Plan on 4 or 4 and half, okay? This is the text I got Friday before my Saturday long run. She meant 4 or 4 and half HOURS, not miles.
Someone at some point told me that distance running is more of a mental game than physical one. When it gets down to the wire and you are injury free little sayings are what get your through the big days and even the small days (we know those can be hard too sometimes); it’s just a long morning playing in the woods. I’ve said this to myself about a million times, Friday afternoon a friend said it to me, reminded me, and it stuck in my brain all morning on Saturday. I’m just playing in the woods.
The morning was cold, cold enough for knickers, gloves and long sleeved shirt. It only got colder and as climbed up the trail, me chasing Little Red Riding Hood (my running partner) all the way. My running partner wore red, which was good because most of the time she was more than a few steps ahead of me and it was a comfort to see her red shirt through the green trees up the switch back or down the hill a bit. Her red shirt shining like a beacon I had to follow to get to shore safely, only in this case it shone bright to keep me on the trail.
I’ve said it before, but running with someone is the best and cheapest therapy the wilderness has to offer. LRRH and I chat about everything. Then sometimes we run or hike in silence, the silence is understood as working hard, concentrating, processing and thinking on our own. At the top of a climb we call Ostrich Peak I was reminded to take in some calories, pee in the woods, drink some water and keep moving. If she wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have remembered, but I probably wouldn’t have made it that far in the run either. I needed the support; this run was about finding my confidence and practicing being in the woods.
Our conversation waxed and waned as we climbed and descended. We lost the dog right about when we came across a group of Mexican loggers, LRRH not worried about him, knowing that he knows the trails and will find his way back to town eventually—probably before us. LRRH reminded me again to take in food and fluids, as much as I didn’t want to I squeezed the Pomegranate/blueberry flavored Gu into my mouth. Ignoring the crystallized sugar from an expired packet my body absorbed the calories and pushed on.
20 miles is a long way. 20 miles in the woods is even longer. As I chased LRRH I was forced to push harder than I really had pushed before. Watching her blonde pig tails from behind helped me keep going, but ultimately the mantra I had started out with is what kept me from really wanting to give up: it’s just a long day playing in the woods.
We don’t play enough as adults. Or maybe we do, we just play differently than we did when we were 5 or 6 years old. As LRRH and I descended the final mile to the car we were both sore, tired, feeling all those miles. But we both agreed that the feeling we had right in that moment was why we do this.
There were moments on the trail I hated, I was yelling in my head, all I wanted to do was throw-up, poop, and eat (weird, I know.) I wanted the taste of Espresso Love Gu to stop lingering in my mouth every time I burped. I wanted soft cozy shoes and to not feel every rock poking at the soles of my feet. I wanted to lay down in the sun and relax on a Saturday morning, just like everyone else. Sip coffee, peruse the Farmer’s Market and wear a sundress.
As we sat in the grass in our sweaty sports bras and shorts we massaged our feet, stretched our hips and talked about where the hell her dog might have ended up we decided we felt good. I can put on a sundress later and make coffee when I get home. We talked about when we’ll be running long again and what we can do better (not eating expired Gu? Different shoes?) We found the dog, had a meal, and I relaxed and was proud of myself the rest of the day—ready to conquer more miles, more hills and more trails all over again.