My friend Hari likes to aggravate me by telling others: She used to be so fast. I never really was that fast, and I haven’t really gotten that much slower either. He’s the one who finally caught up with — and now runs faster than — me.
I did qualify for and run Boston two years ago, I used to regularly place in my age group in local races, and I even won second place in my age group at the Borax Death Valley Marathon last year. My bright, shining star of speed seems to have fizzled out this past year and a half, but I’m okay with that. I’ve discovered my one true love, trail running, and no one seems to care as much about my speed out on the trails.
When I run with the group on Saturday mornings I’m always in the back of the pack. I generally like to keep a 9:30-9:45 pace on those 10 to 12 milers, mainly to save energy for the longer Sunday trail runs which can entail up to six hours of running 20 to 26 miles at a time.
On those Saturday runs with the group, the majority of my friends are way ahead of me, running in the 8:30-9:00 pace range. Apparently, a new study shows that running with people faster than yourself is a good thing.
My old Garmin used to have a Virtual Partner that I could run against. I never once used it the entire life of the watch. Maybe I should have.
I prefer to use my friends to keep me fast. Running with my friend Susan is always a race to the finish, especially on the trails. Though she’s only a few years younger, she’s much faster than I am, and much stronger. My friend Hari turned vegan, dropped some weight, and grew a pair of wings on his heels. I always knew it was just a matter of time before he would run me into the ground. And Bionic Liz, who has pins in her leg from a stress fracture that took her off the course in her first marathon attempt, can stay ahead of anyone by sheer force of will.
My friends are good for me.
Trail running, a challenging weekly hill route, running five days a week, cooler winter temperatures, and increasing my overall mileage have all helped me to get faster again without really trying. That’s exactly the way I like it. If I have to work too hard at something, it takes all the fun out of it.
And if it’s not fun, why bother?
I hate speedwork. Other than running on a treadmill, doing repeats around a track just doesn’t do it for me. I do, however, love a good tempo run.
Tonight’s run was exactly what I needed. I had wanted to run first thing this morning, but was surprised to wake up to rain. I usually love running in a light rain, but not when temps are only in the 40’s.
The day warmed up nicely, to the low 70’s, but by the early evening the temperature unexpectedly dropped 15 degrees into the mid 50’s.
Perfect conditions for a run.
My legs took advantage of the perfect conditions, and my easy run turned into a tempo run. It was one of those runs where everything felt great: cool temps, energy level, legs, and mind.
The last mile I was pulling off 8:30’s and 8:24’s, which is rare for this middle aged body. It felt so effortless, so free, that I felt like I was flying that last mile.
Tonight’s great tempo run reminds me of why I love running, and what keeps me running.
It isn’t about the speed, or the pace. It’s about the way a really good run can make you feel exhilarated and invincible. Every cell, every muscle, every tendon feels alive. I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced a true “runner’s high,” but tonight was pretty close.
It was a really great run.
9/17/11 – 16 MILES
Saturday’s long run was a humid mess of moistness. The temperature started out at 73 degrees, but with the humidity at 78% it didn’t seem all that cool. The worst was the way the air felt so thick. I could tell what a difference it made after our weeks of humidity in the teens.
Bill surprised Heather and me with an autographed copy of a new running book by Adam Goucher (aka Mr. Kara Goucher) and Tim Catalano called Running the Edge. We squealed like little girls and couldn’t wait to get home and read it. I seriously considered ditching the long run so I could start reading the book.
Before I could think twice, we were off, headed towards our usual route down to the lake. The mornings are definitely darker now, and I thought about remembering to wear light colored clothing from now on. We ran along the lake for a couple of miles, then headed up out of Lakewood. Heather, who battled a cold all week and was running under the influence of Sudafed, said we were running too fast for the start, and she was right. We paid the price the last few miles. They were torture.
After Lakewood, it was a new route through familiar neighborhoods: M Streets, Katy Trail, and Highland Park (where the police were obligingly parked and watching us from their black SUV to make sure we stayed on their sidewalks). We continued around the country club, through University Park, through SMU campus, past the Katy Trail for water, then back up the dreaded hill at Longview, then Anita, to Fuzzy’s.
The humidity was brutal and the route felt like we were always running uphill, but it was nevertheless nice to run a new route. I was so glad to be done. Why aren’t these long runs getting any easier?????
Heather, Bill, and I all decided that next week we are going to start off much slower and then pick up the speed as we go along. We’ve been saying this from the beginning . . .
Afterwards, over tacos and beer, Chris pulled out his boxes and we all purchased and tried on our new WRRC (White Rock Running Co-op)/RUN FREE tech shirts. It will be way cool to wear them in the future. The club is slowly growing, and that’s a good thing.
*** Just now looking at the weather stats for Saturday, I noticed the humidity level actually went up from 78% to 85% by the end of our run. One more reason, perhaps, why the run was so difficult . . .
Stats: 16 miles @ 9:40 pace
The other day was just one of those days. You know the kind, where despite your best efforts, everything seems to be a little off. The kind where the day you’ve envisioned in your head doesn’t quite match up to the one that actually occurs.
I set the alarm for 4AM to get up and meet my friends for our first speedwork session at the SMU track field, but I wasn’t looking forward to it. Speedwork is my least favorite type of workout, and I was dreading it–especially at 5AM. When the alarm went off at 4, I hit the snooze button twice and fell back asleep. When I woke up it was 4:45, still enough time to get up, throw my clothes on, and race over to the SMU track field. I fell back asleep. I’ll get up at 6 and run on my own, I thought to myself, and went back to sleep again. I woke up at 8, feeling grumpy and guilty.
The whole day was blah. The dogs were tired of being inside because of the high temps and kept whining and looking out the front window. When I let them outside all they wanted to do was bark. I felt unmotivated and guilty all day for not running, and hoped it might turn cloudy by the evening so I could make up my missed morning run, knowing I was completely deluding myself about it magically turning cloudy.
I decided to punish myself. Thinking it might get a little cooler by 6PM, and knowing it wouldn’t, I resolved to run a loop at the lake all alone. When it was still 102 degrees at 6, I knew a loop wasn’t going to happen, so Michael talked me into taking the dogs to the dog park. He said he’d stay with them and I could go for my run. I figured I could still get in 5 or 6 miles and let go of my guilt for missing my morning run.
We didn’t leave the house until 7:15PM, and it was “only” 100 degrees. When we got to the lake, I told Michael I would stay on the hilly path on the east side (remember, I was punishing myself), and if the dogs got bored after awhile he could come meet me on my way back. As I ran off I yelled out over my shoulder, “Remember, I’ll be on the path.”
It was actually a very good run. Except for the broken up path, which would feel like a cheese grater if you tripped and fell (which I am prone to do), I always enjoy running on the hilly path. The hills are not extreme, but still steep enough and long enough for a pretty good workout. Most runners stay on the road on the east side of the lake, so the path never has many people to dodge like on the newly paved section of the west side. The hilly path also stays mostly in the trees, where it’s cool and shaded. I pushed myself and kept a 9:18 average pace for the first half. Not bad with the hills and 100 degree heat.
I decided to run 5 miles instead of 6, mainly because it was getting dark so quickly. I turned around at Sunset Bay and headed back to the dog park. The path here is in pretty rough shape, so I knew I had to be extra careful not to trip in the low light. I trudged on. It really was getting dark much earlier these days. I had noticed on the weather website a few weeks ago that the days were getting shorter by a full minute every day. This was good news considering our ungodly high temperatures this summer. (The days are now getting shorter by almost 2 full minutes.)
I barreled around the Stone Tables and up the hill, through the trees where coyotes are often seen in the evenings. I hoped I wouldn’t see any tonight.
By the time I got to the Bath House it was pitch dark, and kind of creepy on the path. There was hardly anyone around, and those who were stayed on the road. A police car passed me on the road, then parked down the road facing the path. This particular part of the path goes up the hill into the trees, and I wondered if the police had seen me running and were watching out for me. I felt better just thinking that. I also considered going down to the road, but remembered how I had told Michael I would be on the path. I didn’t want to miss him in the dark.
Just before I got to the top of the hill I heard rustling to my left. A male runner came running up the hill onto the path, headed in the opposite direction. It totally spooked me, and I picked up the pace. I was surprised I hadn’t run into Michael and the dogs yet. This section of the path is pretty high above the road, tucked in between Big Thicket and some neighborhood homes, and it was full on dark. By the time I got to the bottom of the hill, just before entering the last segment of the path, the part that goes directly into the trees, I decided it was too dark to stay on the path. Not only was the path in bad shape, it just didn’t feel safe. I decided if I hadn’t seen Michael by this time he was probably waiting for me at the dog park. I ran the last quarter mile in the road, against traffic, and kept an eye on the path just in case Michael and the dogs passed me. Several cars passed by, none of them Michael, and I was ready to be done with this run.
When I got to the dog park, no Michael, no dogs. Great. He must’ve been on the one part of the path I didn’t stay on, the part at the very end that was so dark. Thinking he might be sitting at the top of the hill with the dogs, waiting for me, I walked back over the bridge and up the hill. No luck. By this time there was almost no one walking, running, or biking at the lake, and there was only one woman and her two dogs at the dog park. I walked back to the dog park to try and figure out what to do. Not only did I feel unsafe, the dog park is located in a swampy area of the lake and the mosquitoes were ferocious. I started pacing.
I had no phone and no car key. I didn’t want to get back on the path alone in the dark, and knew I probably wouldn’t catch up with him anyway. I walked back over the bridge a few times, hoping to see them headed back, then talked to the woman at the dog park who assured me the park was safe after dark. I thought of a recent rape that had been reported at the lake, and the dead body being hauled out one early morning run. Maybe I’m a scaredy cat, but I don’t think a female alone after dark is safe anywhere in the city.
I had always told my children if they ever got lost to stop and stay where they were, I would come and find them. It actually worked, too, several times. I remembered telling Michael that not long ago, so I knew the best thing would be to stay at the dog park and wait it out. A few more people brought their dogs to the dog park, so I was less alone. I must’ve looked odd walking around the empty parking lot.
I waited and waited. I worried. What if one of the dogs had chased an animal and got off leash and ran away? What if someone had attacked him? What if he got hurt and the dogs couldn’t help? How far would he walk before turning around? What if all the people left the dog park and I was all alone in the parking lot? What if I got eaten alive by the mosquitoes? Would Michael be mad because I hadn’t stayed on the path? What if he never came back????
A full hour later, I saw them cross the bridge. Michael came running up with both dogs, sweaty and smiling. He was so happy to see I was safe. I felt so stupid. He had walked 4 miles total, thinking I might have injured myself in the dark and was hurt on the side of the path, unconscious. What a man! He’s always told me he has my back, and he certainly proved it this night.
If I had stayed on that last stretch of path I would have met them. We still can’t figure out how we didn’t see each other from the street and path, how he didn’t see me when the cars passed and shined their lights on me, why the dogs didn’t act a little excited when I passed, and can only surmise he was in the trees when I passed on the road. We simply missed seeing each other.
Like I said, it was just one of those days. I’ve lived in Dallas almost all my life, and run around the lake hundreds of times, but it figures that only I could get lost there.
7/16/11 – 10 MILES
Yesterday was the first long run of my marathon training. After taking some time off from my last marathon in February –actually, a little too much time off–then a back injury after a spectacular fall four steps into an easy run, it was time to get back into the swing of things. I have spent the last six weeks getting my base built back up and have been averaging 20-22 miles per week before this first long run.
My goal race this fall is the Williams Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa. I had planned on running it last year but was feeling a little burned out and decided to defer the race until this year. I will be training with Bill and Heather, the WRRC, and the Dallas Running Club (DRC). My goal is the same as every marathon, to run a sub 4 hour marathon, and that’s what I will be training for.
Met the White Rock Running Co-op (WRRC) at 6AM in the Fuzzy’s Tacos parking lot. We had a great turnout of around 30 or so people. I was irritated to discover that I brought my fuel belt but forgot the water bottles in the fridge. Argh. It’s a good thing most of our run would be at White Rock Lake, which has water fountains every mile or so.
The starting temp at the start of the run was 84 and the humidity was 74%. Yikes. Everyone was drenched in sweat within five minutes of running. We have all struggled with the extreme heat in Dallas since the beginning of June, including many evening runs at or above 100 degrees, but such high humidity has been rare this summer. Everyone put on their game faces and powered through.
Our goal was to keep a 9:45-10:00 pace, but the downhill to the lake–not to mention the “fast group” in the front–kept our pace pretty fast the first 1.5 miles, somewhere between a 9:07 and 9:30. We knew we would not be able to keep up this pace in the heat. We also knew that we would be stopping at just about every water stop along the path.
I know that I tend to run too fast on my long runs, and one of my goals this season is to slow down to at least a 9:30 pace on most long runs. With summer temps so high this year, I don’t want to run faster than a 9:45 pace until it cools off.
The run itself was relaxed and the conversation lively, as always. It was nice to run with a group again and talk to people I haven’t seen in awhile. Everyone did great, but we did have to stop at all the water stops. Took a Gu after the first hour of running, which really helped me up those hills the last 1.5 miles of the run. I felt great on the hills, and was proud that every single one of us ran up the hills without having to stop and walk. It’s great to know my base is back.
Afterwards, breakfast at Fuzzy’s (including beer for a select few!) and lots of laughs. I am really looking forward to training for my 7th marathon with such a great group of friends.
Stats: 10.23 miles @ 9:50 pace