I woke up this morning with just barely enough sleep to function in a normal day; add a 24-miler in there and I wondered how I was going to fare on my run. I've also been fighting this sinus thingy for oh....about a year now (comes and occasionally, for short periods, goes...) and today it just seemed exceptionally stuffy (I've been to my dr. countless times over this and each time she's diagnosed it as an "infection" yet 8 antibiotics over the course of a year later, it's no better than when I first went in; I'm convinced it's something more chronic. Anyone have any clues? Aside from sinus surgery....which really isn't an option right now!).
I ran my favorite "long" run trail: Kennedy Park (225/Parker Road) towards downtown (via the Cherry Creek trail). I love this trail; it mainly follows the creek and as a land-locked, semi-arid state that Colorado is, any type of water nearby is always welcoming - especially on a very long run. I love how water has that magnetic pull (run the Big Sur marathon if you feel the same....it's breathtaking!!!...though very difficult)! What I like most about this trail is the diversity of views along the way. The "parts" of this trail change every few miles .... from suburbia USA to vast openness to slightly industrial (thankfully, this section is short), a park with a small lake and lots of geese (and their droppings...ick) to Cherry Creek mall (high-end shopping at it's finest!) to Denver Country Club all the way to Confluence park where you can watch kayakers navigate down an obstacle course and one amazing REI store (LOVE REI...even worked there a few years ago)! Today, I ran to the Denver Country Club and then proceeded North; I did not want to follow the creek anymore than the DCC 8 miles because, though the trail along the creek has it's rewards, it's also downhill out ... therefore uphill back; I wasn't in the mood to run 12 uphills miles after just running 12 down. By going North, I get a variety of hills, both up and down, and I think that's better Boston training than one continuous 12-mile up, no matter how gradual. I've run bits and pieces of the northern areas before but have never put them together in one full swoop. I welcomed the freshness. Sometimes the same course, particularly on a very long run, can become stale. I've run the park near my house endless times that I could probably tell you every crack in the sidewalk, every protruding rock on every dirt trail, every inch of topography change throughout the entire park. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, it's just that on a very long run, it takes the surprise out of what lies ahead and can sometimes provoke a sense of dread, particularly if you aren't feeling that well.
The DCC neighborhood is lined with those old-gold-money houses where they just take your breath away with their grandeur (to drive through them at Christmas is just incredible!! Enormous wealth can buy spectacular light displays!) . To Cheeseman park, known for it's popularity for non-heterosexual crowds (ha) but has this beautiful awning thingy with marble-like pillars which looking through them, you can see the downtown skyline. Onward to City Park, which has this really cool triage of statues enclosed in a circle each connected to one another by a road. It's really very pretty.... I wish the picture did it justice. Up to 23rd street where I ended my first 12-miles at about an 8:55ish average pace. That's good for this old bod (the goal wasn't to go fast, just steady). I stopped and took some pictures (more), Sport Legs, Aleve, nose-blow, Gu, water, readjusting of body adornments, a quick look at the zoo...and 15 minutes later, I'm back at it.
Dennis met me when I had about 7 miles left; it was great to see him! I just tried to maintain an effort that was comfortable, yet challenging. Meaning, I didn't really want to necessarily engage in a lengthy conversation (as evident by my lack of words...which sometimes, I can take up just a wee bit too much O2). This, I learned in my personal training class, is about 80% of my max hr (where you can give someone your address, but you cannot give them directions to your house! Great analogy!). Or maybe, too, I was just getting a little tired; 18 miles can do that. In a marathon, this is about the point where I really don't strike up a conversation with fellow runners; the once easy banter of conversation stills into trudging silence. Conversation or not, sometimes it's just good to have someone's presence there, just knowing they're beside you, there for you, guiding you. It makes me that much more stronger - physically and mentally. With about 3 miles left, I picked up the pace to about an 8:30...which, after 21 miles, is generally unthinkable for me. I felt strong and I felt encouraged! Dennis does that to me; he makes me want to be a faster, stronger runner because I know he can push my limits and constantly encourages me with uplifting words (if only he'd stop looking at his watch 300 times per mile!! Ha).
The amazing thing throughout the entire run today was that I felt great. Not only great, I just felt like I could continue running for eternity.... well, aside from some annoying lower back pain. And considering how uncertain I would react to the day when I started out, I was overly happy with my performance! My legs...wow, they were not slowly seeping in quad fatigue, no calf tightening and no failing gluteus maximus (ass); I felt strong and confidence was swarming in my head. With about 4 miles remaining, the sun FINALLY revealed itself after a very overcast, chilly morning and began to warm me inside and out. I thought right then that if I can remain healthy (okay, aside from this sinus thing....and my annoying back), I most definitely think I can tackle a 50K in 2009! I am getting stronger. What a wonderful thing our bodies can do to our mind-set (and a few supporting words from those around us :))!
Today, I enjoyed the simple pleasure of running, breathing hard and soaking in the outside! I choose to be present and aware. We all need to grab fistfuls of life the way a toddler eats cake...recalling the glee in simply finding a portion on our plate, and plunge into it, with great, sticky handfuls of sweet abandon. That's what running does for me!
Happy Valentine's Day, too...whether your heart is full or healing, may we all experience a fresh and abiding awareness of the love in our lives. As for me, I'll be eating pizza with my kids and drinking lots of water.
24 miles run