Saturday, September 02, 2006

Running: Mission Accomplished

My marathon training schedule said I was supposed to run 13 miles today. It took some doing, but I got it done.

Ridge Road is a favorite in the Charlottesville running community, a picturesque out-and-back run on a winding, crushed gravel road. While a bit anxious about the distance due to my less-than-rigid adherence to my training schedule to date, I was charged up by the beautiful day and 70 degree temperature. With Stevie Ray Vaughan's Texas Flood still ringing in my head from the drive to the starting point, I set off. The full length of the road is 4 miles, so for a 13-mile run my turnaround point would be the 3 1/4 mile mark.

The first leg went well. I savored the views of rolling fields and horse farms with the Blue Ridge in the distance, saw several deer, and felt great. I hit the 3 1/4 mark and turned around. It wasn't long before I started to get a hot spot on the ball of my foot, and by the time I was around 5 miles in, it was on fire. My legs were starting to feel heavy (did I mention that I haven't been training consistently?), and by the time I hit 6 miles, I was starting to have serious doubts. 7 miles left to go - maybe I was going to really mess my foot up if I kept on going? Maybe I could run 6 1/2 today and then repeat tomorrow? After all, if I cut this one short then I would be really really good about sticking with my training thereafter and I'd still be OK for the race. Hey, if I'm out here running for another hour-plus and then still have to drive home, I'm going to be late and will worry Jennifer - shouldn't I go ahead and call it a day?

And so on, and so forth. My inner rationalizer/ procrastinator can be quite persuasive. However, as my car and the turnaround/end point came into view, I forced myself to admit that if I quit early and didn't finish the run, I might as well just call it quits on the marathon training. I needed to gut it out. I reached the turnaround and headed back uphill for the third leg.

Around mile 8, I realized that the hot spot on my foot had subsided. Either that, or else I just didn't notice it as much due to the pain in my knees. Sort of like the old comedy routine (3 Stooges?) where the guy goes to the doctor complaining of a headache, and the doctor stomps on his foot to make him forget about the pain in his head. I reached the turnaround point (mile 9 3/4) and turned around for the fourth and final leg. After a mile or so, I finally started to find the zone where I was a bit removed from my various aches and pains, and was able to just keep putting one foot in front of another. I came up behind a guy struggling up a hill, and passed him. Always a good feeling, except it brings with it the pressure of having to keep up a pace sufficient to prevent the guy you passed from returning the favor.

Finally, I crested the last hill and saw before me the long straightaway leading to the finish. I lengthened my stride and picked up the pace as I ran the last few hundred yards. I pulled up even with my car parked on the side of the road, and wobbled to a stop.

13 miles done. Miller Time....

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