First of all, congratulations to Joel and Liz and future Rise Up Runner Amelia, born yesterday at Easton Memorial Hospital. I'll let Joel fill you in with a photograph hopefully sometime soon, but she looks beautiful!
I should say at the outset that I am not a believer in the "no pain, no gain" philosophy when it applies to running. You can have great running experiences without causing yourself undo pain. And I certainly don't think one should run through injury to be "tough". That being said, there is a different kind of pain with running that I do somewhat masochistically enjoy. The kind of pain that I am talking about is the burn in the trachea that comes with pushing oneself really hard and huffing and puffing, the aching in the legs as the miles add up on a long run, the overwhelming feeling of needing to slow down when really pushing hard for a sustained distance.
That kind of pain I like, if only for the feeling of contentment when it ends! Today I explored that type of pain, which led to a profound experience by the end of the run. My goal today was to run fast for an hour. I do not mean sprint until I drop fast, but a sustained aerobic fast, testing the limits of where my body produces lactic acid after I run out of ability to use oxygen- the so-called lactic threshold. I thought it would be great if I could maintain a seven minute per mile pace. That seemed like a nice round, albeit odd, number that I have run recently for shorter distances.
I ran an easy half mile to warm up, then waited at the corner of Idlewild and Aurora for a few minutes. No, I wasn't waiting for my running peeps, as Saturday is not a traditional RUR day. Instead, I was waiting for my Garmin Forerunner watch to pick up satellite signals and "lock in" on my position. It is a slow process, at least on my older watch, but eventually I was ready to go. When I started, it felt tough, being a little sore from the long run Mike and I did on Thursday. That was a easy-pace 21 mile affair that took a toll in soreness mainly due to the distance. Today, I was using slightly different muscles, or likely different parts of the same muscles or at least using them in a different way.
Anyway, I felt o.k. after a mile of so, and I was soon accelerating from a 7:30 pace into the 6:50 range. I was breathing hard. Not quite completely out of breath, but certainly unable to carry on a decent conversation with anyone. It was steady going until about 5 miles. Then things really started to hurt. This is the where the pain I mentioned earlier started to hit. I was maintaining my pace, but the will to do so was fading. My legs were tired, my breathing heavy, and I felt this urge to stop and walk. I pressed on thinking, this is my pain, I brought it on, and this is what I wanted out of today. Somehow that worked, and on I pushed. I actually felt better by about 6 miles and by the time I turned towards home on Aurora St at 7 plus miles I felt like one of those 16 year old trail horses that picks up the pace suddenly when turning for home. If I just lost you there, I apologize. If you've ever traveled west and gone on a trail ride on a horse, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
And then, halfway down Aurora Street it happened. It was something that I haven't felt in years. I felt a rush of adrenaline, then my legs went almost numb. Perhaps not numb since I could still feel them but the pain was gone, replaced with a feeling of strength that I could run forever. My pace quickened into the low 6's, and I felt strong. My breathing got easier, and I felt invincible. My thoughts became crystal clear, and I briefly felt both extremely connected physically to my body, yet somehow far removed at the same time. Then reality set in and my runner's high faded as quickly as it came. It lasted only a minute or so, but it was a glorious minute. As it disappeared, I slowed down and almost stumbled across Dover street having sustained a seven minute per mile pace for eight miles. I stopped short of an hour at 55 minutes, 15 seconds. My pace was 6:52. It was a good day. The thought of running for a full hour was now irrelevant. That would have to wait until the next run.