Sunday, January 6, 2008

In the Zone

I will admit, when I wake up in the morning before a race—whether it's a 5K, 10K, 15K or Half Marathon—I always wonder why I possibly think I could go out there and run a race, let alone run with any sort of speed. But I always manage to do it. Somehow when I start running the race my adrenaline kicks in and I run—perhaps not fast, but faster than I can ever manage to run by myself on the streets of Everett.

Of course, when I wake up on an ordinary morning and it's time to go out for a run, I just wonder why I possibly think that I could get out of bed and go running at all! Hence the liberal use of the snooze alarm, until I throw myself out of bed in desperation, throw on my running clothes, and rush out the door at least ten minutes later than I should have left.

Even on a Sunday morning like today, when thank goodness I had no need to go out at 6 (6:30) a.m., I still have to drag myself out of bed. But once I'm dressed, I muster up a little more energy and head out to the street.

Today I really let myself lounge, watching the Food Network (my favorite weekend channel) until after 11 a.m., and not getting outside until 11:30. I headed west with a slow warmup jog.

Since I had no time consuming commitments today, I headed for the waterfront route that constitutes one of my "long run" routes. The entire route (should I choose to complete it) is about 8.85 miles (painstakingly measured in my car). The weather was cool, but not cold; halfway between cloudy and sunny (with a few rain spatters by the end); and my legs and heel were a little sore, but not debilitatingly painful.

As usual, it took the first few miles to warm up and shake off most of the soreness. I took a bathroom stop down by the marina, and as is typical when I take a few minutes rest in a run, I came out feeling more energized and refreshed. There's something about a short stop that makes me run better when I resume.

There's a long hill up Marine View Drive as you leave the waterfront area. It's fairly steep, but not so much as to be impossible to run up. I think that it would be a good hill to run up and down if (when?) I want to work on hill repeats this winter/spring. But today, I was happy just to get to the top and back to level ground.

I took the long route along East Grand Avenue toward Riverside Park and Everett Avenue. This makes the run about a mile longer than if I had stayed on Walnut. The roadway is a little dicey, but I was careful watching for cars when I passed the freeway on and off ramps!

As usual in a long run, I was running at an easy pace that felt good to me but not overly difficult. "Slow" would probably be a good word for it.

When I was on the last stretch, heading west on Everett Avenue toward QFC, I thought (as I did in another past long run) how this was like the end of a 15K. I pictured myself up in Fairhaven approaching the finish line in that 15K. And then, somehow, the race adrenaline did take over and I found myself speeding up, breaking into that fast easy run that I am somehow able to sustain in long races like the Fairhaven 15K. It's different than the fast portions of my pace and tempo runs, because those usually feel forced and difficult. This was smooth, powerful. I was in the zone.

And then I got to the QFC parking lot and had to stop to avoid being run over by cars forcing their way in. Just like that, the magic moment was over.

But it wasn't completely over. I still had the triumphant feeling of finishing well, of being able to pick up the pace and run fast after already running eight miles or so. That's a skill worth having. It gets you across the finish line in style!

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