Hubris and Hills

ONLY SIX MILES. THAT WAS THE PHRASE IN MY MIND Wednesday night as I got ready for the evening group run downtown. I’d been reading up on preparing for a marathon, and on one site I read the following phrase: “If you can use the words ‘only’ and ‘six miles’ in the same sentence, then you’ve arrived.” Given that my last three Saturday long runs were 16, 18, and 20 miles respectively, the concept of “only six miles” wasn’t only possible, it was really how I felt.

I’d been assigned a tempo run – one mile warmup, four miles at half marathon pace (currently 7:40 per mile), final mile cooldown. So what if it was 90 degrees outside, with 90 percent humidity. Only six miles, right? Piece of cake.

However, there is another important factor contributing to a run that I hadn’t taken into account; elevation changes. As it turned out, the route for the run had more than the usual share of ups and downs. More unfortunately, it began with a nice steady downhill, making me artificially fast and feeding my sense of invincibility. 7:40? Hah! How about 7:15?

Two things happened about halfway into my first fast mile that began pricking the illusion. First, the faster group ahead of me pulled away, despite my increased speed. They were probably doing tempo runs too, and picked up their speed just as I was picking up mine. Then the uphills began.

The route took me along and into Bandemer Park, usually a very nice run on trails and the long wooden bridge/path. With shade and a cool breeze – except the breeze was anything but cool. Still, I kept the pace up. Only three miles at this pace. Only 2.5 miles at this pace. Only 2.4 miles…2.39…

In the end it was the hill up Fourth Avenuethat did me in. I made it to the top, but that was it – I had to stop and catch my breath. That alone was a strong clue that I had been pushing it too hard. The others were my heart rate over 170 and the rivers of sweat pouring off my body. I was right at mile 4, which meant I had one more fast mile to go. Finally coming to my senses, I decided it wouldn’t be quite so fast.

I made it back to the Running Fit store and headed right inside without a walking cooldown. To heck with that – I needed a Gatorade. Just about everyone had a problem out there with the heat, so I wasn’t alone.

As I changed into dry clothes and headed out the door, it began to rain, and I had a walk of several blocks to my car, with a stop at the library. Did I care? What do you think?

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