I can't say I was feeling all that confident in the middle of loop #3 but a few minutes after finishing I felt great.
Before I give you the details I have to send a big THANK YOU to my running buddy John T. John arrived this morning planning on 12. I told him my plan when he asked which route I was taking. "Ok. I'll run two loops with you ..." and he kind of trailed off after that. I admit to hoping he was considering sticking with me for the three but I didn't want to ask nor did I want to get my hopes up so I just didn't think about it. I had mentioned that I was doing 2 in the clockwise direction and the final one counterclockwise figuring that by then I'd need some distraction/change of scenery. So as we descended the hill at the end of loop #2 :
John: So you want to go the opposite direction for loop #3?
Me: Really? You want to do it with me?
John: Sure, why not.
Now back to the start. Today it was about 20 degrees warmer than last Saturday. The skies were solid blue and gorgeous once the sun came up. Actually they were pretty on the ride to the park as well with all the stars. I debated long sleeve vs short sleeve and brought both but wore the short sleeve with my sleeveless jacket on top. The jacket was more for the pockets really. I've been using my camelback since my belt gave up the ghost and although it has a small pocket in the back it is difficult to get to.
Loop #1 was uneventful. I had to chase thoughts of what I was trying to do a few times and focus on staying in the moment. If I was going to think about miles I wanted to think about the ones I had finished not the ones - or the hills - I had left. We had some awesome scenes on loop #1. The fog was still lifting off the fields and the sun shining on it was spectacular. I didn't have my camera but it wouldn't have done them justice. Before I knew it we were passing the chapel. Steady 3 minutes running/1minute walking all the way. I thought ok this is good.
Loop #2 down the hill across County Line Road and up the hill around the visitor's center. This is where we had done some hill workouts earlier in the season and it didn't feel any better now than it did then (except that it was cooler). Still we didn't balk. 3 and 1's all the way. At the top and on the far side of the visitor center as we joined the main part of the loop again I commented that that was the hardest part so far. To which John replied with "Yes the hills get longer and steeper the second time around." So true! Yet, I really feel like we sailed through the second loop. My watch beeped off the miles one at a time and I felt good. I reminded myself to think about how much was finished not what was left and also focused on keeping my pace steady on the downhills - not letting myself go too fast. A couple times I felt bad for John. He is taller and (I hope) heavier than me so he has more momentum on the downhills but I could tell he was holding back as well and it was likely harder for him than me. The fog was all gone by loop #2 so now we admired the beauty of the trees. It won't be long before they peak. Today they were on the cusp. The maples were turned but the rest were still changing. I assessed how I was feeling as we came to the chapel for the second time. I was impressed. I really did feel good. I had been taking water at every walk break and chomps at mile 3 and 6 and we were just approaching mile 9 where I would take another. I took an electrolyte at the end of the first loop and would again after the second.
Loop #3 We didn't go all the way down the hill to County Line Road before turning around. This resulted in our total being just under 15 miles but if you know the hill you understand. Still it got me. I balked and we walked to the top of it. That got into my head for a little bit but not enough to destroy the run. I just reminded myself that it WAS a significant hill and I just done TWO loops - just shy of 10 miles - of hills. However, it is amazing how fast one's mood can change! I'm grateful that John didn't seem to need to talk a lot. First, we run together enough - including twice this week - that there wasn't much new to chat about and I'm not one for talking just to talk. Plus I, personally, tend to get very quiet on longer runs. Maybe it would help my state of mind if I talked more but it's always been that way. I'm proud of the fact that - after that initial balk up the hill - we only strayed from 3 and 1's twice. Both times we were approaching the top of a hill and had about 10-15 seconds left on the run and added it to the walk. Only twice! :)
Some memories of loop #3 - not necessarily in order of happening
As we came down the 'hill-that-everyone-hates-going-up' we passed a group of cylists going up. One guy in a rather holier than thou tone of voice says "It's harder going up". He's lucky I was tired. My thoughts back to him were not friendly but I kept them to myself. And thinking back he was likely less commenting on our going downhill and more on his struggle to go uphill. I'm glad I kept quiet.
As we passed the Von Stuben statue area (for the third time) a double running stroller was still there off in the growth.
Me: If we make it back to the Visitor Center I'm going to stop in and tell the ranger. That's been there a long time. It might be nothing but I feel like we should tell them.
John: Ok (pause) What do you mean IF we get back? We got this.
A little later I said: This really did feel like a good idea a few days ago
John: It's fine. In less than an hour we are going to feel awesome.
Running (or any workout) buddies are priceless folks. If you don't have one....get one! :)
Despite my crankiness on loop #3, My legs were good on the straightaways and smaller hills. The steeper ones were killing me and getting into my head. I even debated going through the Arch instead of around but only for a moment. I really wanted to be able to say I did the whole thing.
And we did! :)
It's about 4 hours later and I feel good. Accomplished and good. My legs are not killing me either. I did a lot of walking around and stretching while we waited for one of our running group to complete her 23 miles (her longest to date). She set out to do 21 and ended up at 23. She looked great and seemed happy! I'm really happy for her too. Her first marathon is Philly on November 18.