That's what you don't want to hear from a fellow runner at your ten miler. She went on to say she knew that because she'd run it a couple of years ago. I began to hope against hope that the course had been significantly changed. And I began to see some walking in my future.
I cannot tell you the extent to which we were dreading this race. We didn't get signed up in time for the Rock & Roll Half Marathon here on St. Patrick's Day before it sold out, so we signed up for the Reston Ten Miler in order to have a race on our calendar between January and our next half marathon in June. It was just a ten miler, after all.
The running had felt so good, leading up to the January half marathon. Kind of spooky good. I could finish twelve miles, still feeling good. 13.1 even! Then, for some reason, after the half marathon it just didn't anymore. I struggled to make it through five and six miles. We were running slower than our training pace of eleven minute miles. Sometimes it was me dragging, sometimes it was Amy. We had a couple of good runs in there, followed by our worst ever, 8.5 miles two weeks ago. I think we ended at 12:30ish minute miles. I was having hip problems and kept having to stop to stretch. Also there was the one walk break we had to take because I was quite sure I was about to vomit. Kids, two and a half hours is not sufficient time between brunch and an 8.5 mile run. Learn from my mistake. Then we didn't run at all last weekend because I was in New York. DOOOOOOOOOM!
We weren't expecting to beat our Army Ten Miler times (mine having been 1:52), just to finish. It was just something to motivate our training, we kept telling ourselves. It didn't matter how long it took us. And that woman was correct about the hills. This course had maybe, as a generous estimate, a half mile of flat running. The rest was all hills.
We finished in just under 1:47. Despite all of the hills, despite the bad run of a couple of weeks ago, and despite my bad running mojo, I took more than five minutes off my best Ten Miler time. I'd check our time after every mile, and we kept being under eleven minute miles. In fact, we averaged 10:41 miles. Sure, the uphill portions made my butt and quads and hamstrings very angry indeed, but the downhills were...wait for it...actually fun. Especially coming down The Hill of Doom that we'd run up earlier, when gravity got me going fast enough to experience the sensation of my legs turning in complete circles like the cartoon characters' do.
So it turns out that the life of perpetual training actually pays off. We haven't stopped training since last summer when we started gearing up for the Labor Day Virginia Beach half. We did the Army Ten Miler in October, then immediately started training for the January half marathon, then this race. Last weekend was the first time I'd gone a whole weekend without running since October. Before that it was June.
In What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami talks about having to teach his body what he wants it to do. I liked that phrasing. Fortunately, we started doing some hill training before this race, so at least my body wasn't totally surprised when I told it to run uphill. And despite all of my fears going into this race, my body knew what it needed to do overall. So that was nice.
It would appear, based on all of this evidence, that I'm currently in the best shape of my life. That doesn't sound like it should be surprising, but it's hard for me to reconcile with a body that weighs fifteen pounds more than the one that ran that first half marathon. Particularly when I have to put a swimsuit on said body all too soon. Fortunately, my pastiness will certainly blind anyone who dares to look directly at me.
For my next trick: SCUBA lessons! So I can dive with Raj when we spend spring break in Belize! What I won't do to get a couple of weekends off from running.