the light. But when I got to the top of the hill, the walk signal was on and I happily kept going. Back down the hill on the other side and onto the one open mile of the Greenway that doesn't have shade. By this point, I was in a groove though--I was hungry to maintain my speed and every person in my sight gave me ammunition to push a little harder.

I passed the 5 mile marker and continued all the way to the trash can/bench at mile 5.25 before I turned around. Now it was time to make my way to the finish.

When I got back to the intersection, I did have to briefly wait before I started back up again, but I was just agitated now. I was in such a groove that I didn't want to stop. The miles clicked off and as I dropped below 7, I knew I just wanted to finish strong.

The last 2 miles were definitely at race pace. I was riding high on endorphins. My arm warmers were pushed down around my wrists. I was sucking in the cold air quickly and deeply. My thoughts drifted to the summer runs where I felt as though one of my lungs had been removed. Today, I could breathe!

It was overwhelmingly, deliriously good. People shouldn't be allowed to get this high on running.

As mile 10 clicked off, I just rode the wave to the finish. Everything was so perfectly smooth that I couldn't allow myself to back off the speed until I stopped.

When I did finally check out my Garmin, I was pretty happy that despite my forgoing a real 8-10K race, I actually set my own 10K PR.

This run was sufficient enough to give me all the joy I need for the rest of the year. Heck, I didn't even need a run this great after this year. It doesn't mean that I won't try my best at Rehoboth, but it does mean that I don't always need an audience or a medal to enjoy running my best.

Maybe that can be a hard thing for a non-runner to understand. Or someone who is very goal-focused. But for those of us who love running just because we love running, it's easy to comprehend.

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