Jul 31, 2007

3.5 awesome happy smiley-faced miles

run 100 feet, 5280 times - the last 100 feet of the vermont 100 mile endurance run.

you know, it's bizarre.. after yesterday's post, i was wondering if there was anything else i could be saying that i haven't said already.

yet, today's run had me think of so many things worthy of saying that i don't think i can remember it all. (:

this evening when i ran, it was warmer than the last two days' runs - 84º or so - but the humidity was only about 45%..

it is definitely more comfortable than the 78º and 85% humidity of sunday and monday.

is that the reason today's run went so unbelievably well?
well, it could be..
it could also be that I didn't push myself too hard on both S & M, when I ran a mere 4 miles over both days combined.
or it could be the fact that I ran in the oppressive conditions on both of those days caused an increase in mental toughness such that the discomfort of today's run wasn't even noticeable.
or it could be that i'm a much stronger runner because i trail-ran bear mountain, then jogged another 3½ miles on saturday- it wouldn't be the first time i've noticed a dramatic increase in performance after such an intense workout.
or it could be that i treated myself to too much of Rino's Pizza in New Paltz, on my way home from work, an hour before my run. Rino's is quite possibly the best pizza in the Hudson Valley, and good pizza always makes me happy. and a happy steve is a good runner steve.

suffice it to say, whatever the cause, today's run was incredible.

it wasn't particularly long - 3.5 miles. but longer than I planned.
I've run something similar (but easier) to this course once before, about a year ago. i remember that it had some respectable hills on it. it was unusually hard on me, for a 3-miler. i was accustomed to running on a flat surface.
today, i planned on running the identical course that i found so hard last year. it's an inter-state course that starts at my home in suffern (new york), crosses over into mahwah (new jersey), and stays there for a while before returning home. the first half is on a busy street, but the way back is quiet, tree-lined residential streets. both halves have hills, but nothing too serious.

it started out just like any other run. i didn't know how well it was going to go. it took forever for my GPS to get a satellite lock. when it finally clicked and as i started, my mind went through the typical bail-out scenarios and what-ifs it always goes through at the beginning of a run. then, to my surprise, i found myself running at a 9-minute-per-mile pace at the second block. and as good as it felt, i knew that i better hold back if i wanted to survive the run. so I settled into my typical 11 minute pace, which made me happy. it literally put a smile on my face. and, at about the half-mile mark, while starting an uphill, i noticed the smile.

"whoah, i'm running uphill and enjoying it!"

it was still early in the run, and i didn't know how i was going to feel at the 1-mile mark, but at that point i decided that i was going to do everything possible to enjoy this run. so i kept smiling. i smiled as i crossed a busy intersection. i smiled as i crossed paths with another runner. i smiled as i powered my way up a hill. and before i knew it, i was turning off the busy street, under the railroad tracks, then back north, towards home, up a hill, still smiling, at a better than 10-minute pace. i saw some children playing, and i smiled some more - but my pace combined with the hill, which was cresting, made me feel a little discomfort, for the first time this run. so, as i started a flat portion, i slowed down the pace and i immediately felt fine again. then the best part of the run came.

the course takes a left turn and ascends a slight incline before flattening out on a right turn. i remember this part of the course being really difficult when i ran it last year. what i didn't remember, until i was there, was just how steep the road gets if you *don't* turn right.

there was no question in my mind. as soon as i saw that steep hill, i knew i was going to conquer it. when i came to the intersection where i could have turned right to a flat relief, i noted my distance so i would know how long the hill was. then i ran up the hill. no question, i was working out. this was a tough hill, and my heart rate was skyrocketing. but i am a strong hill runner, that's my affirmation. it showed as i crested this .14 mile block that probably gains over 100 feet in elevation. I'm going to call it FireHill, because the Mahwah Fire Department is actually at the top of it.

FireHill ends in a "T"-style intersection, and I was to make the right turn that I planned to make a block ago, sans-FireHill. when it came into view, i saw another jogger coming into the intersection from the left. he probably had the same build as me, maybe not quite as fat but not as tall either. the road, when going from left to right, also goes uphill, though not nearly as steep. lo and behold, he was running at my typical 11-minute per mile pace. let's call him MahwahDude.

i was strong when i crested the hill and turned right into the not-nearly-as-steep-but-still-a-hill hill. MahwahDude crossed the intersection before I did, and as I turned right, he was about 30 feet in front of me. Long-time readers of this blog will remember BlueShirt, a guy, who upon reflection was remarkably similar to MahwahDude. I was behind him on a training run for a long time, and though he didn't know it at the time, I decided to make him my competitor. My race tactic at the time, demoralize him on an uphill, and hope he doesn't catch me on the flats. let my heart stay in front of him. It worked with BlueShirt, but MahwahDude didn't just climb FireHill. My only hope was to stay with him, 30 feet, until the hill we were both on (after turning right off FireHill) crested, then smoke him when it goes downhill. It proved to work - my heart rate was still high, but not above 95%, when we were nearing the crest of the hill, so I picked up my pace a little. I quickly passed MahwahDude and allowed myself to fly down the hill on the other side, which is very steep. My GPS tells me that I briefly was running faster than a 6-minute pace. I never saw MahwahDude again.

I never stopped smiling.

My run then crossed Rt.202 and into a quiet neighborhood where I would cross the state line back into New York. I backed off my pace as a cool-down, and just took it easy on the road where I did some Yasso 800s two weeks ago. Entering downtown Suffern Proper, I found myself running up yet another hill, still with a big fat smile on my face and a LOT of fuel left in the tank. So I picked up the pace and finished, once again, going uphill, at a sub-10 minute pace.

4 days down, 17 to go. and what may be the best workout of my life.

I actually have a lot more to write. but this blog post is already too long.. so it'll have to wait until the next time. For those of you who took the time to read what I just wrote, thanks. But I honestly don't think anyone (all two of you) got this far. That's ok though, because I wrote it for me. I want to have something to come back to ten years down the line and see where my mind was at. It should be fun.
in upcoming episodes of pizzapizza, steve's blog: popcorn and trail runners. and whatever else I couldn't fit in this post.

have a great day.


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