Spring has sprung. Like, for real this time. This weekend was spectacular and I was thrilled to be spending a good part of it ramping up my mileage in preparation for my marathon, which is one month away!
I joined my TNT group for a training run Saturday morning, with four of us heading out for 18 miles, while the rest logged 12 in preparation for their half marathons in Providence and San Diego. The mileage basically required that we start at Washington Square in Brookline and run out past “the firehouse” on the Newton/Wellesley line (which, believe it or not, is actually a sufficient enough description for anyone who has run or knows of the Boston course), with four loops of the Chestnut Hill Reservoir at the beginning, end, or two on either side of the out-and-back.
It didn’t take much to convince me to get the loops out of the way in the beginning. The path around the reservoir is perfectly flat, the trail is soft underfoot, and I definitely wanted to start the day with some running buds. I was worried if we started out and back we would all end up solo, so covering the first 8 ½ miles in good company with plenty of conversation was the way to go. I really enjoyed running with these three ladies. Two, who are mentors for our team, ran their first marathon in January (in Disney World), will be making the trip to run Vermont, and they were coached by another TNT alum who I ran track workouts with last spring. The running world, and the TNT world especially, is a happy little place. The third amiga is a lifelong runner, but she will be covering her first full marathon in San Diego this June.
We ran the first two loops of the water counter-clockwise and then ran the opposite to keep things interesting. The only logistic we hadn’t figured out was that it meant making it 8 ½ miles without water, so we made it up the first hill and needed some pretty serious hydration. I was parched. Still, we cruised in averaging about 9:30 a mile, which fit my plan exactly. I wanted to take it nice and easy in the beginning, to reserve some energy for the hills and to make sure I was able to finish the day strong.
Taking off from the water stop I knew the rest of the run was going to include rolling hills, on our way out facing the reverse of the marathon route and coming back, going into mile 15 over Heartbreak Hill. From there I starting trying to dial down my pace, banking time on the down-hills and trying to maintain pace on the way back over. I was fairly cautious on the way out towards Wellesley, since it felt like we were mostly making our way downhill, nervous that I might crash during the last few miles. Our happy little pack ebbed and flowed, grouping up at water stops and easing back over the hills. It felt like a team effort.
I still felt good at the Day Street turnaround, but wasn’t sure how the last six miles would feel. I ran for a little while with the teammate training for San Diego, but had to stop to retie my shoes and she pulled ahead. I decided to put my head down and run my own “race”. Good decision because she totally owned Heartbreak Hill and I chugged along. It was hard work and it marked my slowest mile, but little by little I reined it in and hit a water stop at the top.
Graciously, my running buddy waited at the top and after refueling, we high-tailed it for home. Okay, high-tailed is a liberal use of language, but I was relieved to have the tough part checked off. We chatted the rest of the way back to home base, talking about the bombings and a disappointingly long list of other life-changing tragedies we have witnessed through high school, college, and in recent years. It was sort of strange to talk to someone I don’t know well about the “where were you’s” of Columbine, 9/11, and Newtown, but more and more I find that running buddies are sounding boards and vaults. There’s something different about conversations when you talk about such important things, but keep your gaze straight ahead on the road.
We arrived back to Washington Square in 2:47, averaging a 9:16 pace, 9 seconds per mile off a 4:00 effort. The run was endlessly more fun and more satisfying than putting in the time on my own. “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” [John.Donne]