Friday, June 29, 2012

Happy (new) trails in Clive

"So what are your big plans for today?" asked the cashier at Trader Joe's.

Um, it's 9:30 a.m. on a Monday, and my presence here in sloppy attire does not mean that I'm on vacation ... it only means that I don't work until the afternoon.

That's what I thought, but what I said was: "Oh, not much, I work later today, but I'll probably go on a run before then."

I'd been grateful I could at least throw out something other than eat and work, but I didn't expect running to sound so exciting to the cashier. When he asked where I ran, I tossed out a safe, vague, "around my neighborhood" and hoped he wouldn't ask where I live.

Instead, he laughed and said: "That's it? You don't go anywhere more interesting?"

Ice-cold burn! I mumbled something about not running very far and about maybe exploring this one path that my bike group took me on, then grabbed my change and groceries and left.

Cashier whose name I didn't catch, you were right, and I knew it. My routes weren't boring me — yet. Eventually it would happen, though, and it was time to shape up my time management skills so that I could start building in that variety.

Fast-forward past the heat to tonight, when the heat index was predicted to stay below 100 during the early evening hours and quitting time was 6 p.m. Driving to a trailhead seemed like far too much work, so I let the sun set a little bit and prepared myself for a five-miler. (It was at least 1.5 miles from my apartment to the forested trail I wanted to visit, so there was no point in going short.)

Three miles zipped by, and although the conditions were nowhere near as pleasant as last Saturday's, I felt nearly as strong and as enthusiastic about running. I knew how I'd extend my route — if I were up for it.

It turned out that I was definitely up for it, but it didn't come easy. The Friday night traffic helped, by giving me guilt-free catch-a-breath breaks, because it's definitely still humid ... and the miles after my optimistic decision to push for six miles definitely had upward inclines.

As I approached my previous post-half marathon best of 5.5 miles, disbelief hit me — I was going to run six miles, no problem! In Midwest humidity!

You know what else hit me? A side stitch, immediately after I notched 5.5 miles. Way to jinx it.

It passed, though, and I broke six miles (it was officially a 6.04-miler). Pace was a 9:47 average, with some decent splits: 9:50, 9:30, 10:10, 10:25, 10:45 and 10 even. I'd read earlier that a recent study finds your heart is best served by doing about 20 miles a week at a pace between 8:30 and 10 per mile — this avoids too much wear and tear — so it's time to officially erase the shame from Monday.

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