And it just keeps getting better

When’s the other shoe going to drop?  How can it be that I keep getting better at running?  Not little bits of improvement, but leaps and bounds.  I’m 32 and have only been running for three years.  My body should be breaking.  But last fall after a sleepless night with the stomach flu and little training I shatter my PR?  And despite shin splints I set another PR in continuous running?

Monday night we didn’t have Bible study so I decided to tag along with one of the local fun run nights here in Boulder (that I’d love to do more regularly, but don’t because of Monday night Bible study).  Who should I happen to notice milling about before the run began but Melody Fairchild.  Um, wut?  I was going to be running with Melody Fairchild?!??!  Well, running faaar behind Melody Fairchild, but still…  In LA and NYC there are celebrity sightings.  Here in Boulder it’s running and cycling pros that leave you starstruck.

My shin splints were not happy (and Melody left me in the dust within the first block).  I chatted with a few people while running, but it was not a good running night for me.  Maybe it was the fact that it was the first day over eighty degrees and the heat and I don’t get along, but I felt like an imposter all over again among these cheery runners.  Hazard of living in Boulder.

I ran about two miles, then had to walk a mile back.  My legs hurt and I was out of breath.  ‘Twas not a good running night.

The next day my legs still hurt.  So I rested.

On Wednesday my legs hurt even more.  So I rested.

Thursday, still in pain.  This wasn’t just shin splints any more.  My ankles, knees, and even hips ached.  I hadn’t even been running for a few days!  I’d been resting and icing like a good, compliant patient.

Friday, much less pain, but now apprehension.

But this morning came and I knew it was my last chance to get in a “long” run before the Bolder Boulder next week, since you’re supposed to rest the week before a race.  I kept hitting snooze on my alarm, really not looking forward to four miles.  Eventually I got up and puttered around for half an hour while my body woke up and I let some ibuprofen kick in.

“Well, it’s now or never.  If I leave any later, it’ll be too hot to run.”  So at 8:05 I locked the door behind me and set out.

Those first two hundred yards were miserable.  “Why do I keep doing this?  Why do I run?  Running sucks!  Four miles?  I’m not sure I have two miles in me.”  Eventually by the first street crossing I loosened up a bit, even if I was still running a pitifully slow pace.

Heading up the first hill – the backside of the highest hill in the Bolder Boulder, and also the steeper direction – just like last week I told myself that at the top of the second, steeper hill I could walk.  Not before.

As I ran up the steep hill, I wondered if I could do the same as last week and run the full four-mile loop without any breaks (except red stoplights).  At the top of the hill I refrained from walking and continued jogging slowly, but had another thought:  “What if at the bottom of this hill I turn around and run back up — backtrack instead of doing a loop?”

The first half of my four-mile loop is the hilly half.  That would mean running the hard part of this route twice.  Also *gulp* in addition to the second half of the route being fairly flat, it was also the section where you encounter red stop lights — that is, chances to rest.

My legs seemed to be holding out.  “Come on, Alissa.  Don’t be a chicken.”  Okay.  I’m going to do this.  Down the first half of the steep hill, around a corner and down the second half, and at the bottom I swung a wide circle through the middle of the street to head back up.

Oh gosh.  I had never seen the hill from this direction.  Steeper than I thought.  And instantly I felt a twinge in my knee.  “You can do this, Alissa.  You’re doing awesome.  Keep it up.”  (I give myself a lot of pep talks while running.)

Okay, up.  Up.  Up.  There are a lot of pretty houses in this neighborhood, and I was getting a better look at them from the other side.  Up.  Up.  This was more hill than I had thought coming down. But at the top I came around the corner and was greeted with a spectacular view of the mountains.  “If I had a million dollars, I’d buy one of these houses.  For sure.”  And I was still running.

Down that hill, and now to run the proper direction up the highest point in the Bolder Boulder.  I hear people complain about this hill each year.  Shut up.  This hill is nothing.  Gradual, only 25 feet of elevation gain, if they wanted to kill people they would re-route the course through that other hill I just did — 90 feet of elevation gain.

As I came over the top, I thought, “I did it!  Only downhill left, and I’m still running!  Now if only I can hit all of the lights through downtown on a green…”  First time I’ve ever been on the second half of a run and chanting, “Stay green stay green stay green,” while approaching a stoplight.  Usually I’m chanting, “Please red please red please red,” because I need a break.  My knee was hurting more and even though I wanted a break, no breaks allowed!  Only running.

Unfortunately, the lights were not all green — but almost.  I had to jog in place for two seconds at one while the cross traffic rolled to a stop, and I picked up my pace a smidge to run through two more on a yellow.  Struggling past the farmer’s market, part of me wanted to yell out, “Cheer for me!  I need cheering!”  But it was just me and the pavement.  After crossing the last street I almost cried.  This is it.  No more crossings.  Just a straight shot home.

I stopped to walk the last block before home – my traditional cool down – and felt like jumping up and down.  My knee was hurting more, but I could have kept going.  It would have hurt and wouldn’t have been fun, but I still had more in me to give.

In the door, grabbed the water bottle, and straight to the computer to pull up mapmyrun.  Plugged in the points along the route, and then hit “Out + Back” to check the total.

Five miles.

Five miles continuous running.  With double the hills from last week for 260 feet of elevation gain (Bolder Boulder has 230).  And no red stoplights.

Fifty-six minutes.

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