I thought that the past few months leading up to the Cleveland half were as crazy as life could get.

Boy, was I wrong.

Life since the half marathon has been absolutely insane!

I’ve had major freakouts over the past two weeks because we have events almost every night through the end of June.

I’m not big into defining myself by personality tests or labels—to quote R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe response when he was asked about his sexuality, “Labels are for food”—but I have spent a decent amount of time in recent years figuring out whether I’m an introvert or an extrovert.

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Thank God for Michael Stipe or else I would have felt completely not OK about marching to the beat of my own drummer during high school. (Image obtained from commons.wikimedia.org)

Sometimes, I’ll either complain or be extraordinarily tense and nervous before we head to a social event because I’m afraid that it’s going to be draining and stressful. (I was actually scared to death before the Official Blogger events because I am pretty shy when I’m meeting new people!)

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I’m not sure why I was so nervous about meeting such great, welcoming, and encouraging folks, but I was…

However, once we get there, the evening usually ends with Sheila telling me that she wished that we had left an hour ago and me explaining that I was enjoying conversation with everyone and didn’t want to leave.

I’m not sure whether the above defines me as an introvert, extrovert, or just self-centered, but in any case, I’ve craved the solitude and peace that I find during my weekend long runs over the past two weeks.

While I still plan to write up a post about what I plan to do with my miles during the remainder of 2013, I am not harboring any illusions about getting that up before the end of the week. I’ll spare you the suspense and say I’ve spent the last two weeks training for the Towpath 10-10 that takes place on June 16, 2013. There’s a 10 miler and a 10K; I’ll be doing the 10 miler.

Some people may say, “Training? Joe, you ran a half marathon. You don’t need to train for a 10 mile race. You already know that you can run 10 miles.”

Sure, I know I can run the 10 miles without too much of a problem. (At the risk of beating an oft-repeated theme on this blog to death, I am still a bit struck by the fact that I’m able to write that statement without laughing.)

However, there’s a difference between running those 10 miles ambling along at a comfortable pace and running those 10 miles with the goal of achieving a pace under 10 minutes\mile and moving forward with what I need to do to set a half marathon PR in the future.

My goal is to finish the Towpath 10-10 with a pace significantly under 10 minutes\mile and to teach myself how to run hard and focused over longer distances. At the present time, I’m comfortable with running hard from start to finish during a 5K and a 5 miler. However, I’d like to gradually increase my comfort level with a faster pace to the point where I can confidently set out on a half marathon with the goal of running at a 9:30 pace.

Two weekends ago, I spent Saturday evening dancing in dress shoes at my friend Stephanie’s 30th birthday party (Stephanie just ran her first 5K last weekend!) and I went to bed on Saturday night afraid that my feet were going to be angry on Sunday morning.

Fortunately, I felt fine when I woke up. In fact, I felt good enough for two separate runs! Sheila recently caught the running bug and is looking to complete her first 5K without stopping to walk later in the summer. Armed with an inhaler to cure her exercise-induced asthma, we went on a 2 mile run\walk around the neighborhood.

Shortly thereafter, I headed down to the Towpath with the goal of doing 8 miles. Our 2 miler loosened up my legs a bit and I felt like a rocket for the first few miles! The weather was really great and seeing so many other runners and bikers out on the Towpath was really inspiring.

Eventually, I began to come upon a part of the Towpath on which I had not previously run and I began to get a bit nervous because I knew that I was about to reach Valley View. On the map, Valley View is actually not far from my house mile-wise if one takes the Towpath. By car, though, Valley View is a 15-20 minute drive from my house. In retrospect, I felt a bit like Samwise Gamgee in The Fellowship of the Ring when he is about to leave The Shire for the first time.

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Even though I’ve driven through Valley View many times, I felt like I was running into the great unknown when I passed by this sign!

Like Samwise, I stepped onto new miles with a bit of trepidation but a bit of excitement as well. As I passed Bacci Park and looked up, I saw the first of the two signature white bridges looming ahead of me and my heart started racing with excitement. I have always thought that running across those would be fun and now I was about to do so!

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The first white bridge…running up it was one of the most memorable moments that I’ve had while running! (photo obtained from ohiobikeways.net)

As I ascended the first white bridge, I felt like Gandalf riding Shadowfax into Minas Tirith!

Shortly thereafter, I came upon the second white bridge. By this point, I was feeling pretty proud of myself. When I reached the bottom, I took a look at my New Balance GPS watch and realized that I had gone much farther than I had anticipated. I did a quick turnaround and ran back over the second bridge. As I did so, I waved my hands in the air like a warrior running into battle. The folks in the cars beneath me probably thought I was crazy, but I don’t care… they don’t know what they’re missing!

The return trip home passed pretty quickly. As I ran, I thought about how I had run the same route only a few weeks earlier and every step felt like a mile. Sure, the weather on that date was horrible, but I realized that the fact that I was running pretty hard and still felt like I had plenty of energy left in my tank was a sign that my training was paying off!

Around the 4.9 mark, I realized that I had a 5K left to go. I looked down at my watch and realized that a pace under 10 minutes\mile was attainable if I ran harder and I started picking up the pace.

The miles chipped away pretty quickly after this point, but I started feeling the effects of the increased pace. I tried hard to maintain a consistent pace, but I couldn’t do it and I subconsciously alternated periods of hard running with periods of slower running.

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When I saw this bridge, I knew I didn’t have much left to go and that it was time to run with all that I had! (photo obtained from itonlycomesnaturally.blogspot.com)

I felt a boost of adrenaline when my watch reached the 7 mile mark and I saw that I was on schedule for a great pace, so I pushed a bit harder and told myself that I was going to leave everything out on the Towpath. I eventually started to feel like I had nothing left, but then I looked at my watch and saw 7.75.

At this point, a really great song came on my Pandora station, and I let the song take over and ran like I was being chased by a rabid dog. I hadn’t heard this song before my run, but you better believe I added it to my Towpath Ten-Ten playlist!

I let out a wild scream during the last 0.1, which scared a happy couple in front of me! After I reached 8 miles, I used the last bit of oxygen in my lungs to let them know that I was OK and that I just got caught up in the excitement of the moment.

I checked my watch, saw that I had run those 8 miles in 76:47, and felt great!

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I hadn’t planned on writing two entries about my Towpath 10-10 training, but I think I will. Stay tuned for Part II!