Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Seventeen Saturdays: Episode IV

(This was written the afternoon of Saturday, July 4.)

I was strangely energized when my alarm went off at 6 this morning. Six-plus solid hours of good sleep helped, I’m sure – Friday was kind of out-of-whack because I was over at my friend Keith’s until 4 a.m., woke up at 8 a.m. and never got that decent nap I was angling for.

This morning, though, I felt a little like I usually do on race days. Not fully keyed-up, for sure, but with a little nervous adrenaline flowing: Today marked a personal distance milestone; what Keith calls a Frontier Run.

Nine miles.

I’ve done sixteen days of running so far on this training schedule, and while establishing the regularity of the four-days-a-week pattern was definitely an achievement for me (even back-to-back running days were rare, much less three-day stretches week in and week out), I hadn’t yet pushed into new territory, distance-wise.

I marked out today’s route online last week, messing with different loops and tweaking it to reach about nine-and-a-quarter. (I’m not figuring on building that big a cushion on the long runs anymore, though.) It was an easy enough path to memorize, covering a lot of familiar ground, but with a new three-mile section in the middle.

And though I filled the water bottles for the running belt Jenn gave me last month, I didn’t eat anything for breakfast. It wasn’t an intentional skipping: Most days I’m hungry before running and put some toast or a banana in my stomach just to keep it from growling. Today I was thinking only about the distance. Food never entered my mind until my brother Adam and I were in mile six and he asked me if I’d eaten anything.

My goal this morning was simply to finish the run, Pay No Attention to the Stopwatch Behind the Curtain.

As usual, Adam and I talked while we ran. Mostly small, forgettable stuff just to keep the time passing: his recent two-day family trip to Idlewild in Pennsylvania; the weather while he was gone; what I’d done over the past couple days since our last run; the Junior World Football Championships going on in Canton this weekend.

It was a nice morning: Cool for July, but sunny and mostly still, although every so often we’d get a nice breeze across the fields.

Mile three took us on a little sidestep through a small neighborhood I’ve driven past countless times but never visited. It reminded me a lot of our street, tucked off to the side of busier roads, fields and treelines behind the houses.

The fifth mile, east-to-west along the northernmost edge of our loop, ran along a street that leads to a couple housing developments where both my brother and I had friends living when we were kids.

I felt briefly like I hit a wall while climbing a hill on this stretch, but around then is when Adam and I started revisiting our memories of the area.

Off to the left, I told him at one point, in the woods behind the houses we were passing, there’s a big swamp that my friend Mike and I used to try and cross every so often. We’d make an expedition of it, shouldering small backpacks and carrying snacks and canteens. Once I even brought a can of Sterno and some cherry pie filling and bread, intending to use our family’s campfire pie-cooker to make a mid-hike snack. (Mike was way more practical than I was and rolled his eyes at this. And the little canned flame was hardly up to the challenge of baking a hot pie. I wound up eating the filling straight from the can.)

I told Adam this story, and he talked about riding these back roads on his bicycle with friends, going back and forth to each others’ houses, and another mile passed beneath our feet.

We were most of the way through mile seven when I started really feeling the run like I hadn’t in awhile: My lungs were fine, but the knees and the calves and the upper legs started twinging and complaining, and my pace had slowed accordingly.

The final 1.2 miles were the most difficult stretch I have run in a long time: The big hill that marked the start of mile nine, a hill that had felt as though it had been shrinking lately, reared up with a vengeance and beat the hell out of me. And once I was over it, I was very much in “just keep going” mode, though I managed to avoid falling into a zombie shuffle and kept my stride decent if not powerful.

We finished with a time of 81 minutes, 8 seconds, which for 9.35 miles works out to about an 8:41 pace, and I’m more than OK with that.

And for the first time since starting my training, I had some post-run soreness in the knees and quadriceps, and there was a tightness in my right calf muscles that I’m not keen on. Nothing hobbling, of course, but enough to have me walking a smidge gingerly for a couple hours afterward. In a strange way, it felt good, though, because it felt like, “Hey, I worked today.”

Oddly enough, I wasn’t really sure this was a true Frontier Run until I started writing about it. I could have sworn that sometime last year, Adam and I did nine miles once, probably when I was helping him split the long runs in his final month of marathon preparation. Looking back through my journal, though, I discovered that 8.1 was really my old distance record. I ran it for the first time on Father’s Day 2008, a solo route with some nice long stretches on narrow, unlined roads out among the fields. I did eight-milers three more times last year, all with Adam in the fall.

Until this morning, though, it had been 384 days since I crossed my Frontier. Eight new ones lie between now and October 12, the day after the marathon, and I can kind of see them out there in abstract, a series of concentric circles, like black pencil lines on a white sheet of paper.

July 6, 2009 - Posted by | Ohio, running, Sports | , , ,


  1. As Journey once said, “We all need new Frontiers.”
    Congrats on this one, buddy! Many more to come!!!

    Comment by Kink | July 6, 2009 | Reply

  2. […] though, it didn’t take me long to realize I felt much better after this week’s run than the nine-miler we did last Saturday. And weirdly, crossing the 10-mile mark felt much less like a Frontier and more like a somewhat […]

    Pingback by Seventeen Saturdays: Episode V « Cornfield Meet | July 12, 2009 | Reply

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