Tuesday, July 28, 2009

9-mile long run

Distance: 9.2
Pace: 11:34

After my 8-miler, I couldn't wait to go for another long run, so I scheduled it for Monday after work. I probably should have waited a little though. I was tired and slightly stiff from the moment I woke up. I felt great after Saturday's race and jogged around the block on Sunday to loosen up, but I probably could have used more rest. Instead, I ran farther than I'd ever run before: 9 miles. I packed more Gatorade and ice than usual, since it was very hot and humid. I warmed up quickly on the trail instead of thoroughly at home, which may have been a mistake, but I was trying to save time so I wouldn't be stuck on the trail after sunset. I started out feeling pretty good. I passed a few cyclists and walkers who were also out enjoying the day, and I didn't worry too much about getting attacked by wild animals. That is, until a big, dark shape emerged from the path that ran down to the river. My first thought was "Bear!". When it registered that it was smaller than a bear and more dog-like, I thought "Coyote!". When I registered that it really was a dog -- a friendly domestic dog -- I was relieved. The owner said hello, and I made my way on another mile and a half to the turnaround point. I didn't actually know where the turnaround point was, but I had a general idea. When I map my runs on G-maps Pedometer, it's hard to find a landmark amongst lots of trees, so I had to try and look at the way the river and trail curved. Next time I'll run to the next road crossing, which is about 10 miles.
By the time I reached that half-way point, I felt good, although I kept the pace very slow. I was amazed at how far I had gone. When I reached the 6.2 mile mark, I remembered the first time I had run that distance, and how at that time I didn't think I could go any farther. This time, I felt great even though I still had 3 more miles to go. By the waterfall, there's a little hill along the trail that I like to take, and when I did, I was halfway up when I noticed that it was easy. I felt strong and fast without even consciously trying. I was pretty pleased with myself and kept going.
At mile 7, I was starting to feel tired. In fact, my right knee was hurting, so I took a short walk break. By mile 7.5, a muscle on the outside of my thigh/somewhere on my hip also hurt, and I took another walk break. By mile 8, I was afraid that I had made a mistake by not resting an extra day. Finally, when I had a half mile left to go, I lengthened my stride and quickened the pace. The change in stride was shocking. I hadn't realized that for several miles I had only really been shuffling along. The longer, faster strides used totally different muscles, and I instantly felt better. The twinge in my knee was gone, and I didn't even know where the pain had been in the thigh/hip region. It seemed as if my form was much better, because everything felt more powerful and flowed. I figured that I'd burn out quickly at that pace, but I told myself that I would keep it up as long as I could. I surprised myself to see that my breathing was easy - no hard wheezing or heavy gasps or anything. And my legs didn't tire. My feet were sore in places, so I didn't beat them up at the end with a sprint, but I think I could have pulled it off if I needed to. I felt that good. The change after what I had been feeling just 2 or 3 miles earlier was amazing. I went from feeling like a ticking time bomb for an injury to a fast, strong athlete. It just goes to show I'll have to be much more conscious of form in the future.

Ever on

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