Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Year's First "Runrise"

Today is April 9, 2008, and despite running five days a week since the beginning of the year, this was the first day where I got to watch the sun rise during my run. I've been out pre-dawn many times since embarking on this 18-week training plan on January 21st, but most of those runs were relatively short, and the sun wasn't rising until well after I was done. Today was a different story, though.

I got up at 4:30 (having gotten back a little before 7:00 pm yesterday after doing intervals with my running club), took a caffeinated gel (I've switched from Gu's to CarbBoom because the Vermont City Marathon serves them and they seem to be gentler on my stomach), drank some water, got my gear on and then encountered an iPod-related problem.

The plan was to run with the latest episode of Phedippidations, Steve Runner's awesome running podcast, where he profiles running legend Kathrine Switzer. Kathrine was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon with an official number (despite the fact that race officials did not know she was a she when she signed up as K.V. Switzer). The race was memorable not for her time (a respectable but "mortal" 4:20+; she'd eventually run a 2:51 personal best), but for the race officials' reactions and media commotion which followed. One of the most famous images in running is where Boston Marathon co-Race Director Jock Semple grabs Switzer and tries to rip her official race number off of her sweatshirt. Switzer's ex-linebacker boyfriend stands up for her and sends Semple flying out of the way. All the while, Switzer just runs like hell. Here's the sequence of what happened:

I managed to get the episode to load onto my old 2mb Nano, and was out the door just after 5:00. BTW, if you are a runner and have somehow - by some bizarre twist of fate - stumbled upon this blog before finding Phedippidations, do yourself a favor and download an episode or two. I promise you'll be hooked. Steve has tackled everything from running legends to race reports to nutrition and physiology and many, many more topics of interest to runners. He also has a wonderfully self-deprecating sense of humor, and he shares precious family interactions, especially with his teenage son. Running with Steve is like running with an interesting friend who does all the talking; you can keep plugging along without having to hold up your end of the conversation.

Today's forecast calls for high temps in the 60's, so I thought I could dress in what I call "winter-lite" gear. I wore a thin Sugoi running beanie and some lightweight Nike fleece gloves, along with a Sugoi tech-fleece, running pants, and all my reflective regalia. My body was okay during the run, but my face and hands got very cold, as it was actually in the mid- to upper-20's during most of the run. As I stepped outside, it was pitch-black, with a slight mist from the still-melting snow. We've seen some substantial reductions, but there are still plenty of dirty-white piles, especially in shady areas or where the plows made 10+-foot mountains over the course of this dismal winter. Dodging the potholes and frost heaves before dark has presented a new running challenge, that of not shattering an ankle.

At some point about 4 miles in (of a scheduled 11-miler), I turned my headlamp off, and noticed the creeping lightness as the sun made its way above the eastward horizon. It was very nice to be able to see where I was going, and there's something about that first light, so fresh, crisp and invigorating, that makes it seem like all is right with the world.

The run went pretty well (came in at almost 12 miles), but my legs are definitely feeling the high-mileage and recently stepped-up intensity. My HR stayed constant, but my hips & quadriceps are a bit sore. However, thanks to the boost from last weekend's 5K PR and highest-ever mileage week, I feel like I am the master of my workouts now. I have more confidence than ever that I will hit my training goals and - most importantly - that I will be in great shape (physically and otherwise) come May 25th. Although I am mostly thankful that more training remains, since I am still building fitness and fine-tuning speed, I am starting to wish the marathon was less than 6 weeks away.

The rest of this week calls for a cross-training/rest day tomorrow, 4-5 miles (with 4x100m strides) on Friday an 8-15K race or time trial on Saturday and 17 miles on Sunday. Saturday will pose a logistical challenge because I'm speaking at a conference about 90 miles from home at 9:00 am, and have some familial obligations during the rest of the day. I will figure out a way to get a 10K time trial in, but won't put too much stock in how it goes, since I'll be pretty fatigued, it'll be an awkward time for me to run, and a time trial cannot reasonably simulate an actual race in terms of running one's best.

So, looking forward to another 50+-mile week and hopefully more fitness gains. Oh, and watching a few more sunrises won't hurt my spirits either, especially when the trails clear and I can round my favorite bend in the woods to see the sun rising above one of the ponds and the school's beautiful library and chapel.

Cheers, ESG

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