Apparently I've used the title "In the Zone" before. But there's no better term to describe a run that just clicks, that just improves as you go, that truly ends with a "runner's high" (a condition that does not necessarily occur all that often!).
I would probably have been better off writing this post earlier in the day, when I was still enjoying the energy and high spirits generated by the morning's run, before an afternoon of soul-sucking court hearings,* and before I had to abandon my car downtown and get a ride home when my car refused to restart after a stop at Starbucks.**
Still, I am well-caffeinated, and as such I can probably take myself back to that great place I was at this morning.***
Most Friday mornings I am able to go to work a little later, so that gives me a great opportunity for a longer run, even if I don't start as early as I should. This morning I intended to get out by about 7 (which is later than usual), but I let myself watch a little of the Today show (I'm usually never home for the beginning), and before I knew it, 7:30 had come and gone. My one cat, who usually drives me out of bed when she starts kneading and sinking her claws into my belly, instead decided to work on a shoulder, which actually felt quite nice thanks to residual achiness from the yoga classes. I kicked myself for not getting up earlier, though, when I realized I would not be back home again in time to watch Michael Buble perform at 8:30. Oh well, I can always listen to the CD's—and I threw myself out of bed.
It's almost as hard to get going at 7:30 as it is at 6:30, but I got myself out the door without too much further delay, fueling myself with my customary handful of chocolate espresso beans.
I plugged along pretty smoothly for the first few miles at an easy 10:30 pace. (Except for the first mile, which is always slower, but we could just throw out the slowest mile like the lowest score in a gymnastics competition.****)
I reflected, as I was moving into miles 3 and 4, that my runs always seem to improve after I get past the distance point where I could, theoretically, stop if I wanted and still feel like I had a good run. I think that distance is about five miles. I prefer to run further, but if I have to cut a run short (like if I am going to be late for work), I am satisfied with five or so miles. So even on a longer run, after five miles the pressure is off and a lot of times that's when I get into the zone.
This morning, because of the route I chose, I hit five miles just before Everett Avenue. That is also the street where I could turn and head home if I so chose. I chose not to, of course, and continued southward.
I made a quick stop at Starbuck's, just to use the bathroom, not for a caffeine infusion, but after that stop something came over me and the whole run changed. Suddenly my legs had no weight whatsoever. My feet and legs felt like they were moving of their own accord, almost independently of my body, and I started speeding up without even working at it.
Mile 6 clicked over at a little more than ten minutes. I was still heading slightly uphill before my turnaround point; once I turned back the whole return route would be gradually downhill. Mile 7 came in at 9:30. During these two miles I felt like I was running without trying hard, that my body was letting me pick up the pace without expending too much effort.
On mile 8, however, I decided to throw myself into it and make a push for a sub-9 pace. Everything was falling into place, since I had just far enough to go that I would hit eight miles just before the big intersection light at Broadway. I barreled down the final hill and just before I reached the stop, the Garmin clicked over to eight miles—with a time of 8:40. Perfect.
When I walked into Starbucks a few moments later I was still flushed and sweaty and breathing hard. The barristas there all know me and know my order and have finally figured out that the reason I come in looking this way—and wearing skin-tight running pants which I would never wear just "out"—is because I've been running. They don't always grasp that this is the end of my run, however! I don't know how I would possibly continue running with a drink in my hand.*****Actually, I can barely walk without dripping, tripping,****** or spilling my drink!
I walked the remaining half mile home (with no problems). I always feel so slow when I walk after finishing a run, but I kept the Garmin running and that last half mile took me about eight minutes or so. That's pretty respectable, I think.
The post-run glow lasted the rest of the morning; through breakfast, my trip to pick up my taxes (with a refund coming, that might play a part); and really all the way into the afternoon when it finally faded away as court demands took over. And then the car problem! (Which has been solved by a jump, a loaner car from my parents', and a plan to check the battery on Monday.) (The glow was revived by an impromptu jaunt to a nearby Mexican restaurant for dinner with a friend where I indulged in a very rare-for-me margarita. Dementor clients begone!)
Anyhow, it's always nice to have a run that feels really great, that reminds me why I run (not just to fit into the jeans), and also amazes myself a little bit over my abilities. I know there are people out there to whom even a seven or eight minute mile is a slow run, but also many like myself, who are still a little bit surprised whenever the pace goes below nine minutes.
I have a promising weekend ahead of me, with a massage tomorrow and a 5K on Sunday. And who knows, maybe a little visit to Sears....
Okay, that was supposed to be my humorous conclusion, but I have one thing to add. Today is my dad's 78th birthday and he spent a good part of the day working in my yard. Is that cool or what? And nobody would ever believe he is that old, so I really think that hard work agrees with him. Keep it up, Dad! And happy birthday!
*I'm exaggerating a bit as to the horribleness of it all, actually things went pretty well for the most part, with only a few moments of difficulty from clients who I may henceforth think of as the Dementors.
**To be revisited later on when there are fewer cars around, to determine whether a battery jump can get me out of there, or if a tow truck needs to be called. Great way to spend a Friday evening.
***With a slight side trip to the J. Crew website to look at their sale! Just way too much stuff I like, and that's in the sweaters alone! (I love little cardigans and they have so many....) Okay, better move on. No point in trying to recreate a running high with a shopping high. The after-effects are much more damaging with the shopping.
****Do they still do that? And don't remind me that they throw out both the lowest and highest scores. I'm keeping my fast miles, thank you very much.
*****Although Dean Karnazes says you can stop at Starbucks on a long run and get your drink with a straw! I'm afraid I am not that coordinated.
******For example, yesterday. I came back to court with latte in hand, wearing very high platform shoes, which don't feel high, because of the platform, but are a long ways off the ground. I must have had a premonition, because I was just thinking "I hope I don't fall and spill my drink," when my ankle folded (no injury), and next thing you know, I was on the ground with my entire latte divided between the front of my dress and the floor around me. Luckily I only had a short hearing to do, then I could run home and change.