Comfort in routine. It’s been my mantra for the past six days as I’ve tried to maintain a level of “normal.” So, as planned, I headed out on Sunday morning for a 10-mile run – my longest run to date.
I put some Gatorade Prime Energy Chews in my Running Buddy (the latter being a product I’m going to review officially here shortly, complete with a discount code and giveaway) and headed out, making sure to tell Jason when I left so he’d know approximately when to get worried if I hadn’t returned. I also made sure to walk briskly down the hill near our house before officially starting my run; I did want want to have the largest hill of my run come at mile 9.9.
The first few miles were great. In fact, most of my run was great. I wasn’t pushing the pace too much, but I challenged myself to stay under a 12-minute mile for the entire run, knowing I tend to start faster than I can maintain (especially when I’m anxious or excited) and fall apart at the end. The first almost-2 miles of my run are on a pedestrian-only portion of the trail (bikers are on a parallel trail on the other side of a creek), so I was able to spend some time focusing on my form without having to dodge cyclists. Once the traffic merges, though… let’s just say that some bikers are more aware of pedestrians than others, and you have to be alert to avoid getting run over. I’m not sure why bikers who have a trail at least 10 feet wide to ride on, with no oncoming traffic, choose to pass within six inches of runners, but they do.
My last long run took me to the edge of the Cherry Creek Country Club, so I’d assumed that adding a couple miles to my run would take me to the shopping mall on the other side. I not only made it to the mall – I had to run a loop around some of the mall parking so that the mall would be my turnaround point for the out and back. I’ve never really been on the trail past the mall (although it continues for many, many miles – my runs start at it’s northernmost end, in the photo above), so I didn’t want to venture too far into uncharted territory.
The mall end of my run was a little “hilly” (“hilly” being a relative term; it’s nothing compared to running in the mountains or anything), so by mile 6 I was feeling pretty tired. I chomped on a couple of my chews and focused on settling into my pace. I also reminded myself that I needed to update my running playlist with some faster songs; I could feel my cadence was too slow, but my body kept trying to match the beats per minute of my music.
Around mile 8, my left knee started to bother me. It wasn’t painful at all; I could just feel the fatigue and soreness. This was also the point in my run when I became more aware of my butt. At some point, during every longer run I’ve done, I suddenly feel like my butt has gotten firmer and is jiggling much less than normal as I run. I wouldn’t mind if that were actually true, but I tend to believe it’s just my butt getting tired. And Runkeeper’s numbers told the story; my pace was slowing down.
I could feel myself hunching over and reminded myself to stand up straight and focus on my breathing. I even started doing little fartleks in the last two miles – I’d spot a bridge or pole up ahead and tell myself to pick up the pace a little, just until I got to my chosen marker. And somehow, those little sprints transformed my last two miles. I was still sore, but I could feel my stride length and cadence picking up a little even on the “slow” stretches between my sprints. And I didn’t feel quite so exhausted in the home stretch.
Don’t get me wrong. When I stopped, all I wanted to do was soak in a cold swimming pool and never run again. But I was proud of myself for redeeming the last little bit of my run (and finishing with a decent pace to boot), when all my mind wanted me to do was give in and starting walking. I can now say that I can run 10 miles without stopping, slow though they may be. And a switch has been flipped – instead of believing the only way I can finish a half marathon is if I walk every so often, I now believe I can finish a half marathon while running the entire distance. And under 2:30 to boot! Less than seven weeks to go now, and this weekend calls for a 10k and an 11-miler back to back. But instead of being nervous or anxious – I’m ready for the challenge.