MY FIRST RUN IN A WEEK, and I wasn’t sure how things would go. My bike trip from Ann Arbor to Clare had been fun but draining, and despite a rest day Friday, I had no idea how my body would respond to the long run Coach Marie put on my schedule. It was my fault; I had told her I would run Saturday morning as usual, and she assigned me 16 miles at an 8:30 to 9:00 pace, with miles 14 and 15 surging to 7:30.
Also noteworthy was the surprise return of one of our camping group to our summer break. Barb is a member of one of the families we regularly camp with, and she is a runner whose races include the New York and Boston marathons. She is still running, but has cut back her training somewhat; apparently being a doctor in residency takes up a lot of one’s time. After a 27-hour shift plus the drive up to the campground the night before, no way she was going 16 miles, but we ran the first four together. I asked her why it seems like so many residents are out of shape, at least judging by my observations at hospital coffee shops. She doesn’t understand it either.
My route led into Empire, where I acquired water and Gatorade for my water stops, then ran hither and yon in the general area until the 12-mile mark, when I would head back up the road to the campground. The run followed a pattern I have begun to notice in my runs of 14 miles and up. The first half feels great, but after mile 8 things get progressively less great, and by mile 12 I am definitely ready for the run to be over. The scenery has ceased to be interesting, body parts are complaining, and it’s difficult to remain mentally focused. Those last four miles are where I have to tough it out; as Barb says of her marathons, after mile 20 it’s pretty much all guts. So while it would be easy to stop – no one is watching, after all – these last few miles are probably the most valuable for me. By getting through them, I am developing the physical and mental stamina I will need for those final six miles in Chicago.
I knew that miles 13-16 would be mostly uphill, so I decided to do the surges at miles 10 and 11 instead. So after a water break at 10.25 miles, I stepped it up – and pretty much nothing happened. After only 100 yards I knew there was no way; the bike ride had finally caught up with me. I sucked down a gel and worked on just getting through the full 16 miles.
I made it back to camp drenched in sweat – the final mile had been uphill in full sun – but with 16.3 miles in the books, at an average pace of 8:52 – nicely in the target range. My training calendar calls for a 4 mile recovery run or 10-15 mile bike ride tomorrow. Maybe I’ll put that off for a day. I am on vacation, after all.