Today I ran 21 miles. By myself. On the same trail (BWI Loop) that nearly killed me two weeks ago. Remember? The one where I was despondent and unable to finish 20 miles. Yeah; that one. Today, I killed it; twice.
I spent 3 hours and 8 minutes with myself. (That works out to about an 8:57 pace, in case you were wondering.) 3+ hours in my own head, all the while telling my legs they had to keep moving. And I made it out alive -- an impressive feat given the way my mind wanders. :) But seriously, I actually enjoyed this run. There were some miles in the middle where I felt so strong. I wasn't running super fast, but I was steady and sure. For parts, I ran at a very controlled pace without really focusing on my Garmin too much. I found my groove, and I stayed in it. That was so encouraging.
That's not to say this run was without trials. Miles 10 and 16, both miles in which I took a GU, were slow. They both happened to begin with an uphill, just as I was focusing on opening a GU and getting it down. This slowed me significantly for those miles. Apparently I have not perfected the art of keeping pace, opening and eating GU, and running uphill. Something to aspire to... The last three miles were touch-and-go, too. I finally started to get bored, but I knew I could make it. My legs were tired, though. I was out of GU, because my fourth packet had fallen out of my hydration belt somewhere along the way; I was also out of fluids, and I was pretty thirsty. I counted by tenths-of-a-mile and watched the seconds tick by, which only made things worse.
About two miles from the finish I got caught at one of the few intersections the trail crosses that actually has enough traffic to require obeying the crossing signal. Of course, I had the hand. I slowed and tried to bounce around at the intersection while waiting for it to change. When I started running again, I thought my legs might actually give out. I'd lost so much momentum just from that one stop. It was killer, but I pressed on, chanting to myself, "You are a powerhouse. You will do this." And I did! I even ran 21.05, because I set the goal of a particular fence post that I knew would take me through to 21. At that point, I needed a landmark, not an obscure distance.
Post-run, I hobbled to my car to take off my hydration belt and get my phone. I called my dad to tell him what I'd accomplished and that I'd worn my RoadID for the first time while doing it. (It was my Valentine's Day present. Best dad ever.) Thankfully, no one needed the information on it! I hobbled back over to a bench, laid down on the ground, and elevated my legs while watching the planes come in to land. (The loop I ran circles BWI airport, and the small park where I parked my car is basically at the end of some of the runways.) I stretched and then came home. My legs were hurting like crazy for the rest of the afternoon/evening. I think they just wanted to know what I'd put them through. Understandably so.
Still, I had plans tonight, and sore legs weren't going to stop me. A bunch of people from school got together to celebrate a friend's birthday by going duckpin bowling. That's a Maryland thing, through and through; so if you aren't familiar with it, go Google it. I had a blast, of course. Also, last week my dad bequeathed my grandmother's bowling balls to me, bag included. It was so fun to use them. She and my grandfather bowled in a league for a number of years. As it turned out, everyone seemed to think those two balls were good luck, because we all bowled significantly better while using them. Good fun!
I'm now resting and icing, reflecting on a really successful run day and reminding myself to be thankful. Before I ran, I prayed God would give me the grace to accept defeat, or the grace to give Him credit for a good run. Either way, I'd need grace. He was generous, giving me both a good run and the knowledge that He enabled every step.