Far: A long, long way to run

I was surprised to wake up at 8:30 this morning, my legs ready to do some running. I headed over to the Pinellas Trail for my first “long run” of 6 miles.

The route starts at 22nd Ave.  I park in the Tyrone Square mall parking lot, don my headphones, my sunglasses and my trusty white cap, and head across 22nd for a 10 minute warmup.  I walk 5 minutes southward on the trail, then turn around and walk back toward 22nd.  With about about a minute to go, I start jogging.  I jog back across 22nd, start my chronograph as I cross between the steel posts that keep cars from driving on the trail, and I’m off.

I enjoy my music as I cruise by the mall at a steady pace.  I cross the first mile marker at 8:35.  Not quite on pace, but not bad.  Another 100 yards or so up, I stop at the drinking fountain and take a quick drink.  I walk for a couple of seconds to make sure I get it all down, then head up the first pedestrian bridge of the day.  There are two  pedestrian bridges on this route and I’ll cross them both twice.  They are fairly steep, but not very long.  I cruise up the first one without much trouble.  At the top, I’m breathinig faster, but I slow my pace just a little and regain my breathing rhythm.  By the time I’m down the other side of the bridge, I’m doing just fine.

At the bottom of the bridge, I stop briefly to avoid being run over by someone turning into Walmart.  I quickly run across the shopping center entrance, then up the second pedestrian bridge.  This one is a little longer and I’m breathing very heavy by the time I reach the top.  I look to the right and see Don Pablos below me.  A margarita sounds good and I’m starting to think of taking a walk break, but I keep running down the other side of the bridge.

A few hundred yards ahead, I can see the cross bayou causeway and the 2 mile mark.  I tell myself that I can take a walk break at the 2 mile mark.  It’s a little sooner than I really wanted to, but at least as long as I lasted on my tempo run Wednesday.  I try to tell myself to run halfway across the causeway before my break, but the slight incline up the causeway does me in and I start walking. 

About halfway across the causeway, I start running again.  The causeway is surrounded by water, so there are no trees to protect me from the sun and it’s starting to take its toll a bit.  By the time I’m across the causeway, I’m feeling very tired.  It’s my legs that are killing me more than anything.  Because of that, my form is suffering and I’m expending more energy.  I think of taking another walk break at the end of the causeway, but an athletic couple turns around a few hundred feet in front of me.  My pride keeps me running down the incline.  Around a small bend, they are out of sight and I think of taking a walk break again.  Off in the distance, I see the 95th Ave crossing and the 3 mile point.  I convince myself to keep running.

This long straightaway travels past a KOA campground.  Behind a thin line of trees, people are milling about their cabins and RV’s.  Someone is frying bacon and the aroma permeates the whole area.  Normally, I’m a big fan of bacon, but the smell makes me gag.  I reach the 95th Ave crossing, turn around and start walking.  3 miles completed.

I plan to walk for 2 minutes, then start running again, but 2 minutes passes and I can’t convince myself to even jog.  I walk another minute and then start running.  I plan to run back across the causeway and walk again at the 4 mile mark.  My body has other plans.  Running up the small incline to the causeway, I’m completely out of breath again.  I want to walk again, but I’ve only been running for about 2 minutes since my last break, so I start using the causeway’s expansion joints as motivation.  I reach the first one and convince myself to run to the second.  At the second, I convince myself to run to the third.  At the third, I’ve caught on to my own little charade and I start walking.  I’m about 1/3 of the way across the causeway.

I walk the rest of the way across the causeway, taking in the smell of oysters and other rotting marine life left on the sides of the causeway by pelicans and fishermen overnight.  The end of the causeway marks 4 miles.  I’ve been on the trail for about 40 minutes.  I’m averaging almost 2 minutes per mile slower than my plan, but I have no hope of making that up in the next two miles.

Motivated by the water fountain just before the 5 mile mark, I start running again and soon begin climbing up a pedestrian bridge.  My glutes and hamstrings are burning and crying for another walk break.  I make it to the top of the bridge and walk to the other side, passing Don Pablos again on my left.  Now, water sounds much better than a margarita, but sitting in the air conditioning looking at one wouldn’t be so bad.

I start running again on the downhill side of the bridge.  On my right, I pass a billboard for Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  My thoughts go to January, when I’ll be passing the real thing 16 miles into the marathon.  I think about the last time I rode Everest.  I feel the breeze rushing by as I’m screaming backwards down the track.  The thought leaves me as I hit the bottom of the bridge and the trails flattens out again.  I race past the Walmart parking lot and an older woman who appears to be about to take a run herself, but is presently just standing in the middle of the trail looking at me.

I’m running at a good pace when I hit the last pedestrian bridge.  I cruise up to the top, my glutes and hamstrings feeling the burn again.  I reach the top tempted to take a walk break, but I just slow my pace to an easy jog and continue across the bridge.  I speed up again downhill and I can see the water fountain ahead, but some bastard on a bike with 5 fishing poles and 6 plastic bags is sucking up all the water.  By the time I make it to the fountain, his bike is there, but he’s off in the trees peeing.  I gulp up a good bit of water, and walk for about a minute until I reach the 5 mile mark.

With good intentions of making the 5.5 mile mark, I start running again very glad that the marathon isn’t until January.  The straight away is long and there is no shade.  The sun is beating down on me.  The trail makes a very slight incline as it curves toward the 5.5 mile mark.  The incline forces another walk break.  I walk for about another 2 minutes.  I walk past the 5.5 mile mark and with about .35 miles left, I can see 22nd Ave in the distance. 

I start running again, determined not to stop until I’m finished.  I run past a family getting on their bikes for a late morning ride.  There is a little confusion as the little one tries to gain her balance even with training wheels.  I run past the morning delivery at the shoe store.  I speed up as the steel posts get closer.  Finally, I cross them.  I weakly thrust my arms in the air as though I’ve just won a particularly grueling mountain stage of the Tour de France.  I glance down at my watch.  I finished in 64 minutes – a 10:40 average pace.

Planned workout

6 miles running at 8:05 pace

Actual workout

10 minute warmup

6 miles running/walking at avg 10:40 pace

10 minute cool down

I’m a little disappointed with the average pace.  I knew I would have to take walk breaks, but I was hoping I wouldn’t have to take one until I had hit the halfway point.  Still, the run marked the longest I’ve ever gone in a single training session – a personal record which will be broken almost every weekend between now and January.

I drank a bottle of water on the way home, and had a banana as soon as I walked in the door.  Then, I stretched and took an ice bath.  Actually, it wasn’t much of an ice bath.  The four trays of ice just didn’t do a whole lot in our large bathtub.  It was very cold, but next time I think I’ll get a bag of ice from the grocery store.

Hopefully next week I’ll be able to make it 3 miles before a walk break, or maybe even to the halfway point.  In any case, week 1 is over.  Only 28 weeks to go.


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