Sunday, September 7, 2008

Near Death Experience

129 mins.
~16.5-17 miles

Okay, I'm just going to put this out there up front: this was the hardest run I've done in this training cycle. Period. I'm sure it's a combination of finishing off my highest mileage week yet, plus having done two relatively hard and lengthy workouts, plus not being able to start the run until mid-day. For whatever reasons, I have honestly never been more relieved to finish a run than I was at the end of this effort.

Also, today comprised a series of firsts for me. It was my first run at Kennesaw Mountain (which, you may recall, was the site of my painful hike-a-thon a few months ago). Si
nce I had to give a tech clinic at a store in Kennesaw this morning, it seemed only logical to drive a few miles to the mountain and do my run there. Change of scenery, new trails, and I was able to hook up with Ezra, a guy I recently met who works at the Big Peach in Kennesaw (and was also looking for a long run today). This was also my first run to experiment with a gel of some sort (apple cinnamon Clif Shot, to be exact), which I took at approximately nine miles. The main point of "practicing" with this was to see how it affected my stomach, and surprisingly everything was kosher. In fact, that brings me to another long run "first" for today, which is that I didn't have to stop for the bathroom. Now that might not sound like a big deal, but anyone who knows me understands that I structure my runs around the availability of restroom facilities. That's just how I roll. But for whatever reason, today the bathroom was not needed, which is auspicious for MCM. Somehow I don't think I'm going to have many spare minutes to play with on race day, and it would be tragic to miss my goal due to an unexpected detour. Finally, this was also my first long run that finished in the heat of the day. While certainly not ideal, I didn't have any other options today due to work. Fortunately the trail was well-shaded and the heat wasn't too much of an issue.

Just some scenery along the trail. No big deal.

Nonetheless, all that aside, the take home message here is that the run sucked. The trails at Kennesaw are extremely hilly (perhaps the word "mountain" should've tipped me off)...they're constantly rising or falling with nary a flat stretch to establish any semblance of a rhythm...and the mixed dirt/gravel/rock/tree root surface makes for minimal traction as well. Good for the Civil War soldiers who once had to defend themselves against invaders here? Perhaps. Good for non-combative runners like myself? Not so much. Had Ezra not been with me, I would've either a) gotten lost; b) died; or c) gotten lost, then died. I say with no exaggeration that I couldn't have finished the run if he hadn't been there. Actually, the one silver lining in this whole debacle was thanks to him. We stopped at a water fountain along the trail at what my watch said was 47 minutes, which made me want to cry because I couldn't believe we'd only been out there for 6 miles. Turns out I'd forgotten to re-start my watch after a road crossing or something, because he was quick to inform me we were really at 67 minutes. I cannot tell you how much that positively impacted my outlook on life, if for only a short time. Had he not been there I would've never known we were really almost at 9 miles instead of 6. Like I've said before, it's the little things.

One final thought: I will be very, very sore tomorrow.