This week marked a return to volume. The first few runs were weak and timid, but mid-week I found fortitude, and finished strong. It feels good to get back to training hard and recognizing the payoff of miles to go before I sleep. Although Way Too Cool is the next race on the docket, 50K's are becoming old hat, mere training runs. My focus is shifting to the American River 50 Miler in April.
Here's the week:
Tuesday: a 90 minute tempo cut short. I was so exhausted I had to walk a bit during my cool down.
Wednesday: 60 minute MAF run. The numbers told me I wasn't 100% yet.
Thursday: 90 minutes @ 9:00 effort
Saturday: 28 miles on the Bay Trail
Sunday: 60 minutes @ 9:00 effort
Totals: 60 miles, Avg HR 141
I still felt the effects of the American Canyon 50K at the beginning of the week. Something wasn't quite right. I couldn't hit my pace, I felt lethargic. My coach called me "fragile" (in a non-offensive way). My motivation to get out there was totally absent. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that I have a 50 mile race in seven weeks. But I stuck with it, putting in the workouts Tim prescribed, and things turned around, as they often do.
Running is like golf, sort of. For me, at least. Golf keeps me coming back by infrequently providing that rare shot where everything happens exactly as I intend. I pure the strike and the ball flies through the air as if controlled by my thoughts. It lands where I intended, and rolls to a stop where the next shot is set up perfectly. Sometimes, I play an entire hole that way: Tee shot, approach shot, putt for birdie. It doesn't even matter if I make the birdie putt (I rarely do). The execution gives me the satisfaction that I seek, so I continue to play the game. Running plays out the same way.
After a mediocre beginning to the week, I crossed paths with Topher Gaylord, CEO of Montrail/Mountain Hardware, on my daily training route. The headquarters of M/MH is on the other side of my marina; apparently he runs the Bay Trail from the office a few days a week, but I had never noticed him before Tuesday. I looked up to see the pure stride of an elite runner coming towards me; the effortless, high cadence of someone who doesn't know how to run without good form. He greeted me like a trail runner (which is rare on the Bay Trail), and it took me about a mile to figure out where I had seen him before. He made a bunch of headlines a few years back when he got the CEO position, but is an accomplished ultra-runner in his own right. I confirmed his identity on the return trip, and for some reason sharing the trail with him provided some seed of motivation.
Thursday's base-pace 90 minute run turned out to be one of those "pure" runs. Effortless. Light. A little bit of runner's high. My pace was 15 seconds faster than normal and I still had room in the accelerator pedal. It was a beautiful run. If they were all like that, Twirly would start to feel neglected, because I would easily be up to 100 miles a week toot-sweet. But they aren't all like that, and Saturday's 28 miles along the Bay Trail was a good example. Twirly ran the first three with me as a warm-up, and then drove into Emeryville to do some shopping before setting up an aid station at mile 16. I slogged a steady pace along the waterfront, spying egrets along the way, and felt a twinge of the ecstasy as I neared the midway point, clicking off sub 9:00 miles. I noshed on macaroons and Nuun while I recounted the Cactus League Giants game I had on the headphones to Twirly, and set off for the final 12 miles. On the return trip, I finally caught sight of a Burrowing Owl in Cesar Chavez Park. I put in many miles there last Spring, and never saw one. I finished the run strong, and recovered well, putting in another 60 minutes on Sunday at 9:00 effort without too many niggles.
The harmony of running is what piques my curiosity the most. Those fleeting moments when stride, rhythm, cadence and effort congeal into a pure experience and provide a place where I almost have an out-of-body experience, yet I am totally concentrated within myself. They tend to be so fleeting I hesitate to call it "runner's high", because I associate that more with the delirious feeling I have immediately upon completion of a hard run. It is more of a synchronicity. A perfect storm of endorphins and pain. Whatever it is, those moments are what I yearn for on the trail, and any time spent in pursuit of them is well spent, in my opinion.