I've added yet another trick to my growing bag of distance running tricks--the back to back long run. On Saturday morning, since my regular running partners were scattered like pollen on the wind, running with other groups, I opted to run an 18 miler with the Trinity Trotters out in Uniontown. This group, coordinated by Hope Magnus, literally their lead pack runner, has come a very long way since the days when they ran monotonous country road straightaways marked with road kill. It's still largely a beginner runner marathon training group, but now Hope marks off some absolutely gorgeous bucolic country routes where every turn is like a scene off a country postcard and the traffic light so we no longer have to deal with road kill in various stages of decomposition, or semis whipping us off balance as they whiz by.
A large group, around 22, convened in the parking lot of the Maize Valley Winery. It was going to be a cold morning. I was the only idiot in this group of newbie runners, the veteran runner, wearing shorts. Someone led a quick prayer praying for runner things--to keep injuries and cars away. I prayed for additional things like for my kidneys to shut down so I won't have to pee in a ditch. While Hope has improved the scenery of the routes and eliminated semis and roadkill, she has yet to materialize porto-potties. I prayed that some stranger in this group might run my pace and like to hang with me, that they'd be chatty and want to talk so I wouldn't have to turn on my I-pod for company. Hope said a woman named Lynn is probably my pace. I didn't know who Lynn was in this big group, so I just committed to take it as it came.
We had one road kill hopping, semi whipping straight away before we got out into the country. I can't even describe how beautiful it was this morning. At one point, the sun slipped through a crack in dark bank of clouds casting the countryside in an almost unearthly light. I fell in with a small pack of runners training for their first marathon at Cleveland--Lynn, Lyndsey, and Jamie. Jamie, a tall fellow, nicknamed the Ponderosa for his propensity for fueling on runs, pulling all kinds of goodies out of multiple pockets, was training for Cleveland and dealing on and off with IT problems. He had met his match in the eating department, freely accepting whatever he pulled out of his pockets. He was chatty and didn't mind sharing so I instantly liked him. Lynn, also training for her first marathon, was dealing with patellar tendinitis thing and just like Hope predicted, ran my pace exactly to give me some company. Lindsey, a young peppy teenager, had to turn around for some reason, and wouldn't be doing the whole 18. We were going to run 9 miles and turn around at the hallelujah cone which Hope sets out for the group. We said "hallelujah" and headed back in.
I find it odd to break off from a group I just met, pee in a ditch, and head back. Jamie and Lynn had no problem with this. I was impressed. I resolved to work on my issues surrounding outdoor toileting. I'll work on it and one day, I'll be one of those indomitable rugged trail running women, that can pee standing up, without breaking stride and not even pee on themselves. I think Jamie and Lynn are going to be fabulous runners when they work through some of their beginner runner issues. Both of them just had their one year runner anniversaries.
I've discovered the cool spring long runs can precipitate some of the most severe Raynaud's attacks, so after the run, I went home, and spent the next 30 minutes carefully thawing out my hands. I should have worn my wool mittens, but who would have thought it would be necessary when it was near 80 degrees a few days ago.
On Sunday, Bob and I headed down to work at Maria's aid station for the Forget the PR 50K. We were at the "Alice in Wonderland" themed station at mile 5 on top of world it seemed, a beautiful windy ridge called Hickory Ridge, from which the runners climbed up to us for Heed, water, and salty-sweet things. Maria was the Cheshire Cat, Bob, the Mad Hatter, Denise, the White Queen, Debi, was Alice proper, and I was a cold freezing Queen of Hearts. I wore my red robe over my wool coat and was too busy and cold to yell, "off with his head!" Maria brought tiny tea cups to hang in the trees and cards to tape to the table. I think Vince R., the lead runner at our station, knocked his head on one as he blew out of the station. We were crazy busy serving up stuff for the runners and trying to stay warm. We knew the runners would be absolutely comfortable in the forest and all of them looked like they were having a good time.
After we packed up the station, Bob and I, along with Maria and Denise were going to run 12 miles of the bike trail. This is a hard 12 miles. I just ran 18 miles yesterday and never in my near seven years of running have I done back to back long runs. I enjoy being lazy the day after a long run. I've had no desire, whatsoever, to run the day after, even an easy 3-4 mile jog, so this was alien territory. My legs felt pretty good going into the run, so time would tell. It took awhile run my legs to warm up, but I was feeling pretty good. I led the pack for the first 4-5 miles and was thoroughly enjoying myself. The vistas along the trail were amazing when we could stop long enough to look around. There are no huge steep hills like you get on the Buckeye Trail, but this is 11-12 miles of continual climb--looking off to our left we could see hawks flying below us and bottomless ravines. We ran by several people carrying potato sacks, shuffling through the forest floor looking for delicate spring morel mushrooms. Near mile 9, my energy was flagging a bit, but my legs felt great, and running with Maria conversation is guaranteed spicy, so this kept me interested. I couldn't believe I was really pulling this off. At one point, Bob and Maria sped up and disappeared, but then next thing there is the covered bridge--our destination! We were done!! I was in one piece and I had done my first back to back set of long runs ever--one road and one trail--and I felt fabulous.