Yep, I got a smack down Monday night courtesy of the Lafayette Reservoir.
I know this run like the back of my hand. I have run hundreds of miles there, countless loops. I know how to run it, when to push, when to back off.....when to let someone pull me, and never to let someone push me.
It has been a while though since I have run it totally on my own. No kids running with me, or pushing the jogger stroller. Brian's legs were in recovery mode from a weekend of tough runs, so he took the kids and told me to "go". I had planned on 2 laps. I know the hardest part is getting through the first lap. It is a rough run, no matter your fitness level. If you push yourself, it is tough. But, the second lap is always easier. You are warmed up, on a roll, and it's just easier.
I was just getting started and as always, I take quick inventory of any runners w/in sight. Who's behind me, who's in front, are they catchable?? Should I use that one to pull me along, or are they going at a much faster pace? About then I came around a corner and saw Orange Shirt Man. From where I was, he looked like he was plodding along, somewhere between a shuffle and a jog/run. No problem. Passed him on the down hill w/little effort. I am much better at downhill running than uphill running. I know that may sound like an obvious statement, but both downhill and uphill are their own art form and downhill is my art, uphill....not a fan. So I flew by him on the downhill, but the thing about the res is every downhill is followed by an up. It didn't take long before I heard steps coming up behind me. Nope, I wasn't going to let the Orange Shirted Shuffler pass me. His steps pushed me up the hill at an uncomfortably fast pace. I was not using my normal hill pace or stride, which is slow, and on my toes. This allows me to use more calf muscle, and I have it to use, so this is more comfortable for me. I was still heel striking and using my full foot which was making me use more of my quads than calves and I was feeling the burn. On recent runs, I have been trying to be conscience of pushing off with my quads, hammies and glutes when running uphill, but today all I was thinking was "don't let him catch you." My mom once said while watching me run on a treadmill, " You have these huge calf muscles and skinny little quads." Yes, I am the opposite of "Chicken Legs".
Right when he would be w/in a step of me, we would crest the hill and I would take off on the downhill. Repeat this sequence about 5 times. Still not at the 1 mile mark and I am about to drop. Not even one mile into my 5+ run. What to do? I think we both knew we were playing a game of staying with each other and that I was determined not to let him pass. So however this game ended, I was determined it would be on my terms, but I knew for sure...I could not go the distance in this pattern. I was also painfully aware that I would be running with my running beast of a friend, Angela, in the morning. She gives me a smack down every week and I didn't want to go into that run with brick legs.
Like I said, I know this res. I know there is a 1.5 marker sprayed on the trail, and we had to be getting close. If I push hard till I see it, I can end the game. So I did. I ran over the top of the white 1.5, turned around, smiled and waved at the Orange Shirted Shuffler. He returned the gesture. A gesture which in "the land of running", and in this situation, meant a mutual "thanks". He pushed me, I pulled him. While he continued on, never to be seen again, I doubled back to Brian and the kids, maybe .5 miles. They were a bit confused and wondering why mom was back. Too tired to explain, and not wanting to fess up to the stupidity with which I ran that 1.5 miles, I convince Emma that I just can't finish a lap w/o her to help me. I need her to keep me at a slower, yet respectable pace. Please, please, please run with me Emma??? I tell her I have forgotten how to run it by myself and I need her to keep a steady pace for me. Sadly, it was the truth. So she did, and it was great. We left Brian and the tator tots behind again and made our way around. We reached the park and Em grabbed a bench while I ran sprint repeats back and forth until the rest of the family made their way around. I have no idea how much mileage I actually got in, but I know what I did get in counted! It was painful, challenging, and humbling!
I have a lot of work to do before I will be back to knocking off 3 laps like it's nothing, that is for sure. I have to remind myself sometimes to focus and pace and run my own run. There is a time and place for using others around me to push/pull, and there's a time and place for staying focused on the end goal and getting to it on my own, unaffected by what anyone around me is doing. I may have gotten a smack down, but not w/o learning from it!
Oh, and Tuesdays run w/Angela?? Let's just say I thank her for these weekly beatings as they are making me a faster runner, but they are beatings for me non the less! My "skinny little quads" are feeling it!