As the date of my impending trail race nears, I've had plenty of time (mainly on the trails) to think about the concept of going longer. I would say going "long", since for me this really does feel that I'm pushing myself to max miles per week, especially considering that I'm a total mileage underachiever, but for other people, my long runs barely count. Still, it's all relative, and October did see me ramping up my mileage significantly.
This 'ramp up' has been kind of fun and kind of scary. I've had a history of injuries, and I hoped to avoid that situation, obviously. My knee can be temperamental, and often a cortisone shot can fix it. I had one in June, and I'm trying to maintain the status quo until January, so I didn't want to go that route quite so soon after the last one. I would say that running 3 times a week is my sweet spot, and even if I'm upping my mileage, I can stay healthy if I'm not an idiot about it.
As for the longer runs in October and on Saturday, I can't complain about any of them. At times I set out hoping to barely hit 10 and found myself finishing 12 or 13. I often felt quite lucky while on the trail, not only because my body was cooperating but also because we've had some amazing fall weekends! The light has changed, and this weekend especially I enjoyed moving between the shade and the golden sunshine. I also felt completely spooked on one run - two weeks ago, it was an unusual, dreary day and I hit the trails for a solo run. As I crossed a stream or two and then ran through some high grass, listening only to my breathing, I did think that it would be the perfect setting for Kujo or Jason or Johnny or any other horror/suspense-movie villain lying in wait...
This Saturday marked the longest run that I've completed in ages - maybe 10 years or so?! We couldn't have wished for a perfect day - sunny and crisp at 9:00 am, it warmed up but was never hot. It was great to run (and shuffle) most of the 15+ miles with a partner who patiently waited for me as I huffed and puffed along behind him. This run reminded me of the importance of patience while running. We set out climbing and worked our way up the El Prieto trail around JPL. It's not a terribly difficult trail, but I wouldn't describe it as easy either, especially because I felt that I had to be so aware of mountain bikers zooming downhill. Once we hit the fork in the road, heading to Brown Mountain, the trail became less rocky and the grade eased up a bit. I hit a few moments during miles 3-4 when I questioned whether I could go much further, but once we hit miles 6 - 10, I could actually enjoy the experience! Again, pushing through the tough miles allowed me to appreciate those 'easy' miles and also the views that the higher elevation offered! By mile eleven or so, it occurred to me that I could run for another hour or so, but by mile 13, exhaustion had begun to set in. At this point, Rob and I split up - I was on my own for the final 2 miles or so. The first solo mile went well. I felt that I was slowing down, but I kept up a decent pace. The last mile, however, felt like my Waterloo. My body ached (legs, hips, back) and I was just damned tired. Fortunately, it was the final mile, so I pushed on and managed to hit the 15.5 mile mark. Yippee!
Again, it was a long, SLOW run, but it felt almost luxurious to be out on the trail for several hours, just taking in the day, measuring the twists and turns of the trail, trying to cautious about bikers heading up and down trail (at one point, I was totally lost in thought and when a mountain biker and I almost collided, I was as startled as a deer and, very un-deerlike, yelled "Fuck!"), and also losing myself in the movement of the trail and of myself and contemplating the idea of an even longer run. There was a definite ebb-flow quality about this run as I clocked some painfully slow miles which were then followed by a few decently speedy miles. Hitting 15 miles did mark a bit of a milestone for me, and I'm looking forwarding to the full 30k in just a few weeks.
I will say that running longer does open up the question - can I go 'long'? Is another marathon (last one being Philly, 1996) a possibility? A part of me thinks that I could definitely run a marathon, no problem. That would be the overly-optimistic persona that does reside in me, but I also try to listen to my more reasonable voice when it comes to matters of running. I honestly believe that I've managed these longer runs because they've been on trails. While trail running is hard, it also slows me down, and I think it's easier on my knees and other joints than the relentlessness of pounding out miles on the pavement. So, what is funny about my idea of going long is that I would lean more towards a longer trail run and, for the moment, put aside any thoughts of marathon madness.
All this is hypothetical, at any rate. We'll see how I run in Malibu and, more importantly, how I feel during and after the race!