I headed up to Poolesville, Md on both Saturday and Sunday for a weekend of hard running. I miss going out and getting after it on long runs and I feel I'm really in need of some strength work. My speed, for the time being, is sort of where I need it, but my endurance is weak.
My plan was to run a 14.25 mile loop old Benedict Sloane turned me on to last week. Essentially it's the first 8-miles of the "Duel Ferries" loop but then you make a left at Elmer School Road (see photo above -- stupid bikers, but you get a sense of the area) instead of staying on River. I could explain the rest of the route, but a picture is worth a thousand words. So, see map HERE.
But, before Sunday comes Saturday, naturally. I drove out to Riley's Lock alone with the idea of running a hard, but comfortable, 12 miles. I ran the usual Riley's Lock run sans the warm-up and cool-down loops we typically add on to make the run 13 or 15 miles (i.e. - 11+ miles). I started out at 7:00 pace, but quickly felt comfortable hitting 6:20s. After a few miles hovering around that pace, I turned right onto Sycamore Landing Road and slowly cranked up the tempo: 6:07, 6:00, 5:56, 6:00, 5:51 and 5:48 (while hurdling a black rat snake). I was trying to stay right around that 5:55-6:00 mark, but each mile felt easier than the last and my pace naturally wanted to quicken once I felt comfortable. My last 5 miles were around 29:30. I cooled down enough to make it an even 12 then rested up for Sunday.
The next morning, I met the Chicken Tender Runner at the Edward's Ferry parking lot a few ticks after 9:00am. He was hoping to run a hard 10-mile cut down, so I told him I'd join. We hit our first mile in 7:00 and, like yesterday, I settled into 6:30 pace, give or take, for the next 3 miles. After turning onto River, we found our stride and quickly got down to business: 6:13, 6:06, 5:48 and 5:45. CTR was about 10 seconds ahead of me at this point, but knowing I still had many miles to go, I decided to not push it too early. We parted ways (he running back to the parking lot via River), but before he left I pleaded with him to circle back with his bike to give me a splash of water, which would be somewhere around miles 11-12. He accepted the challenge, but as soon as I turned on to Elmer School Road, I realized I'd given him the wrong road name to turn down. Damn. Hopefully he'd recognize my mistake and he'd find me somewhere on the road. Meanwhile, the sun, flexing a devilish smile, winked...
I was now on asphalt and approaching the short, but very steep, NIH Animal Hill. I hit 5:55, but re-grouped and then got after it. I recall Sloane noting that there were "hills" (plural) on the run and within a mile or so I found them. The next 4-miles rolled up and down bucolic farm roads, which were quite taxing, but I wanted to try and hang on to 5:45 pace: 5:42, 5:46, 5:44, 5:46. When I finally turned on to Edward's Ferry Road my tongue was parched and the sun was finding ways of sneaking its rays onto my salty face. I began to curse Andy's name under my breath, but no sooner than I did, did I see before me -- the Chicken Tender Biker. He tossed me his bottle and I filled my mouth with sweet, sweet nectar. I cruised down back to the car clocking a 5:36 for my last mile. I shuffled a 2-mile cool-down, netting 16, and called it a day. My last 10 miles were run around 58:20, but it felt comfortable. The rolling 6 miles of hills was just what the doctor ordered. 1:26:00 for the 14.25 mile loop ~ approximately 6:02 pace (which includes the opening 7:00 mile).
Granted this sounds more like a marathon workout than a half marathon workout, but it was a real confidence booster and I definitely felt like I needed some simple long, hard running. Perhaps the best news of all was that my legs, which normally moan after running anything longer than 12, were strangely quiet. I got in 72 miles for the week.