Tuesday, August 9, 2011

In which I conquer my toughest run yet

All I wanted to do - all I needed to do - was get to the hog farm.

I've never put those words together in that order in my life, but it made sense this morning as reaching the farm meant I was almost done with the toughest run of my young running career.

Remember those 4 craptacular miles I had planned for Sunday? Well, it didn't rain this morning, so it was time to run what my kids call "The Bumpy Road."

A couple of months ago my friend, neighbor and fellow runner Andrea and I were talking about, well, you guessed it. I mentioned that I would have 4-, 5- and 6-mile training runs coming up preparing for the 10K in October, to which she responded: "Auburn Road is exactly 4 miles."

Well, dammit, Andrea, now that it's in my head I have to run Auburn Road, which is a winding, woodsy, hilly-ass roller coaster of asphalt. I've driven the road hundreds, if not thousands, of times as it's a cut through to a major route I use often.

In the winter it's frost heave central, which leads to nifty potholes in the spring and summer, hence "The Bumpy Road" tag from the kids.

Never once did I think, "Hey, I should run this!" before Andrea mentioned it.

But I've got this agreement with myself. If I get an idea that's intriguing and slightly scary, I should definitely do it. Bootcamp fell into that category. So did the 10K. And, unfortunately, so did Auburn Road.

Now you know I live atop Mt. Crumpet and I can't run far without hitting a hill. And while I continue to bitch about it, it's actually a good thing. I've come to realize running hills is like getting a shot: The discomfort is temporary but the benefits linger on.

My training plan called for 4 miles today, so I decided to tackle the fresh hell that is Auburn Road. If you think I may be laying it on thick, check out the elevation chart below, courtesy of my Garmin (click to enlarge the horror).

A race director may euphemistically call that course: "rolling hills." "Rolling" is not the adjective I would use. However, real growth comes once we step outside our comfort zone, and since I knew I could safely handle the distance, it was time to stop whining about the hills and grow, dammit.

I set out at 7 am. It was sunny, hot and getting humid, but I knew I could finish up before it got awful. It's an out and back route, and I knew from driving it it's relatively flat until you get to the hog farm, then the hills really start to kick in. I knew the course was 2 miles out and 2 back, so I decided not to clock-watch my Garmin and psyche myself out during the run.

I got to the hog farm and began the up and down, well, mostly down as you can see from the elevation. Once I hit the end of the road, I was halfway done and it was time to turn around and start the major up, which you see on the left arrow (again, click for more horror). The hog farm is the right arrow, so Miles 2-3.3 were not fun.

However, my legs felt good. I was definitely working hard, but nothing was painful, sore or twingey. I took it slow (seriously, I think I could have walked it faster) and practiced all my good hill-running tricks. Mostly, I spent the really difficult parts telling myself to shut up and run, so I did.

Finally I could see the hog farm in the distance, which meant the remainder of the run was short and flat. Amen. I stopped at the farm to get the picture at the top of this post and finished up a short while later.

On the quarter-mile walk home, I realized it wasn't really so bad after all. Yes, it was extremely challenging, but to be honest I've had worse 2 mile runs on a cutback week.

As with weight loss, it seems as if the majority of running is mental. On either count - or whatever it is for you - just tell that voice in your head to shut up and do.

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