Eighteen Saturdays: Canton Marathon 2012, Week Five
This week turned out to be really about one surprisingly enjoyable and good run, so let’s get the short ones out of the way:
Tuesday I ran after work, taking advantage of my new hour of daylight. It was gorgeous and warm, so I pushed things a bit the first two miles. Unfortunately, the big climb in mile three plus a bit of a headwind slowed my overall pace. Wednesday morning’s six mile wasn’t a race-pace run, which was good, because I had some stomach issues and had to make a detour home about 3.5 miles into the run. I went back out and covered the rest of my distance after my stop, but my overall pace suffered because I was slowed by gut pain for about a mile and a half during that first stretch. Thursday I went out in the morning and did three out-and-back stretches, since a) 5:30 a.m. is once again back to full darkness and b) given Wednesday’s events, I thought I’d better stick close to home. It was a decent enough run, marked by some really spectacular pre-storm lightning that spread like fingers across the clouds and reminded me of the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where they’re prying open the Well of Souls.
So: Saturday. Twelve miles. And I was going solo because I needed to get my run in early.
When my alarm went off at 5:30, I really didn’t want to get up. Didn’t feel like going out in the dark alone, didn’t feel like hitting the pavement myself for that long a stretch, didn’t feel like dealing with the mental hurdle that I seem to hit around mile three of every long run.
In addition to still being completely dark when I went outside just past six, there was a dense fog settled at ground level. (Oddly enough, you could look up and still see the stars clearly.) Fortunately, the air was 50 degrees, so it was warm enough for shorts and a light long-sleeved shirt. But the fog gave everything a really isolated, quiet feel, and the unlit stretches of road beside the woods and fields were velvet darkness.
Around the middle of the second mile, I turned onto a road and felt like I was looking at the end of the world: The fog was incredibly dense, and the only light was from a building at the intersection behind me. The street just … vanished into the mist. When, a few minutes later, a car passed me from behind (Yes, I was wearing a yellow reflective safety vest.), the headlights had the odd effect of creating a halo on the fog in front of me which contracted like an iris until the car passed.
I felt like I was making decent time – not pushing things, of course: Saturdays are all about the miles – but trying to maintain a decent pace while I still had my early-run energy. I figured I’d be happy if I could equal the pace (8:57/mi.)I’d managed during the prior week’s 11-miler. I also thought maybe I’d approach hydration a little differently, taking smaller drinks regularly – every mile to mile-and-a-half or so – instead of waiting until I felt like I really needed one.
So when I had three miles behind me, I was actually feeling surprisingly good. I started mentally looking ahead, thinking thinks like, “OK – so, in 2.5 miles, I’ll eat my gel; and right after that, I’ll be halfway through the run.”
I had started out with an 8:29 first mile, but through five, I had watched my overall pace creep closer and closer to the 9-minute mark. (Skewed, ever so slightly, by a 15-20 second stop to tie my shoe during the fifth mile.) This wasn’t unexpected, really, although I was a little confused because, I was, surprisingly, feeling really good. I mean, yes, the hills in mile seven kind of hit me, but I never really reached that dragging point where every step just feels like a battle. I found myself thinking, “Hey, as long as I’m feeling OK, I should make sure I’m not just coasting,” and I pushed my pace a little more.
Most of our eight-plus mile routes finish with the same three-mile stretch, the first mile of which my brother and I pretty much think of as the worst part of our run. There’s no sidewalk, and it’s a fairly busy road, and a good bit of it is an uphill grind.
When I reached this part of the run, I was right around a 9-minute-per-mile pace. I had hoped for a better average at this point, because this tends to be one of my slower miles, but the sun was up over the horizon now, and the fog had burned away, but it was still cool and comfortable, and I just felt like I was In the Zone. With two miles to go, I had pulled my average back down below nine minutes; with a mile to go, I had pulled it even with my previous week’s pace, and I thought, “Heck, all I have to do is just keep this nice pace, and I’ll beat that!”
I pushed hard the last mile and made it my fastest mile of the morning by almost a half-minute, making my overall pace two seconds per mile faster than last week.
And I hadn’t wanted to do this run at all.
By the numbers:
- Tuesday, March 13 – Schedule: 3 miles. Actual: 3 miles. Time: 25:10. Pace: 8:23/mi.
- Wednesday, March 14 – Schedule: 6 miles. Actual: 6.05 miles. Time: 56:25. Pace: 9:20/mi.
- Thursday, March 15 – Schedule: 3 miles. Actual: 3.04 miles. Time: 24:53. Pace: 8:12/mi.
- Saturday, March 17 – Schedule: 11 miles. Actual: 12.01 miles. Time: 1:47:06. Pace: 8:55/mi.