Saturday, June 1, 2013

Pre-Marathon (almost) Marathon

Today: 25
Present: 166
Count: 22

Evolution, like life, is about inches.

I came about as close as I've ever come to getting hit by a car today. And this one would have been ugly. The intersection of Sloat, Portola and, Junipero Sierra has got to be on the most dangerous in America. At least if you're trying to frogger across without waiting for the eternal signals to change.

I was at mile 22 and ready to be done. Leaping off the median into what I thought was clear roadway, my periphery caught a black car racing towards me. I had seconds to leap back, tires screeching mid-jump. The car whizzed past, way too close. Holy Shit.

And like that, it could have been over. This was not going to be a limb-snapping crash. Limbs would certainly be snapped, but it wouldn't have mattered. I would have been launched into a line of waiting cars, crashing down into some unsuspecting motorist's windshield, their day having turned only just moderately not as bad as mine. Or namely, my wife's, since I wouldn't have been alive to experience the drama.

A final thought would have careened through my mind, until whatever point the lights dimmed out "Wow, can't believe it happened like that. Idiot!"

But I didn't die today. The inches were on my side.

With two weeks to go until the San Francisco Marathon I needed to get a long run in. I set off this bright Saturday morning with Maura, our first joint Saturday morning run in months. Her studying *maybe* over, training season launches Monday. She couldn't be happier.

We left Bernal and wound through the Mission on our way to Mission Bay. She planned to turn around just past the ballpark and do nine, while I would continue to on Hoppers Hands and hit 22 or 23, depending on how many horsehoes I did. I left her, and sped back up to my normal pace.

I wanted this to be an easy run, no charging ahead and wearing myself out. 20 miles is never easy, per se, but the days after varies a lot but how hard you push.

There is this great 25-mile loop around the city I do on my bike sometimes, and have run once. It wasn't pleasant - I had to make an emergency bathroom stop. But I'm in a lot better shape now, and understanding how to recover better than I used to, I figured what the heck. The back half's scenery is as good as San Francisco has to offer and the elevation would be good practice for the race.

A guy passed me along the Marina Green and another by Crissy Field. I flinched, thinking of my training mantra "Pass everyone, get passed by no one." I let them go. Slowly, I am becoming more disciplined. My annoyance tempered by the fact that both looked like strong runners.

Up over the Presidio, through Sea Cliff's nagging climb and to the Palace of Legion of Honor. Not an easy stretch, and I could feel it. I hit Lands End without a cloud in the sky. Pee and water break above the Sutro Baths and I descended to Ocean Beach. Wide, low tide, a gentle breeze with swell and the lineup was full.

Ever since this year's Kaiser Half, when I grinded out the Great Highway better than I ever had, this relentless rolling stretch doesn't bother me. It also could be nostalgia for my 16-mile second leg of a back-to-back-to-back earlier this year, I now look forward to the simple trail and dunes. But today I labored. I even hit the famous 18-mile wall.

It's a really good thing I did this run today. It's my first over 20 since the AR50 in April, and it was a stark reminder of what happens above 20. It hurts. Everything hurts. And after that much time on the pavement, the mind is sick and tired of being present. It wants to wander. To stopping. To the post-run smoothie. To an ice bath. To more water.

You slow down, without even knowing it. And when you catch yourself and reset, the pace is that much harder to resume. It's that third 200, the one that separates the pack.

I hit Sloat and rose towards St. Francis Wood, invigorated with familiar territory. 5.5 miles to home. After the aforementioned incident rekindled my adrenaline, I shot up the rest of the hill and coasted down Monterey into Glen Park. And I was gassed. The Arlington Hill actually felt like one. The light at San Jose turned almost immediately, to my disappointment. And the Lundys home stretch felt unusually long.

But man was that smoothie worth it.

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