Sunday, January 2, 2011

Davidson Trails Long Run

Target: 18-20 miles w/30 mins. uptempo
Actual: 2:05 (18 miles) incl. 10-15 @6:44, 6:28, 6:32, 6:17, 6:19 pace for .66)

For our first big long run of 2011, Caitlin and I rounded up a group to meet north of the Queen City at the Davidson College trails. I'd never been here before but everyone I know raves about the shaded, rolling, well-manicured grass trails near the college campus. Since the prospect of running 2+ hours at McAlpine was almost enough to reduce me to tears, I was desperate to try someplace new. Fortunately several other people were up for the same, and when we rolled into the parking lot at 9am we were greeted by John, Caitlin, Allen, Leonard Hilliard, Kevin Ballantine and even a few new (to me) faces. We set off into the muggy, foggy, warm (altogether a bit yucky) morning air at a relaxed pace, chatting about our respective New Years' and about the HORNED FROGS WINNING THE ROSE BOWL! Go Frogs! Let me just say, they've come a long way since the bowl they headlined my freshman year. Way to win one for all the little guys out there! (Okay, I'm done. For now.)

A few miles into the run, Caitlin and I both observed that we felt, well, pretty crappy. We'd planned an uptempo section in the second half of the run, but neither of us were feeling much pep in our step. She must've been reading my mind when she suggested we take to the roads if and when that uptempo section occurred. Though I was loving the trails, which were every bit as great as I'd heard, I knew there was no way we'd be able to pick things up with the ground being as mushy and slow as it was today. Fortunately several members of our party, including Jordan who was still nursing his Achilles, wanted to head back after about an hour, so we all ran to the parking lot to drop them off. All of the sudden our group was reduced to three, leaving John, Caitlin and myself to soldier on for the remainder. As a side note, let me mention that at this point I was warm enough to take off my shirt and run in just my sports bra. On January 2nd. Crazy! (I'm also pretty sure the craziness will be short-lived as temperatures are supposed to drop into the low 20s tonight. And I thought I left the weather's crazy mood swings behind in Texas.)

To be honest, for a few minutes I didn't realize we'd started running faster. No one verbally initiated this section of our run. All I knew was I felt absolutely terrible and was suddenly having a difficult time relaxing into the pace. It all made sense a few minutes later when Caitlin's Garmin beeped and she announced our first mile split. Time to get down to business. To be sure, running on the road/sidewalk/bike path definitely helped us pick up the pace, but we would get no favors from the rolling terrain. In particular, once we turned around at 15 minutes it seemed to be all uphill on the way back. My legs were feeling the effects of yesterday's somewhat failed workout--after all, I was now running moderately hard for the second day in a row after not having done so in three weeks--and Caitlin and John began to pull a few meters ahead. I knew that if I didn't close the gap in a hurry I'd flounder mightily for the last mile, so I manned up and charged one of the downhills to come back on their heels. We finished with two marathon paced miles going uphill toward the campus, which was both faster and harder than expected. I'll take it.

Unfortunately for me, John and Caitlin were ready to wrap it up at this point. Not that I blame them, as both are training for half marathons and Caitlin is recovering from a bit of a sore knee. I was tempted to pack it in with them--mostly because of the impending group breakfast at Toast--but I knew I needed to extend things for a few more miles. I looped around the adjacent streets and a small neighborhood park several times, surprised that my legs felt better than they had before the tempo, lost in my own thoughts. I felt strong enough to continue beyond the two-hour mark, but I knew my friends and my peanut butter banana french toast were awaiting me. I jogged back up to the main drag and arrived at the restaurant just in time to clean up and change clothes before being seated. I spent the next hour enjoying a delicious breakfast with great friends--Caitlin's boyfriend Garrett even drove up to meet us, which I'm going to (probably inaccurately) attribute more to the allure of our company than the draw of a mean-looking omelette. We finished our al fresco meal just as the first drops of rain began to fall--perfect timing to head back home for an afternoon of lounging and recovery. Our first long run of 2011 was officially a success!