So when do you go from running to training? I know I’ve been through this phase many times before, and even within this year and I think it all comes down to actually tracking and counting the miles I’ve put in for the week. Still, the only race I actually have on the calendar isn’t until the first week of November, but if I’m going to have any success (finishing) at all I’ve got to be in that training mode more so than running.
My training for the week actually began just past midnight on Monday morning. The moon was nearly full, I had just gotten out of work while loading up on caffeine and the weather had actually broken so I put on the reflective vest, donned the headlamp, leashed up my dog Wild and was out the door. The moon was partially blocked by clouds but I still had no trouble finding my way around the streets of Freeport just through the moon’s light and a few well placed streetlamps as well. I only turned on my headlamp once when I knew the road conditions were really crappy due to some construction. Wild held up real well as we made our way to the water just to check out the moonlit scenery. The temps were fabulous after suffering through ninety degree days and although it was a road run, it felt adventurous to be out at such an hour.
I squeezed in a run Tuesday afternoon in order to get some groceries and exercise Wild at the same time. I did add a few miles on my own in the woods and it felt great that I was rushing my run. It made me step up the pace in order not to miss out on my family and the responsibilities that go along with being a dad.
Although I keep feeling stronger on my runs, on Thursday’s run at Hedgehog I began to get a little disappointed in my actual pace. There’s only a few places where I can really open it up out there, and I did climb to the summit a couple times so of course my pace would be slow but it just felt slightly frustrating to look down at my watch a couple times and see four numbers instead of three.
My feelings changed quite a bit as I did my long run on Friday morning. I decided to head over to Bradbury and due the same route and distance of the previous week. It would be under ten and although I should build miles I thought it would be a better idea to try and get in a better run than just to add a couple more miles. So I started from the Pownal School in order to do a loop I had devised in training for the Big Brad Ultra last fall. Up Lunchbox Hill to the summit and then down the Switchback Trail. That trail was in awesome condition due to much trail work but I noticed that there were a few switches missing. Alas, over to the Boundary Trail and cutting back toward the Tote after the steep climb up on the backside of the Boundary. Up the Tote and then back down to the school. This route was about 4.5 miles and had kicked my ass the week before. Sure the week before I started about 5 am with about four hours of sleep and it was already more hot and humid than most normal people would tolerate. I wasn’t moving that much faster than I had but I was feeling sooooo much better. There was a slight rain but I was more drenched in sweat the week before than I was moving through the canopied forest.
I knew I was stronger than before as I didn’t have to walk up the Tote to get to the summit. I flew down the Lunchbox trail only to turn myself around and start heading back up. I felt really good but made the smart choice of mixing walking and running back up while getting in a little snack and taking in some fluids. Down the Switchback again, but this time I found the old Switchbacks and although they were blocked off I still ran them. I knew I shouldn’t but I needed at least one more time on those curves. My body felt good coming back to the Tote and soon I was back to the summit for the fourth time and still all by myself. I had only run into one group all morning, and I wished my single friend had been out with me as there were about five young ladies all with dogs. From the summit I skirted over to the South Trail just to have a peek down onto the town of Pownal and then back down the mountain. I did add a loop around the school to try and bring me a little closer to a full ten but I figured 9.89 was good enough without running around an empty parking lot.
Now my week was not over yet mind you but I did not end the week like I planned. On Sunday morning I drove out to Bradbury to meet for the 9 am Monster group run. I saw plenty of cars but no one there. I waited in the lot for awhile hoping runners would come looping back. I did see Val, Rick and Mindy cruise by when I first got there but they never came back. So finally I headed up the Switchback, figuring I would check out the Ultra course around Tyron. The Switchback kicked my ass going up and I was glad no one was there to watch me suffer. I cruised down the Tote and made a couple turns and then found a new little trail marked by some red flags. So I followed it. A nice little run and I was pleased to find it came out on the Boundary Trail right where it intersects with the Tyron-Pineland Connector Trail. Up and around Tyron, across Lawrence Road and a modified loop through the fields on the other side. It was all good and I felt good about just heading back to the car. But then turning right after the quarry I spot Ryan coming up the hill. He was with someone I didn’t know but then Ian is right behind them. They said I should come with them as they are doing the Ultra loop but I just want to head back to the car as I’d figured on only running an hour and it was now more than half an hour into my run. But I couldn’t say no.
The pace was nice but the conversation was better as I got some good firsthand reports on the Vermont 100 the previous week. Ryan’s friend, Kevin is the Nordic ski coach at Bowdoin and had a wife due anytime with their third child, and his run was becoming much longer than he had expected as well, so I didn’t feel all that bad that I wouldn’t be home at the usual expected time. I felt strong as I was able to move efficiently up a few hills and cruise along a couple other spots. I did reel it back in as I knew it was a group run and was much more fresh than them as they had all started at 8 am instead of the usual nine. We all made it up back up to the summit where a couple other runners were waiting who would join Ian and Ryan on the rest of the loop but Kevin really needed to head back home and I followed him down the Summit Trail wanting to get back to my own family.
A bigger mileage week than I expected. My body feels better than expected. My spirits are good. I feel motivated to stay on track, build just a little more and focus a little more on quality and speed versus distance. I need to keep getting out with Wild a couple times a week and get him back more on trails and off leash and then I can run feeling more untethered as well.