Monday, September 17, 2012

The Runner's High

Well yesterday was a milestone Sunday for me. Not only did I complete my first-ever 20 mile run, I also logged my highest weekly mileage (42.2 miles) in the 4 years I've been running. I am now in the meat of marathon training, with just under 6 weeks to go, and even though I said I'd seen it before, I really experienced the "Runner's High" after the run.

My goal yesterday was to go out very conservatively, hoping to keep a 10:15 pace through 20 miles. I was concerned more about finishing rather than posting any kind of amazing pace. My recent foot issue, along with the general overwhelming task at hand, was the catalyst for my caution.

And it didn't get off to a rousing start. As soon as I started running, my foot really started to ache, to the point where I was concerned that it was going to be a washout. But about a tenth of a mile into the run, the foot settled down and I was able to get into a rhythm. But that was short-lived, as I heard a PA system in the distance - apparently, I was going to be running on the trail where a group was conducting the bike part of a sprint triathlon. For a few miles, I was listening for bikes passing and trying to stay out of the way of the inevitable large pack of bikers that would be approaching. I eventually made it to the horse path part of the trail, which also helped because it got me off the asphalt for about 5 miles.

My original plan was to start on the W&OD Trail at mile marker 20, run to mile marker 25, then backtrack to mile marker 15, and circle back to my car at mm 20. The tri, though, changed my plans. Had I turned at mm 25, I would have been right back in the bikers' path, so I made the decision to continue to mile marker 30, and make it a true out-and-back. Doing this also removed any thought, however minute, of cutting my run short because I was running past my car at mile 10.

As I got closer to mile marker 30, I was keeping about a 10:10 pace, some miles slightly higher, some closer to 10 minutes. I purposely hid the Heart Rate function on my Garmin so as to not let that dictate my pace. As I approached the turn-around, I passed a familiar face, my friend Jess from the Pace Of Me blog. Only, I didn't recognize her, since I didn't expect to see her that far away from Reston. I only knew it was her when she yelled, "Heyyy!!!" as we passed (Sorry, Jess!).

When I got close to the turn, I saw another familiar face, my Team McGraw teammate Erin, who estimated that I'd be at mile marker 30 at 8:30 am (judging by my pace), and I was right on time! She was doing 20 miles as well, prepping for the Chicago Marathon, so we ran a few miles together. A few minutes into our run, my brother-in-law passed us on his bike - he's training for a 50-mile charity bike ride.

Erin runs a bit slower than I do, and the 2+ miles we ran together were about a 10:45 pace, but that helped me a bit. When we parted, I picked it back up slightly, as I was now going downhill. But wait, isn't that Ed C. from Daily Mile approaching? We chatted briefly, and I was on my way, only to see another Daily Miler, Chris M. coming up. I didn't know it was Chris until we passed, so I missed the oppportunity to say hello. But this is the way it was going - I rarely see anyone I know on my long runs, except for today.

At that point, I was past 15 miles, and still going strong. But I had a tough 2-mile stretch coming up. I made it through that stretch with no problem, and as my Garmin beeped for 19 miles, I made the command decision that I was going to kick it in and see just how much I had left in the tank. My final mile was 9:05, and I was very happy that I had that much in me to do that. My first 20-miler was a success. Time was 3:22:11 (10:07 pace), and my heart rate, which I neglected to track, came in at 136, which is 67% of my max.

So I'm on Cloud 9 now. I stretched out, gathered all my gear, and hopped in the car. Flipped on the radio, and I had a CD in - and how ironic that the song it was on was the last song I heard at 2 AM on Saturday morning as I returned home from the Bruce Springsteen show - "Born to Run". Windows down, stereo cranked. Yeah, I'm on a high. And the responses I got on Daily Mile and Twitter after I posted my results only made it better. THIS was the Runner's High I've heard so much about.

Tramps like us, baby...

(Note: that's not my Born to Run video - the video I took on Friday has me singing at the top of my lungs; I won't subject you to that disaster!!)

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