In the past couple of weeks I've blown by the 30 mile/week club, and firmly joined the 40 mile club. As a club, it is a bit more exclusive (although the dress code remains the same). I found every run (7-9 mi/day) to be a joyous experience. I took Friday off from running because I thought I should, not because I felt the need to do so. I also only took my Garmin 210 on a couple of the runs. After so many years of doing it, I have a good idea of my pace, and I know the course distances anyway, so I can figure things out by looking at a clock - duh! I am finding, that lately, as I go farther, I care less about the mechanics, the speed, the distance, and the noise that good runners normally focus on. I care more about the experience.
Case in point: today I popped out on my favorite trail (the Riverfront Trail) for a typical run. I had knocked it out yesterday afternoon as well. I felt great, and took off at a pretty good clip. I recall very little of the first half of the run, other than noting how awesome the berries were looking (Here's an aside: if you want great berries, hit the river trails before or after a run with a bag or bucket. There are huge amounts of the berries, and they are ripe and delicious). I was in a kind of reverie. I was moving quickly, yet effortlessly. I stopped, at one point, to check out a nice-looking abandoned bike about 4 miles out. I had noticed it the day before, but thought its owner was probably answering nature's call. That was obviously not the case. I looked around for a bit in order to make sure there didn't look like a struggle or something bad had occurred. Thankfully, I could find nothing that looked amiss other than the bike. So I motored on.
At the outer edges of the trail, I wanted to know where all of the ancillary trails for bikes went. So , instead of just doing the circuit, I started with a trail and followed it to where it joined a trail I knew. I then did that with a couple of others. It was fun and interesting to get all of the connections into a map in my mind.
Both of the above instances of stopping or going off of the planned course, are things that I didn't do previously. Last year (even though I gave up racing), it still would have driven me crazy to pull myself out of a route - especially to follow some uncharted territory. But it felt great today.
Somewhere around mile 6 in my run, my buddy, Eric Struckoff, came barreling towards me on one of his insanely awesome Cyclocross bikes. Eric is a monster cyclist who has a lot of trophies in his closet. He is well known as a race promoter in this area, and was the founding director of the Pro/Am Tour de Lawrence, which brings thousands of spectators and teams from all over the country, into the city each year. I got to see his ability up close when in 2001 I rode on a self-contained tour across France with Eric, his wife, and a couple of other friends. The guy was happy to tackle any mountain we came to with 60 additional lbs of gear packed along. Anyway, we paused on the trail to chat a bit (something again, that I never would have done previously). We talked about the berries, some wild grapes, the state of the trails (fabulous), and life as a geneticist (his occupation). I lifted his bike, which weighed about the same as one of my running shoes. Then we set off in opposite directions.
I finished the run with a ton of fuel left in the tank. I thought about popping out for another circuit, but opted against it. I want to run good miles the next couple of days. And doing 2-3 circuits would definitely require taking a day off tomorrow. So I quit with the audience (me) still wanting more. And that was just the start of, what looks to be, a beautiful Sunday.
I'm reading a book about the life of Emile Zatopek. I'll give a short report as soon as it is done.