All right, so on Saturday night I had psyched myself up for my longest long run of this training cycle -- 23 miles at marathon pace-- for Sunday morning. (BTW, marathon pace for me is 7:40-and-change, with the goal being a below-3:30 CIM and return trip to Boston, where I ran in 2006).
I needed to run painfully early because my daughter had a soccer tournament in Sacramento Sunday morning. All of which is to say that I went to bed early Saturday night and awoke at 4:30 Sunday morning. It was a normal Saturday night when I turned in, but I knew the weather had changed in Davis when I awoke.
I could hear the difference. The wind was howling. I muttered a few profanities to myself as I headed to the kitchen for a pre-run banana and half a peanut butter sandwich. I wanted to be on the road by 5:30, at the latest, but now I was having trouble mustering the will to go out the door to check just so bad the wind was and from which direction it was blowing.
My plan was to run a rural route -- hey, in Davis, any long run eventually becomes rural -- to Woodland, through unincorporated Yolo County and back to the homestead. There were only two "hills" -- uh, freeway overpasses -- on the run, but it's a good test of endurance nonetheless.
So there I stand in the middle of my street at 4:30 and I can't figure out the wind's direction. It seemed to be swirling. Tree branches were waving at me like over-stimulated toddlers trying to get Mommy's attention. I wanted to determine the wind's direction because runners are always told to run into the wind at the start of the run so that you get that nice tailwind at the end when you're laboring, anyway.
It makes sense, really. But it also isn't very pleasant to start your run with the wind blowing at you.
I tried to remain positive as I took off -- with a head wind. Now, I can take the cold and snow (hell, I ran for three years in frigid Ithaca, NY). I can take the rain (I lived in Tacoma, Wash. for two years). I can take the heat and smog (I grew up in Southern California). But I HATE the wind with a deep and abiding passion.
Once I got going, I figured out the wind direction. And, fortunately, I would have the wind at my back the last 8-10 miles and a cross wind for a couple of miles. But the first 8-10 miles of head wind was brutal. Because I was on agricultural roads (roads 29 and 102, for you Yoloites), there was absolutely no buffer provided by houses, buildings, even trees. Add to that the big rigs blowing by me barely three feet away (yes, even on a Sunday morning, the tomato trucks are out), and it wasn't fun.
But I hung tough. I kept my pace between 7:45 and 7:51 for the first 11 miles. Then I turned left onto Gibson Street, where there is civilization (OK, the Woodland equivalent) to buffer the wind. Or so I thought. I figured I'd get a crosswind at this point. Instead, it blew harder directly into me.
I had to really exert myself to keep the pace at 7:45, but I accomplished it. I consoled myself that, about 4 miles up the road, when I turned left again to head back to Davis, I'd have a tail wind to carry me. Funny, these psychological bargains we make with ourselves during long runs.
I was right, and it was heavenly the last 8 miles. It wasn't so much that the wind was pushing me on; more like the absence of wind enabled me to get in a groove. I ran a nice negative split -- thanks, wind! -- and finished with a 7:37 pace for 23 miles.
In recent marathons (Eugene, Ore., in 2009 and Cowtown in 2008), I've been having trouble with lower leg cramping around the 20-mile mark, which I've chalked up to lack of volume in training (I had been doing a lot of cross training, swimming and cycling, and running only an average of 40 miles a week in previous marathon cycles, but am up to the high 50s per week this time around) and not a lack of fluids (I'm smart about hydration, etc.). Anyway, there was nary a cramp in my legs on this run. In fact, I felt I could've kept gonig at the end of 23 miles, which I hope bodes well for a good race on Dec. 6.
Postscript: I had hardly any DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) this morning on my recovery run. I chalk that up to walking around a lot Sunday at my daughter's soccer games. I've found it's good to keep moving after a 20-plus mile training run, even though the temptation is to kick back and recline.