Man, oh, man. You know how sometimes, no matter how many times you’ve done something before and how much you think it should be no big deal, stuff gets totally blown out of proportion and leaves you sort of terrified? That’s what the long run was for me this weekend.
With the New Jersey Half Marathon coming up in less than a month, I’m long overdue to get my butt in gear. I decided it was necessary to run eight miles this weekend, in order to squeeze a couple of long runs in before toeing the line, for my peace of mind more than actual preparation. I debated between two routes before settling on a somewhat hilly but very familiar loop that I’ve run hundreds of times before.
When I woke up Sunday morning, I was so nervous, wondering how I’d feel on the run and after, and whether it would give me confidence or leave me feeling defeated. Still, I pulled on tights, zipped up a jacket and mixed a water bottle full of H2O and Pedialyte (alas, no Gatorade in the house).
Now, in the midst of the mind games and run prep, I neglected to the check the weather. Why bother? The sun is out! Well, bother because it snowed all day Saturday and despite bright sunshine, it was rather icy. I shuffled down my driveway — slippery — and out of my neighborhood, running on snowy spots instead of blacktop to try and avoid falling. Maybe this wasn’t my best idea, I thought.
1/3 of a mile down.
Okay, I told myself, we’re going to take it easy. It is a widely known, or at least widely discussed, truth in the running world that long runs are supposed to be run at a slower, easier clip than your desired race pace or your quicker training runs. It’s been the bane of my running habit: I tend to always do my long runs at race pace — always — and then bonk on race day. Maybe this will work to my advantage for a change, I wondered. One minute I’m hoping to survive and the next I’m thinking race strategy.
The miles passed by really quickly. The downhill from mile two to three was precarious at best, but for the most part I felt really good and my footing was firm. I jogged along. To be honest, I felt really good. I wasn’t pushing myself too hard and I wondered if running with the jogger was actually paying off a bit, making me stronger in general.
I ran carefully, on snowy shoulders around bends where cars might not expect a runner and in the middle of the lane on stretches with icy edges and a good view of cars ahead. I waved and mouthed thank yous to cars as they passed, eager to let drivers know I appreciated their caution. In some places the road or sidewalk was perfectly clear, until it wasn’t and a snow bank required dodging. For the most part, signs of winter were fast melting and promise of spring seemed possible.
Around mile six, I took half a Gu — the 2014 limited release salted caramel that I got for Christmas back before finding out I was pregnant. I’ve been waiting to try it for much too long. It was good (sorry, Leigh! I know you disagree!) and I got an instant boost that brought me home strong, miles clocking almost 45 seconds faster after than before. It reminded me to fuel before I need it come race day.
Making my way back home, I felt fresh and ready to run. Could I run another five? Definitely. My app hit mile eight and still at least a half mile from home, I kicked into higher gear, wanting to finish fast. Instead, I landed flat on my back, hitting a patch of ice just right while dodging traffic. Cockiness has a funny way, doesn’t it? Just as you’re starting to feel comfortable…
It was a beautiful morning and I feel ready to up my mileage next weekend, to build my legs and my confidence for race day and I ease back into a heavier running regiment this spring.
8.7 miles, 9:09 pace. Before long, I’ll be back.