Whew! It’s been a crazy two weeks. I have no idea where the time goes these days!

I was somewhat dreading Week 8 because it marked the first time in my half marathon training plan during which I would be running a new distance. Although my 7 miler during Week 7 went relatively well, I had previously run 7 miles in February. As my long run mileage grows longer and longer, I am afraid that my body may suddenly say, “No more!” during one of my long runs and I will then have a long, lonely walk home filled with questions about whether I’ll be able to successfully complete the half marathon. My other greatest fear is that my body may act completely fine during my runs but I will proceed to wake up the next morning and find out that I reaggravated the foot injuries that I suffered last year during my long runs.

Our weekend getaway during Week 7 and the Kinsman KTown 5K meant that I had to rearrange my schedule a bit, so I scheduled my long run for Monday instead of Sunday.

Sheila was out of town, so I decided to treat myself to a nice, long run in the Metroparks in the Rocky River Reservation. I grew up in West Park, and my mom and I used to go on picnics in the Metroparks pretty often when I was younger. I don’t think that I’ve been back there in over 20 years, so I figured that would be a good, new place to run!

I fueled up in the morning with a smoothie loosely based on Mama Pea’s Ginger Berry Green Lemonade.

8 mile smoothie

My dad hooked me up with a gigantic stash of Clif Bars and Pure Protein bars over the weekend, and I enjoyed those before and after my run.

clif bars

Preparing for races and training runs in new places often seems to require only slightly less planning than the Normandy invasion, and I was convinced that I forgot something even after I double-checked that I had my Clif Shot Bloks, my Nathan water belt, my music, and my running gear.

After a quick pit stop to take care of my mom’s cats (she was out of town too), I drove down to the Metroparks and parked my car at what I thought was the halfway point of my route. The weather was beautiful when I began my run at 5:45PM, but I was afraid that the temperature would become colder as the evening progressed, so I decided to make my car the halfway point in case I needed to add a jacket or get some more water.

I dawdled around a bit more, but I realized that I had a lot to do that evening before Sheila’s flight arrived and I figured that being rushed would make the entire run more stressful than necessary. I finally bit the bullet, said a prayer, and took off.

My goal was to run a 10:00\mile pace, and I paid close attention to my New Balance GPS watch as I ran my first few miles to make sure that I wasn’t going too fast. Despite my best efforts, I wound up a bit under that goal for the first few miles. I didn’t feel tired at all, so I didn’t worry too much.

The paved trail ran right along the Rocky River, and the sun shining on the river made for some spectacular scenery. The pleasant temperatures and beautiful surroundings made for one of my most enjoyable training runs thus far, and I felt very little fatigue as my mile totals steadily grew.

When I saw Fairview Hospital high up on a hill, I knew that I had gone about 3.5 miles and that I should turn around. (Needless to say, I completely misjudged distances and the plan to make my car the halfway point didn’t work out.) Fairview Hospital has been a big part of my life literally ever since the day I was born, because that’s where I burst onto the scene way back on March 11, 1981 at 2:30ish in the morning. My mom has worked there for over 30 years as well.

On a sad note, Fairview Hospital is the place where I bid farewell to my beloved grandpa on October 22, 1994. As I turned around, I thought about how much he would have enjoyed having the opportunity to see me run. He was a great athlete during his time in the Navy during World War II, and I wish I had taken the time to write down all of the stories that he often told about his time as General Douglas McCarthur’s personal chef.

The temperature fell slightly on the way back, but the coolness felt pretty good!

I kept expecting to start feeling exhausted, but I still felt relatively strong even as I reached mile 7. As I was running, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” came on and I felt so great that I had the energy to play some air guitar during one of John Fruisciante’s amazing solos!

john

One of my most favorite concert memories is seeing John completely lost in a solo during “This Is The Place” during the Chili Peppers’ show at Blossom in 2003. Great show! (photo from bestguitarsolo.info)

Once I reached mile 7, I started to feel a bit nervous and began to steel myself for a sudden onset of fatigue. Although I did start to feel a bit tired around mile 7.25, my adrenaline kicked in as I realized that I was extremely close to reaching my goal.

Along the way, I passed pretty close to some deer and I stopped briefly for a few pictures.

deer 1

They probably were laughing at me for going so slowly!

deer 2

The weather continued to cool down, resulting in great running conditions. As I neared 8 miles, I still felt great and decided to keep going. Although I was worried about overextending myself, I thought that leaving so much energy unused on such a great evening would have been a shame! I wanted to leave myself a bit of time for a cooldown walk, though, so I cut myself off at 8.5 miles.

I wasn’t paying much attention to my time during my run, but I was pretty pleased with the fact that I knocked out those 8.5 miles in 84:05!

8 mile time

Perhaps more importantly, I woke up the next morning with only slight pains in my feet that went away as time progressed. I think that some of the pain may have come from the fact that part of the Metroparks trail was a bit slanted and the fact that I had to run on a bit of a sideways incline at various times caused my feet to be aggravated a bit.

On Sunday, Hal Higdon lined up a 10K race on my schedule. I figured that my slight foot pain in the days following my last long run was a sign that jumping ahead to 9 miles wasn’t a good idea just yet and that another week at 8.5 miles would be prudent.

The weather was absolutely horrible last Sunday, and when The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers popped up, I was pretty tempted to stay in and enjoy the movie. Eventually, the rain stopped and I decided to head out.

I headed down to the Towpath for this week’s long run. If the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon half goes well, I’m planning on doing the Towpath Marathon in the fall. Many people have indicated that the lack of crowd support is an issue, and I hadn’t thought much about how crowd support and isolation affects me for better or for worse. I figured that a longer run on the Towpath on a crappy day might help me gain a sense of what the Towpath Marathon will be like, so I headed down and I was off and running pretty quickly.

Week 8 was a near-perfect run. Week 9 was pretty horrible in just about every way imaginable.

The constantly changing weather made it hard for me to select the proper clothing, and I wound up being incredibly overdressed. I was overheated by mile 2, but didn’t want to turn around and run back to the car to take off my jacket because I couldn’t imagine running that distance over again because it’s relatively hilly.

My laziness proved to be helpful, however, because the rain kicked back up around mile 3.5 and continued until approximately mile 7. Although I was grateful for my rain-resistant jacket, I wound up running with a soaked jacket and pants for much of the run. The rain and body heat also caused my glasses to fog up constantly, and wiping them off every few minutes became pretty annoying.

I decided to do an out-and-back course of 4.25 miles, and when I reached mile 4.25, I looked up and saw I-77 towering above me. At this point, I felt both scared because I was incredibly far from home and proud of myself for being able to run so far!

In retrospect, this was another very beautiful run. I wish I had forced myself to think a bit more positively and to enjoy the peaceful, tranquil Towpath. Instead, I dedicated most of my energy to dwelling on how far I had to go and how awful I felt. Bad decision! I never really felt like I couldn’t go on or that I wanted to stop, though; I only felt like this run was going to last forever and that I was hating every step of the way.

On a related note…the more I run, the more I realize how “mental” the sport truly is. Early on, I thought that being a successful runner would only require me to build up my lung capacity and strengthen my legs. Nothing could be further from the truth! I have learned the hard way that a short 3 mile training run can feel like an eternity when I’m not in the right frame of mind, but a long 8.5 mile run can be one of life’s most enjoyable experiences if I’m controlling my thoughts and thinking positively. For those of you who are training, I encourage all of you to pay special attention to your thoughts as you train and to work hard to stay in a positive, motivated mindset from the moment that you head out until the moment when you hit your goal distance for the day.

Nevertheless, I powered through the 8.5 miles in something like 86ish minutes. Although Week 9’s time was a bit longer than Week 8’s time, I’ll chalk that up to the fact that I was toting around wet clothes for most of the race, I was overheated, and I was in a bad mood.

I shouldn’t complain too much, though. I was able to run the entire 8.5 miles without stopping, and I have had a relatively pain-free few days over the past week. One year ago, I couldn’t run more than 3 blocks without stopping on a perfect day. Being able to run a significant distance on a horrible day without stopping shows how far I’ve come in the past 10 months, and I’m so grateful that God has been with me every step of the way.

The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon is less than 3 weeks away. Are you ready?