Fourteen. A good number, if numbers can be good, and I think they can be. It’s the age I turned when I received a cassette tape of Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven on Earth as a birthday present. It’s also the number of miles I ran yesterday morning – my longest run to date.
I’m gradually increasing the distance of my long runs. For a long time, 10 miles was my Big Goal, and I finally hit that on August 27th of this past summer.
After a season of weekend races, sore feet, and other schedule shakeups, I worked my way up to 11 on December 3rd.
I hit 12 just two weeks later on December 17th.
On February 17th (and my nephew Logan’s birthday!), I hit the big 1-4.
This was a good run. I ate just the right amount at just the right time. I’d gone to the bathroom. My muscles felt good. It was brisk but not freezing. The sun was out. I was well rested. Everything was in place.
After six hours of sleep, I woke up at 6:45 and let the dogs out so they could relieve their bladders. I ate half a bagel with a tablespoon of almond butter, read in bed for a while, and then decided to close my eyes for another 45 minutes before getting up to run.
Two hours later, I woke up.
I really need more sleep.
I took the dogs for a quick stroll around the block, chose my running playlist, slapped on some sunscreen, and headed on out.
I knew I wanted to do 14 and had the route planned. At this point, I know exactly which roads to take to tack on an extra mile to my run. It’s just a matter of heading south through East Northport for a little longer than I normally do before heading west and then north again to run through the suburban hills of Northport.
The grid-like roads in East Northport are louder due to more traffic, and it wasn’t until mile 6 that I reached the quieter streets of Northport. Up until this point, I had started to feel a little winded, and was afraid I might have to cut it short. I wasn’t hurt, just tired.
This all changed as soon as I entered Northport. I was suddenly light, happy, and full of energy. I think I just needed some damn quiet.
I should mention that I’m currently reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, a book recommended to me years ago by my friend Alex. I finally got around to buying it this past December (along with a few other running books I’ll mention when I read them) and then finally started reading it last week.
It’s really good.
I love McDougall’s writing. He’s funny, engaging, and knows how to tell a story. And there are some truly amazing stories in this. It’s also opened my eyes to different ways of thinking about and approaching running. For example, barefoot running: something I always thought was “weird” and now I think might be “good.” I can’t wait to try it once it warms up. Maybe just on the high school track or grass. Not on the road. I’m not risking impaling myself because some drunk asshat threw a beer bottle out his truck window the night before.
Anyway, inspired by the book, I decided to go against the recommendations of my podiatrist and wear my “too flexible” Saucony Kinvaras – the shoes he said I shouldn’t wear because he could bend them. I’ve worn them for races, including last month’s half marathon. But I’ve never worn them for a long training run before. I also didn’t wear the metatarsal pads he gave me. I decided for this run my feet would be as close to the ground as possible.
I was super focused on my form, being mindful that my feet stayed under my body, I wasn’t striking with my heels, and I was keeping my stride on the shorter, faster side. In fact, when I checked my cadence on Garmin afterwards, I noticed it had gotten faster: my last two runs were 162 and 163 strikes per minute. This run was 165. (Most runners fall somewhere between 160 and 170, with the higher numbers more ideal.)
Overall, it worked. I felt good. It’s a day later and although my legs still have that post-long-run weariness, I have no pain. After resting my legs and lifting weights today, I’m raring to get out there again tomorrow. Bonus: I have the day off from work so I can actually run in daylight.
As far as the podiatrist, I’m not going to completely ignore the advice of professionals. But I might lean on my instincts a bit more. Try things I haven’t tried. Do what feels right.
For example, it feels right to eat 9 pancakes after running 14 miles, which is exactly what I did yesterday.
That’s just 3 pancakes. I ate 3 while the next 3 cooked. And so on. Efficiency.
Some more good news: it’s going to be in the 50s on Tuesday. TANK TOP AND SHORTS, HERE I COME!