The idea of doing a longer run on Saturday mornings has been simmering in my head since I stopped running six miles a few months ago.
As hard as it was on me to admit that I am no longer strong enough to run six miles without stopping at least once to walk for a minute or two, I submitted to the realities of life.
But the fallback distance of 3+ miles – even with a significant 3/4+ mile hill consistently left me wanting more.
So the question that wanted an answer was, if six miles is too much, what is the baby bear distance (“just right”)?
These questions never got answered before I had to stop running altogether for three months while I expended my energy six days each week fixing up my flip house.
That effort ended two weeks ago and I went promptly back to my weight lifting walking running program.
But because last weekend had a special church function going on Saturday morning, I shifted my Saturday morning run to Sunday morning before church.
I had intended to add some extra distance to my hilly course to test my abilities that weekend, but thought better of it because I did not know how much time it would add to my running session.
I did not want to scramble my get-ready-for-church activities and end up late for the pre-Sunday school responsibilities that I must attend.
So I passed on the extra distance experiment last week.
Which takes us to this morning.
The night-time temperature remained surprisingly mild – mid 50's with a light breeze.
But I had had a busy night in the bed, with many foggy confrontations that partially woke me up several times.
So when the alarm spoke quietly to me a 4:58, I was not really ready to respond with a leap out from between the memory foam and the flannel sheet/comforter.
So I pressed the off button and rolled over in the warm cocoon.
But I was playing my margin.
I knew that it takes only about 15 minutes to shave and get dressed (the shower is saved until after the run....), and about 10 minutes to drive to the running course.
This would theoretically, allow me 30 extra minutes of snoozing, should I choose to indulge.
I dozed for a few minutes longer than the ten minutes that I intended.
So when I popped one eye open to check the time, I knew I needed to get at it.
It was 5:15.
Getting out of the snuggly warmness is the hardest part.
I turn my heat down to 65 at night in the fall/winter so the first sensation if feel when I get out of the warm bed is COLDNESS.
A few button pushes on the electronic heating machine controller begins the process of warming the air temperature to a more comfortable.
For some reason, I overdressed this morning.
50 degrees and above is warm enough to allow bare legs when running.
But today I pulled on my wind pants for just a bit more protection.
I also wore my light, long-sleeved zip top – my usual covering for this temperature.
In addition I worn my light knit gloves and my ear warmer.
All of this is one of the reasons I despise winter.
Trying to keep my body temperature comfortable when running.
My circulation is very uneven, and running seems to only amplify some of these discrepancies.
I can be sweating at my armpits and have cold ears, hands and feet.
And this temperature variation can be moderated by a surprisingly lightweight layer on these parts.
When I started out on the course, my left hip, knee and ankle all took turns complaining about their lot in life.
None of this was strong enough to seriously consider canceling the party, but it put me on notice that the potential was there.
I do not do any warm up exercises, so my first quarter mile of running is very tentative and cautious.
I felt other nudges of distress from my upper and lower back, probably from my weight workout yesterday.
Gradually, everything gets with the program and I am fine for the duration.
It was so today.
Going up the big hill was a bit of a challenge today.
By the time I got to the top, where I turn south, I was into level three breathing.
That is not my preferred rate, but I knew that I was finished with the most difficult portion of my course, so I did not fret too much about this.
Ego would have preferred that I not be breathing faster at all.
The more level plane of Tollgate Road got the breathing rate back into preferred cadance and the walk down Mountainwood was uneventful.
It was at this point that the zipper on my long-sleeved top was taken all the way down.
I was warm.
Then came the change.
Instead of turning left at the bottom of Mountainwood and going to the 1/10th mile out and back on Owens Drive, I turned right on Owens and started down the gentle grade.
I ran sightly more than a half mile, looped around and started back.
I felt good at this point.
The question at this point was, is this too much?
It on the return trip that I wished I had left the wind pants in the car.
I was just a bit warmer than I wanted to be.
But I was quickly lost is the nostalgia of running my favorite course again, in the direction that I prefer.
From this turn-around point, I would be following almost two full miles of the six-mile course.
I plodded along, daydreaming – the sure sign for me that I am as comfortable and free as I can possibility be.
The last quarter mile was not as easy as it has been in times past.
Nothing was wrong, I just knew that I had expended some extra effort.
When I got to my car I was ready to stop.
I could have run further, if necessary.
But it was not necessary.
I had completed my planned distance.
I felt properly challenged.
After a short cool-down walk, I slid into my car drove home.
Certain that I will do this distance again next week.
I love running.