Saturday, May 26, 2012

Long Weekend Long Run

I didn't set my alarm when I went to bed last night, trusting that the early hour of my retiring (10:00 pm) would result in awakening with enough time to complete my long run before the heat of the day made it difficult. I anticipated I would wake up naturally around 6:30 am and be out the door around 7:00.

My cats decided 6:00 am was a great time to play "Thundering Herd of Elephants," thereby taking the place of my alarm. I got up.

The instant I set this on the bed, Boo laid down on it. I can almost hear him saying, "Yo, 'sup?"

I waited for the passage of a small rain cloud before leaving at 7:15. The morning was overcast, blissfully cool, and peaceful. I had twelve miles to cover, and I chose my favorite loop route in the country, one I've been using for long runs since my very first half marathon training cycle in 2007.

Yesterday my workplace released us from bondage two hours early. I took this gift and ran with it to lunch at the Ravens Club in downtown Ann Arbor. I had been to the restaurant several times for dinner, but I had never tried their lunch offerings. By the time I arrived it was just after 2:00 and I was starving; breakfast was a distant memory from 7:00 that morning. I quickly ordered a beer, white bean hummus with pita wedges, and a grilled chicken-eggplant panini. The beer came first.

Original Gravity (Milan, Michigan) 2 Wheeler Witbier. Reading material: Book two of the Wheel of Time series.
Lunch was as delicious as I had anticipated. All hunger pangs were eliminated.

My view of the world was obscured by trees until mile four of my run. That's when I made a turn to the north and had a clear view across an open field.

Dramatic clouds are dramatic
"Uh oh," I mumbled. "I'm going to get rained on." It was just a matter of time. I soldiered on.

Around mile 5 I passed by "Psycho House," which is a creepy old farmhouse that brings to mind the manor house from the movie Psycho. Its clapboard siding has not a shred of paint on it; the wood is a dull, weathered grayish-brown. The house is a shambles, with pieces of it missing or falling off and a general air of neglect and disrepair. I've been running past this house for years and it has always looked the same: CREEPY. Today, however, I realized it could smell it. Whatever is contained inside that house stinks. It was an odor I imagine some of the houses on "Hoarders" have: mold, animal waste (or human??), spoiled food, FUNK and DECAY. It was nasty. I wish I had taken a picture.

I stopped for a Gu, and not long afterward a woman on a bike pulled up next to me. It was one of my Running Fit 501 training group partners from the summer of 2009. She was out for a ride and was trying to beat the rain, which had become imminent as the dark clouds from the above picture moved in. I didn't stay dry for much longer as a light drizzle began to fall. It wasn't bad; in fact, it was refreshing. The hat I was wearing kept the water out of my eyes and my iPhone was safely stashed in my CamelBak, so I didn't care if I got a little wet.

Shortly before mile 7 the earbud dislodged from my left ear. I had to stop and fumble around with it, getting more and more annoyed as my slick fingers, wet hair, ear, and earbud refused to work well together. When I finally got moving again, I forgot to restart Garmy...which I didn't figure out until about ten minutes later when I looked down at my wrist and realized it still said "6.81."


Sigh. I knew I had run close to a mile, so I tacked that on to what Garmy said and pressed on. It was a bit of a boost to realize I was at mile 8 instead of mile 7 and that I only had 4 miles left to cover. Then 3. Then 2...turning onto the homestretch back into Chelsea on Cavanagh Lake Rd...then 1 as I passed the city limits sign at Chelsea's western edge...and then it started raining in earnest, and what little of me remained that wasn't wet quickly got drenched. I could feel water streaming off my hat and down my back. I stopped Garmy at 11.12 miles and knew I had met or even slightly exceeded my 12-mile goal.

I got out of my wet clothes as quickly as possible and into dry ones so I could stretch. First I put my legs up on a wall, and being down on the floor at cat level meant only one thing.

Darwin helping. There was much sprawling and rolling and purring.
My final long run is out of the way. The Dexter-Ann Arbor half marathon is June 3, one week from tomorrow. These last two runs--the 11 miles I did in Massachusetts last week and today's 12 miles--have been great confidence-boosters. They felt relaxed and easy in the best of ways. I'm ready!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Over Hill, Over Dale, Over River

Since my last post three weeks ago, I have been busy. First there was the Road Ends 5 Mile trail race in the Pinckney Rec Area about 7 miles from my house on April 29. The following weekend was the Heart and Sole 10K right here in Chelsea; I was able to do a warm-up jog to the start from my house. May 12 was the Dances with Dirt Gnawbone 50 Mile Relay. Finally, I was away in Massachusetts for my 15th college reunion this past weekend, where I fit in two runs during the three days I was there. The Dexter-Ann Arbor Half Marathon is quickly approaching (June 3!) so the final long runs on my schedule are vital.

Road Ends 5 Mile Trail Run with the Engineer. If you're wondering why we were dressed for winter on April was 27 degrees when the race started. I eventually took off the gloves and the hat, but was glad for my Sugoi Firewall jacket.

My outfit for the Dances with Dirt 50 mile team relay. We were a team of hashers. This was at the start area before the race. I'm drinking coffee (it was early). Beer came later.
The Northampton Bikeway, where I did my 11-mile long run on Friday morning. Gorgeous.
The Norwottock Rail Trail bridge over the Connecticut River, where I did part of my 5-mile run Sunday morning with BFF Sara
Yesterday Cleveland hosted its marathon and half marathon. This was the first time since 2008 I haven't been on hand to participate (see aforementioned college reunion). In 2009 I qualified for Boston. In 2010 I paced my Dad to a sub-two-hour finish in the half. Last year...that was the year of the Great Calf-Shredding Debacle. A year has passed since that injury. While my leg is rock solid, I haven't returned to the level of fitness I brought to the starting line of the marathon in 2009. I may never get there again and I've come to terms with that. I'm getting older, and the amount of work required to reach peak conditioning doesn't appeal to me. I am embracing my status as a nearly-middle-aged, middle-of-the-pack recreational runner. The occasional surprise age group award might slide my way, but I have the distinct feeling that my days of setting personal bests are over.

However, my fitness level is such that I am able to get out and run eleven miles on a pretty trail on a beautiful day, enjoy nature, and love the feeling of propelling my body over the earth, which is what this has always been about, from the very beginning.