In training for road races, in the past, Saturday was always my Long Run Day. So, if I was training for, say, a half marathon, Saturday might mean, "Day I Run 12 Miles" or something. It wasn't always something I looked forward to, but it was something I did because of the fear of failing shamefully in front of 10,000+ people on race day by keeling over at mile four after not training properly and instead getting drunk on Friday nights and then skipping a Saturday Long Run to nurse a hangover with ill-gotten fries.
That's, in a shell, what Saturday Long Runs always meant to me: plodding along on pavement for a lot of miles while avoiding Murder By Soccer Mom In Escalade. But now they mean something else.
Firstly, they're not all that long anymore. In fact, they're practically short. They're usually around three or four miles.
Secondly, I do look forward to them. Mostly because they involve listening for hawks overhead instead of listening for SUVs bearing down on my backside.
So, while I still call them my Long Runs, they're really not all that long but OH are they hard. Actually, much harder than any 12 mile trot through the streets of San Jose, even though I'm covering less mileage over all and don't have to dodge homicidal minivans.
Know why? Because, friends - there are hills.
And not just any old hills that might be rolling and green or any other pleasant and pastoral image you could be conjuring up in your peaceful minds. No, these hills fall into the rocky, boulderous (new word alert), tree root woven switchback category that makes them not so much hills but more like ladders made from hillsides.
OK, so my whole run isn't a near vertical climb up a rocky mountainside. Some of it is though, and that makes three or four miles feel like 12 might if I were trudging along on the paved sidewalks under the punishing glare of our fair sunshine ball.
The tree canopy is a bonus, however, and I really appreciate how I don't have to run from sidewalk patch shaded by a small Crepe Myrtle to sidewalk patch shaded by an overgrown Sycamore in order to keep out of the direct gaze of the sun. The fact that I'm running (or many times "Hiking Quickly") up a steep grade is sometimes offset by the fact that the shade is keeping me from scorching to death.
Like, I fear less the threat of dying shamefully five miles from my home because of exposure and heat stroke.
I also like how the weather in the mountains is typically the exact opposite of the weather at my house, so it's anyone's guess what I should be wearing or carrying with me when I get geared up to go. If it's sunny and 50 degrees at my house, will it be 30 degrees and icy on the mountain? Raining? Should I bring a sled? It's contentious.
And then we look at Google weather and all mystery sort of dissolves. You know. Sometimes the weather forecasts are right on and sometimes you're sure you must have typed in the wrong town because how can there be freezing fog this close to the ocean?
Whatever. I'm still getting used to the intricacies of running on mountain trails rather than suburban sidewalks and roads. I'm also still getting used to the concept of getting up tomorrow morning to head up to the mountains for my first official "Long Run Trail Training Day" since I finally decided to register for my first race of 2011 - the Diablo Trails Challenge 10K.
And you know I couldn't just sign up for the 5K again, like I ran in December, because - right - I *just* ran a 5K in December, now I must do something new and challenging as though, because I didn't die during the 5K, I should obviously push myself as close to actual Death While Running as I can.
It's possible that this race could kill me.
It's not only twice as far as my first 5K trail race a few months ago that nearly took my life (gaining 900' of elevation in 1.5 miles is no piece of cake for moi), it's also twice as much elevation gain. So, like doing the first part of the last race twice.
Yay. Let's run up hill for 1400+' and see if we can live? Sounds good.
I'd be lying if I told you I signed up for the 10K because I just didn't want to be signed up for the shortest distance offered. Though I *could* try to best my age group place in the 5K race, but I'll save that out for the next race I run this year.
If I live through the Diablo Trails Challenge, that is. Which is a little iffy so don't place any bets.
However, and here's another new thing to entertain you people, I've added a Finny Runs tab to this blog, so if you're ever curious about my running history, PRs, The Gallery of Race Fries or whatever, you can go look at it and know for sure how slow and unaccomplished I am in the running arena and how I'm counteracting all this running by filling my guts with fries.
It's pretty impressive, really, how much talking I do compared with how much actual racing I've accomplished. Lop-sided? Oh sure.
So, yeah, I've signed up for a new trail race, I'm lying to myself about my weekly running prowess by calling my four mile woodland adventures, "Long Runs", and I may not cross the finish line at the Diablo Challenge because of my own shallow vanity.
Good show, me. Good show.