The chinook winds returned, just in time for my last long fast-finish long run ahead of the Houston Marathon. I sat in the car at the rec center, thinking maybe I should just do it tomorrow. But that's fool's thinking, and I know it, so I got out, shouldered the CamelBak one last time and hit the pavement.
It only took about a tenth of a mile before I was loving it. I loved the whole slow ten miles I did out in the wind. I loved the guy smoking a cigarette in the parking lot of the used-car lot who asked me, "Aren't you freezing your tush off?" and laughed at me when I told him sincerely that it wasn't that bad. I loved the three super-fast runners, two men and a woman, whom I saw on my favorite hill up 9th Ave. (the same hill that broke me on a tempo run during my ramp-up for the Top of Utah Marathon last summer). I loved the wind that chilled me when it blew and allowed the sun to bake me when it briefly dissipated. I loved the sight of the mountains on the horizon when I turned around, and even the feeling of my calves being blown around when my stride had them airborne.
At the end of the ten outdoor miles, I knew this run was charmed. I entered the crowded rec center and against the odds walked right onto an empty treadmill. A weight lifter dude I see there sometimes shook his head and smiled, asking me if I had food with me. I brandished my Shot Bloks with pride. I started the treadmill at a 9:05 pace and as seven miles flowed by ratcheted it down every mile until I finished at with 3/4 of a mile at an 8:13 clip. I threw in three 2-3% hills of a quarter mile each in the last three miles. I was hot and purple-faced, but I felt good.
Why did I stop at seven fast-finish miles (McMillan allowed eight and I definitely could have done that last one)? Well, three reasons: 1) my left hip and low back were bugging me again, probably because I took my kids ice skating yesterday and the hip didn't like that inside turn over and over again for an hour 2) a very polite lady asked me for the treadmill at the end, and I felt so lucky to have gotten seven miles that adhering to the rec center rules seemed more like a sign from the cosmos that I should stop than an imposition and 3) I feel like the hay is in the barn; what would one more mile today have gained me?
I'm very happy about how the long runs have gone this cycle--the only one that was rough for me was the 16 miler I did right before we flew to Virginia for Thanksgiving, and it turned out I was coming down with a stomach virus. I still don't know what to expect in Houston, as the speedwork was deliberately NOT run as fast as last time. But I strongly feel I can at least PR if the weather is favorable.
For now, though.....it's taper time. Ahhhhhhh! I have big plans for this taper. They involve tasty, nutritious meals....good sleep....a massage this week AND next week (yes, I'm splurging.....). But perhaps most exciting....yesterday I found out I won an hour on the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine's Alter-G Anti-Gravity Treadmill!
I'll be using this machine on Tuesday, Jan. 10 (five days before my race) for an easy wind-down run. Dan will cut work to photograph me. So stay tuned for a post on that next week!
Happy New Year everyone! I'm off to eat homemade pizza and drink some Riesling (not too much, I promise!).