Sunday, August 15, 2010

Terrific long run misdirected into a hilly, challenging finish

I got a good gauge of my fitness level with this morning's long run, and was thrilled to see that I'm in much better shape than I thought.

There are several reasons that my perception of my fitness level was much less than the reality. 

The biggest is that I've been running hills in Durham that I never had the opportunity to run when I lived in Newport News. The hills figured to hurt my times and, like many runners, the main way I assess my fitness level is the times I'm putting up. The excessive heat also has slowed me down.

With all of the hills and the heat, my times haven't been that good. 

Given that, I had modest goals of running today's planned 20-miler in about 3 hours, 10 minutes..Anything faster than that would be a surprise. In a sense, since I hadn't run longer than 15 miles since March, I simply wanted to finish and see how I did.

I know that I'm ready for a marathon any time I can run 20 miles in under three hours.

I ended up hitting the 20-mile mark in 2:56 and finished the 21.3-mile outing in 3 hours, 10 minutes and 16 minutes. This was well ahead of my expectations.

I ran from my house, down Chapel Hill Road and Morehead Avenue to Durham Bulls Athletic Park, which is where the American Tobacco Trail starts (left). It was two miles to the trail, then I ran the trail all the way until it stops next to Southpoint Crossing shopping center. (It actually resumes a little bit past the Streets of Southpoint mall, but there's too much traffic on Fayetteville Road around there to run to where it resumes.)

I found out why parts of the trail were closed earlier in the week: They've repaved portions of the trail. And I was reminded that one nice part of the trail is that, although it is a bit rolling, it doesn't have the excessively hilly stretches that you find in most areas of Durham. It also is shady in many areas.

I still had a little more than a mile to get to 10 miles at that point, so I ran down Rollingwood Drive and into the Woodcroft subdivision and a bit on Highgate Drive before turning around. I actually got applause from a guy picking up his paper at the end of his Rollingwood Drive driveway. Don't usually get "crowd support" on long runs. :) That helped since those streets were a bit hilly.

I got to the halfway point at about 1 hour, 28 minutes, which surprised me. Going back, I felt terrific. I could tell the miles were adding up, but I felt strong.

When I got back to the start of the trail at the DBAP, I knew I was two miles from home and still felt strong. I turned onto Morehead and kept going when I realized that I had missed the turn for Chapel Hill Road. My bearings were all messed up, so when I came upon Anderson Drive (which I have run some in the last week), I turned right. I should have turned left, which I realized when I reached D**e University Road.

Now I knew my way to get home, but I had misdirected myself into a very hilly last couple of miles. That was the bad part. The good part is that I still felt strong and weathered it pretty well, although at a slow pace.

This turned out to be my longest training run in years because I never plan to go more than 20 miles. By adding the extra mile or so, I am close to the 1,000-mile mark for the year at 996.3 (I thought I had passed 1,000, but realized that Saturday's 4-miler was logged in twice) and finished my first week training for the Marshall University Marathon with 51.7 miles.

It's a nice feeling to know that I'm starting training -- at least for me -- at a high fitness level. It has me excited that I may be able to run a good time at the MUM considering that it is a flat course.

Can't wait for Week 2 of training!

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