Friday, March 2, 2007

But Does It Count?

I finally got my 20 mile run in today. Supposedly I'm doing a marathon later this month. I haven't signed up for it yet, I think I'm secretly hoping it fills up before I register. But I figured it was about time to do my long run.

It's been a tough winter in DC because we had a long cold snap. So it's been hard to throw down a 20-miler. Plus I've been busy. I recently switched divisions at work. I volunteered to direct a weekly running program put on by my club, with the able assistance of Jeanne (she's 2d in command--actually, who am I kidding?), Bex (coach of the gazelles) and others. I organized a small informal running group, TIG (for The Informal Group), that went out on Saturday runs around the DC area.

I had good intentions of doing my long run with TIG. Its participants were training for a Half, so they didn't want to do more than 13 miles or so. I ran to one meeting place beforehand, and got in an 18-miler that way, but that and a 14-mile run were all I had really done since I ran the NYCM in November. Heck, I haven't even run 26 miles total in a week since November.

I had Friday off and it seemed perfect for finally doing a long run. Except my boss at work asked me late Thursday to attend a meeting on a time-sensitive work project on Friday morning with his boss. Even though I like my boss and his boss, I was reluctant to accommodate him because I prefer to do my long runs early in the morning. But I saw an opportunity here.

Okay, I said, I can be here at 10 tomorrow morning, even though it's my day off. Great, said my boss, see you then.

Work is eleven and a half miles away. How fun, and ecological, I thought, to run to work and back. I'll get my run in. I'll attend the meeting. I'll save energy. Everyone will be delighted. So that's what I did.

At 8 this morning I headed out the door. I started running towards DC on the W&OD Trail, a 40-mile long bike path made from a paved-over railroad bed that passes by right behind my house. (For those of you who know the W&OD Trail, my house is the second one west of the bike bridge.)

It was a temperate morning. A few bicycle commuters passed me, and one or two even gave me an audible warning that they were approaching at speed. The miles rolled by. Runners usually use the Memorial Bridge from Arlington National Cemetery to get into the District, but I ran over the Roosevelt Bridge instead, something I'd never tried before. The experiment worked because I didn't get lost or have to cross a roadway full of harried rush-hour commuters. Finally I attained the Mall and ran its length. It was lovely. I charged up Capitol Hill to approximate the hill late in the marathon I'm planning to run and then cut over to my office building near Union Station.

11.8 miles in 1:56:25, counting a comfort break by Roosevelt Island. 9:52 pace, kinda slow so far.

I bought coffee and a banana, changed my running shirt and attended the meeting. It was a good meeting, I thought. One attendee was getting over lingering cold, another had an infection that might be contagious and I was smack dab in the middle of a 20-mile run. We all placed our chairs far apart from one another.

Then I went to my office to measure on gmap how far I'd already run and calculated the pace. I went to the work nurse to ask for some petroleum jelly. She didn't have any so I substituted four bandaids instead. After 90 minutes I was off again to run home. This part of the run was a little tougher. A lot tougher, actually. Running home from work is "uphill" as the Custis Trail in Virginia, which feeds into the W&OD, is hilly, especially going west.

Running down the Mall wasn't quite so nice as it had been earlier. The wind had picked up considerably and was right in my face the whole way. It was sweeping down the east-west lying Mall so strongly that the flags around the Washington Monument were fully unfurled, pointing towards the Capitol like stiff boards. Running by each of the half dozen Metro stops I passed offered strong inducement to call it a 15-mile run and jump aboard public transit.

Passing over the Potomac by the Memorial Bridge, I entered Virginia within thirty minutes. The trail along the river was full of gigantic puddles. I got my shoes wet. I was hungry because the coffee and the banana, plus a Gu, were all that I had eaten. I drank the last of my water and I was thirsty. I tried to decide whether having given blood two days earlier was what was making me excessively tired, or if it was just because I was woefully out of shape.

I hit the sharp hills on the Custis Trail. I started clocking 10 minute miles, then 10:30 miles. Finally I turned onto the W&OD, which thankfully is flatter. Only 5K to go. Revived a little bit, I overtook and passed a bicyclist. (He was only four, with training wheels on his bike, so I guess it doesn't count.)

As I slowly counted off the last three miles to my house, I wondered if I'd even break two hours on the return trip. I abandoned my plan to run up the long steep hill near my house to cap my run. I debated endlessly whether I'd run over the bike bridge or take the flat path underneath it and cross King Street by running across the highway. But since the milepost is posted on the bridge, I ran over it. I checked my pace for the last mile and winced. Over 11:00.

I got to my driveway and stopped. It felt like I'd died and gone to heaven. 1:58:24 for 11.5 miles, 10:18 pace. Yikes. But the 20-miler was done (actually 23.3 miles). I had experienced the fun of running to work and back. How many people can say that?

But does it count as a long run? I had that 90 minute break in there...

1 comment:

jeanne said...

ya gave blood 2 days before?!?! um, not good. and between you and bex, no food, no water... i love the 90-min break though. I've gotta incorporate that into my next 20 miler, sometime next fall. great idea!

Read more about giving blood and its effects on racing, here.