Sunday, March 9, 2014

Blissful exhaustion - that old familiar feeling

The day after I ran my PR at the 2011 Boston Marathon, I remember talking to my pregnant with twins professor after class, and she said, there's something nice about being tired. And yes, when the time is right, blissful exhaustion is a good thing.
Last Saturday was 12 miles, with 7 hard ones. I was near the end of my big week 3 of my training cycle - just days before I would be rewarded with an easy week. On Sunday, I did my first group run with the Pacers team at Theodore Roosevelt Island. My plan was to run 13 miles. I didn't really know how the group runs would work - would it be broken down in terms of pace, distance? I figured I'd just wait and see. I imagined that there would be about twenty of us, but when I pulled into the parking lot, it was pretty sparse. It ended up being the coach, and three fit-looking guys. The coach apologized, saying there were usually more participants in these group runs. It turned out that these guys are all training for Boston, which, I've done before, but the times they were aiming for had a 2 on them...
I asked them what they were kind of pace and distance they were aiming for: 20 miles, starting at 7:30 pace, and then working their way down to marathon pace (5:30).
I was trying to run through my options in my head. I had driven all the way here for a group run - it would be kind of a waste to then just run alone. I knew I wasn't going to be running 20 miles, nor would I reach that kind of pace. So, I decided I would start with the boys, and hang on for 6.5 miles, and then turn around. And we took off at 7:30 pace, heading toward the C&O Trail (a dirt trail). My workout from the day before, when I worked my way down to 6:30 pace, was still fresh on my mind and fresh on my legs. This was not going to be easy. Yes, as my fiance said, I can run 7:30 pace, but a day after beating my legs up, not so easy to do. Thankfully, the first couple miles weren't too bad - I could feel some twinges as we progressed, but was doing just fine. The boys were at a comfortable pace, and as a result, could chat away about their training, races, and life stories. Okay, I can hang on. The pace started to quicken as we hopped into Maryland and on the Capital Crescent Trail - something I haven't been on in almost two years. Very pretty, and a good distraction as they picked it up, and I was just a step or two behind them. One of the guys turned around at mile 5 - he had a different workout to do. 1.5 miles to go with these guys, and I could feel myself working harder to keep up. I told myself I had about 10 minutes left, and was just trying to hang on. It was with much relief when I hit 6.5, thank the gentlemen for letting me hang on. I was tired, and then my now-solo run turned into more of a shuffle. I was tired, I was sore, and I just wanted to finish. I got back to the DC area...but geography is not my best friend. I had gotten off the route I knew, and couldn't figure out how to reroute back to Theodore Roosevelt Island. All in all, it added a couple of miles, so it ended up being closer to 16 miles - the longest I've run in years. I was tired, but relieved. Beyond races, I haven't had a long run wipe me out that much in years. Gold star for the weekend, coupled with a good shower and breakfast. And then, with that feeling of blissful exhaustion, nodded off wrapped up in a blanket next to my dog. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday.

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