Sunday, March 16, 2008

Back on the Horse

To 20, or not to 20 . . . that was the question. After easing back into the plan with reduced mileage, I mused over whether to pick it back up 100% for this weekend's long run, the first 20-miler of the cycle. I decided to go for it, and am very glad that I did.

We had more snow on Saturday, 3-4 inches on top of the near-record snowfall for 2007-2008. It gave a pristine veneer to all the dirty plow piles along the road's shoulder, and made the woods and fields look clean and pure. I noticed more birds and lots of flowing streams and creeks. The temperature was in the high 30's, so snow melt streamed down the grades of many of the roads I was on. It's interesting to use the streams to help you know if you're on an up- or downslope, when sometimes the naked eye simply can't discern the grade. Then, of course, there are times when the grade would be apparent to the blind. The loop I mapped out for today had three killer sections. Here's the elevation profile, courtesy of

The third one was the real killer, since it was extremely steep, up a dirt road that had not been plowed, which meant a mix of slush, ice, dirt and tire ruts. That was a painfully slow stretch, but the goal was to keep moving forward without losing my footing. An 11+-minute per mile pace was the ugly result.

Towards the end of the longest distance I've run since the Chicago Marathon last October (and, given the heat and cramps then, I didn't actually run the entire course), "things" started to hurt. My hip and IT band bugged me a bit, and my knees were sore for the last few miles. My chiropractor says that's the result of tight hamstrings, and I'll confess to not stretching very much before long runs, figuring I'll warm up and stretch out in the first few miles. I did manage to make the last mile the fastest of the day, a small psychological boost in an otherwise mediocre effort.

When I got home (more than 10 minutes later than I'd hoped), I was treated to the company of some good friends and unexpected cookout, so I skipped the ice bath. Though I was sweaty, tired and sore, I was very pleased to have gotten 20 miles under my belt, and look forward to the next two 20-milers without the dread, doubt and uncertainty I experienced the first time around during last summer and fall's training.


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