Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Long Run Redemption

- noun - an act of redeeming or a state of being redeemed

Missing my long run and weekly mileage goals this past week didn’t sit well with me. The taste it left in my mouth was particularly bitter since it was only week #2 of my marathon training buildup. There was no excuse for it. It had to do with making a bad decision. Run with my usual training partner and get the job done or run with some new folks and get an a&& kicking to the point where you have to cut the run short. I foolishly chose the latter.

I woke up Monday morning determined to start the week off the way I usually finish it, with a long run. There was no way I was letting my failure to run long last week gnaw at me any longer. I had to get this one in the bank early. After a quick breakfast I gathered up my gear and make the short drive over to Breakheart Reservation.

I arrived at the entrance to the reservation around 8:30. It was already getting hot, and I dislike running in the heat. I started my run at the entrance gate on the main paved road heading into the woods. I immediately felt an ache in my quads, stiffness in my calf muscles and soreness in my ankles. No doubt this was from the trashing they took on the relentless hills of the Skyline trail in Middlesex Fells. I knew this long run would not be easy. But redemption never comes easy, nor should it. What heart would it take, what strength mustered, what sacrifice made, what accomplishment felt, if redemption was granted so easily?

After a short section of pavement I cut off onto the Saugus River trail descending down to the riverbank. I followed the trail to the footbridge that spans the Saugus River and meanders its way to Camp Nihan. Soon, I am through the camp and heading out the access road to Walnut Street. Running of pavement is still risky for me but this is the only way I can get to Lynn Woods from Breakheart. One mile of scorching blacktop and I am at the back entrance to Lynn Woods. Two miles and 20 minutes down, but who’s counting!

Lynn Woods is a 2,200 acre municipal forest park located in Lynn, Massachusetts with many miles of dirt fire roads and even more miles or rocky trails. I planned to run most of my miles on the fire roads with some short jaunts on a few trails. Thirty minutes into the run I began to loosen up. My pace was steady and I was feeling pretty good although I wasn’t concerned with pace at all. My mission today was to cover distance, more distance than I have covered in any other run so far this year.

At mile 5 I approach Dungeon Road. This piece of real estate has been my nemesis since I started racing here in 2006. I’m not sure if this long stretch of rock strewn, rut filled uphill that passes Dungeon Rock was named for the deep hole dug by treasure hunters looking for pirate booty or for the torture it inflicts on under conditioned trail runners. Legend claims the former; I have lived the latter on many a run. But today was not that day and I moved slowly but steadily to the crest of the hill.

Some of the gnarly roads and hills in Lynn Woods

This was not the only climb I would encounter on my run. I purposely included climbs up to Stone and Steel Towers on my route. I did this not as punishment for yesterday’s failure but as a test of my resiliency. Long-distance running is a sport of ebbs and flows, highs and lows. A long-distance runner has to work through the low points that inevitably come on a run of substantial distance. He has to look inward, to persevere, and to keep putting one foot in front of another when his body begs him to stop.

<-- Stone and Steel Tower -->

View of Boston

1800 feet of climbing

I had some low points today, as I knew I would. That was expected, and welcomed to some degree. I had something to prove to myself. I worked through them, kept moving forward and continued toward completing my goal of 14 miles for the day. Finally I was back at Breakheart where my run began. I looked down at my Garmin to check the time and distance. I expected to see that I had covered the 14 miles as planned but that was not the case. I had miscalculated the length of the route I ran. Much to my surprise my Garmin read 15 miles! Surely, redemption never comes easy.

Until next time….

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