I un-hooked the front clasp, peeled the straps off my shoulders and flung it across our front yard as I rounded the corner picking up speed. I didn’t care that it landed with a thud, or if I damaged my phone that was zipped inside, I just wanted any extra ounce of weight lifted, and to be free. That meant breaking my arms and back free from any restraint, including my hydration pack, bringing my knees up, kicking my stride out, and flipping my “Vista Speed” on. I had the green light to push the last four miles of this eighteen mile long run, and I was going to take advantage of every step.
My brother Peter always teases me that there are no “real” hills in LA, and that if I ever want to train on real hills, I should go visit him in northern California. What I find cute about this on-going back and forth we have, is that he seems to forget I live in the LA enclave, Granada Hills. We have LOTS of real hills in my zip code.
I am not built to fly up hills.
My legs are long, and well my legs are long. However, I do enjoy a downhill stretch where my arms wind-mill wildly, and long legs bound against the ground with power and grace. Actually, grace might be debatable, but in essence I run up hills slow, and run down them fast.
The first seven or so miles of my long run on Sunday were nearly straight uphill. However, after a HUGE day on my bike Saturday, the slow pace required for the steep terrain was exactly what I needed.
I have no problem at all slowing my pace down for long runs.
Long, slow runs are extremely valuable, because they are designed to develop fat burning capacity, increase aerobic efficiency, strengthen the heart, etc., which is why I have always viewed them as adventures on foot with no real pressure of pace, but rather a chance to accrue experience and endurance for my whole body.
Therefore, I would classify the first fourteen miles on Sunday as a traditional long, slow run, but the final four required a crank of the dial and dash of daring; I was charged to open it up and run as fast as I could.
At mile eight I reached the final summit of the run, and was ready to lean forward and careen down the canyon for just over one mile of craggy trails that lead me back to civilization. I love this stretch of trail because it offers wide, flat sections that encourage an open, quick stride, plus a few technical dips that keep me nimble, and a shaded canopy of gorgeous Sycamore trees that line the Canyon floor across the last hundred yards, or so. I still kick myself that I lived in Granada Hills for over six years before discovering this trail, and even though I have tripped over rocks and nearly eaten it plenty of times, I love it, and never take it for granted.
Once I was back on the street, I was careful not to pick up my pace too much during this pleasant part of the run, about four miles of downhill and straight-a-way, but my energy was up, and my feet were comfy, when those factors are in place, up goes my pace.
I hit mile fourteen sooner than I planned, and faced an annoying hill, and fierce headwind before crossing back into my neighborhood to test out what I had left, bummer. Oh well, that’s all part of it.
I leaned forward and charged ahead.
A cool thing happened after I crested that hill, and threw off my hydration pack in front of my house ready to take off for real, I forgot about the first two hours of the run. As far as my mind was concerned, I was just starting a four mile run.
By mile two I felt really good and slipped down to my Ironman marathon goal pace, but knew I could go faster, so I dropped the hammer for mile four.
When I looked at my watch and saw 6:35, I pumped everything harder. I sprinted past my house, glanced at the yard, and felt relieved that my hydration pack was still lying motionless in the exact spot I tossed it; lonely, but intact. Moments later my watch buzzed at the 18th mile, I hit the “stop” button, flicked out a few more strides, and slowed down to a pedestrian pace. Once I realized it was over, my eyes and nose squinched up, I was nearly to tears, but not quite, just flush with joy and satisfaction, my favorite feeling.
I soaked up that sensation for a few seconds, took two to three deep breaths, and turned back toward my house.
Next up, recovery and re-fueling for my swim and second run on tap for later in the day.