Seventeen Saturdays: Episode VIII
Saturday August 1.
I calculated my July mileage after Thursday’s run: 96.94, will all my extra tenths added in. And you know, for a moment, I actually considered going out yesterday and doing 3.1 just to make my first hundred-mile month.
Just for a moment, though. I needed that day off because this morning I was scheduled for a 13-miler, which I padded out to 13.35 because, well, if I’m running 13 miles, I’m at least going to push it to where I can say I ran my first half-marathon.
Adam had plans for mid-morning, so he and I started off with our usual six-miles-and-change loop, just trying to keep things faster than a nine-minute pace. Not long in, we started talking about mall food and resaurants and the stores at Belden Village where we went and ate when we were kids. We talked about the menu at York Steak House and the arcade next door and how there used to be TWO toy stores and now there are NONE.
We were a little stunned, frankly, when this conversation wound down, to find ousrelves more than three miles in. And then we started talking about other stuff – how the Indians are back to being the crappy basement -dwellers we grew up on, how the Browns are to hope what RoundUp is to weeds, and how who could’ve imagined when we were little that one day, we’d be thinking, “Hey, the NBA preseason starts in two months or so.”
As we neared the end of our shared route, just shy of the six-mile mark, since I wasn’t going up our street and back – I only like to run the true “home stretch” once per day: It’s a mental thing. I’m afraid that if I run up to my driveway, I ‘m not going to want to turn around and head out again – Adam handed off the stopwatch he carries when we run. It was somewhere around the 52-minute mark when he turned left and I kept going straight.
Wihtout stopping, I squeezed down a power gel, drank some water, and tucked the watch in my belt.
When I’m out running, I generally avoid routes that take me over long stretches more than once. The starts and finishes are exceptions, obviously, and I’m extremely familiar by now with just about every inch of the two-mile stretch of road which our dead-end street intersects. But my ten-mile routes, for instance, are long loops rather than a pair of five-mile routes. Because Adam wanted to run with me, though, I did this week’s half-marathon as a six and a seven, of which about 2.5 miles overlapped.
I started my solo seven feeling pretty good: Swinging back close to the finish line wasn’t hitting me as hard mentally as I thought it would, and I was looking forward to this second part of the run, which had a completely different feel to it. Our six-mile loop is compact and mostly winds through neighborhoods. This seven-miler was an out-and-back with long stretches and wide open spaces of fields and hills and the occasional cool, deep woods alongside.
About eight or nine miles in, I spotted a bright yellow hot air balloon off to the west and remembered that the Pro Football Hall of Fame Festival had gotten underway. During the rest of my run, a couple dozen balloons took off and clustered in the cloudless, pale sky.
I also realized at this point that I was still feeling okay, and I remembered just four weeks earlier when that nine-mile run had beaten the stuffing out of me. Not that I’m feeling cocky: I know the tough, tough distances are yet to come, but I also know that last fall, a former co-worker was rying to talk me into doing a half-marathon and I couldn’t even wrap my head around the notion of taking my five-mile run and more than doubling it.
Maybe that’s why this run felt a little like that 10-miler did: not anticlimactic, exactly, but well, I knew I could do it because I’d just done 12 miles last week, just like I knew I could do 10 having done nine the week before that.
A little ways after mile 10, Adam actually drove past me as he went out to meet his friends.
I finished in something just under the two-hour mark, I think. I don’t know exactly: I must have bumped the stopwatch along the way because when I pulled it out and hit the button in my driveway it said 1:27:38, which would have been 15 minutes less than last week’s 12-miler. At any rate, two hours for 13.35 miles is still just under a nine-minute pace.
And though I didn’t feel as sore this week as I did after last Saturday’s dozen, I will say that the final three-quarters of a mile were seriously rubber-legged: When I tried to lean into the last downhill and lengthen my stride, I really struggled to lift my legs higher than a jogging pace.
When I noticed this, I looked down at my feet, and watched them in a sort of detached way, listening to the sound of my sneakers on the blacktop, seeing and hearing and sensing every step but not really feeling them. I used to stare at my shoes, or the patch of pavement just in front of them, when I was struggling with a climb, or to get through a long, slogging stretch where the next bend doesn’t seem to get any closer.
I realized this was the first time I’d looked at my feet since tying my shoes that morning.