On December 6th, I woke up at 7am to see the season's first inch of snow covering the grass. Groggily, I fed the prrraowing Muffinkins, gave him fresh water, and shoved a bowl of oatmeal into the microwave. I drank a glass of water, stirred in two tablespoons of peanut butter and a dollop of milk, and started eating. Sigh. Peanut-buttery oatmeal is not the most appetizing dish. I must, however, finish it all. I need the calories.
7:30am. Oatmeal done. Email checked. It's 32 degrees F outside. Haha...
Time to get dressed:
-Bandaid three toes which still don't have healthy nails
-Vaseline entire rest of feet (and other areas)
-special low-rub socks for my feet
-old socks for my hands
-house key goes in tiny zippered pocked on back of tights
Filled the Fuel Belt:
-two packs of fruit snacks (Toy Story today)
-One 10oz bottle full of water
-One 10oz bottle full of Gatorade
8am. Sigh. Now I had to go outside and meet Luc.
Luc printed off the directions for the morning's adventure. This one was complicated!
1. Start at end of bridge
2. R on WA, L on Fac, R on Alex, R on Univ, R on Nassau
3. L on Snowden/ Riverside
4. L on Hamilton
5. R on Linden
6. R on Franklin, L on EWING
7. R on Valley, L on Harrison
8. Veer R on Burn Dr
9. L on Poor Farm Rd
10. R on Mt Lucas Rd
11. Continue R on Princeton Ave
12. R on Co Rd 518/Georgtown Franklin Turnpike
13. L on Canal Rd
14. R on Old Georgetown Rd
15. L on Copper Mine Rd
16. R on Canal Rd
17. Turn around at Sterling Rd
18. L at Griggstown Causeway
19. L at Towpath--stop at the red bridge!
Or in easier to grasp form, this is where we ran:
Twenty-one miles-long figure 8
Yeees. Twenty-one miles. Oh the apprehension. This was our 3rd to last long run--the last being the 26.2 miles-long marathon! One just never knows how a 4-hour-long run will go.
The towpath was crunchy, and the roads covered in patches of black ice. We inched gingerly along, enjoying the dust of snow on the trees. Before we even ran a mile, I realized that I needed to use the bathroom. Shoot. Good thing WaWa was on the way! Luc danced around outside for a couple minutes while I went in. Finally, we were really off!
We chatted for a few miles as we ran through pretty Princeton neighborhoods. Soon, the neighborhoods turned into rural woodsy areas with a business here and there. Because the sheer length of the run and the black ice weren't enough, a mile-long hill appeared. I do not like hills.
When we ran out of conversation topics (hey, we see each other every day at work, AND train together, AND usually hang out socially), we turned on our iPods and listened to Wally's Marathon Mix. WMM is an amazing, four-hour compilation of diverse upbeat tunes from our littlest supporter, two-year-old Wally (and his mom, Jill).
We angled west and crossed the towpath. Immediately, we turned onto a delightful-sounding road, Old Georgetown Road, next to a delightful-looking red barn structure. The road turned out to be LESS than delightful-feeling, as it was in fact another full MILE of UPHILL. Later, we found out that we gained about 300 ft in elevation during that mile. We huffed and puffed in time to our plodding steps and focused on the beat of the music. Nearly at the top, we passed an adorable adolescent golden retriever who looked just like a young Molly. She really really wanted to come WITH us, but I finally convinced her to go home. Aaaw...
Around mile ten, we had our first fruit snack pack. Aaah fruit snacks. They say that at 10-12 mile-long runs, you should start fueling. One can pay for special sport beans (jelly bellies), gummy things (fruit snacks), or gels (...uber sweet frosting), but we discovered that regular ol' fruit snacks both taste better and are much cheaper than these options.
Once at the top of the hill, the woods cleared and we ran through fluffy white farmland with horsies, sheep, and goats. After a glimpse of vast blue sky and trees waaay below, we reached the other side of the hill and started runnin' dooooown. Thankfully, the sun had melted the ice, and we only had to worry about not trippin'.
The base of the hill was along the D&R canal. We ran along the water for a while, past a beautiful little white church building. The bells were playing a slightly dissonant version of Silent Night. I paused the Black Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow" for a bit, because it didn't mesh well with the carol.
Finally, we reached the last leg of our complicated journey: seven miles home on the towpath.
The towpath is a beautiful thing. The New Jersey side is thirty miles long, from Trenton to New Brunswick. Princeton happens to be approximately halfway between them, affording us a scenic, flat, soft-and-knee-friendly running path. The most dangerous thing I have encountered on the towpath (even at 4am), is a bunch of geese protecting their precious goslings. The only downside, really, to the towpath, is that it stretches out in front of you. Forever. It's surrounded by pretty trees and water. Forever. On. And on. And on.
Fourteen miles into this run was when Luc and I died. My legs became like lead. But nothing...hurt. So we kept going.
My face relaxed to expressionless and we ceased chatting. After a great enough distance, you can just keep going forever, until things break (like, your body). It's only mental, a friend told us once. Don't focus on the fact that you have been running for three hours and will have to run another hour to get home. Focus on the beat of the music, your footsteps, your breathing, or landmarks. "This is where we crossed on our way over!" "This is the last street-crossing before Route 27!" "WOO IT'S ROUTE 27! TWO MILES TO GOOO!" Praying for everyone I can think of helps. Writing to-do lists isn't bad. Thinking about research is too upsetting; don't do that.
About half a mile from the end, I had enough. I started sprinting. Luc said "whoa, what are you doing?? COOL DOWN. It's a COOL DOWN." I slowed down. Hrmph. I was just so bored.
Finally, we reached the red bridge around 12:30pm. In ecstasy and relief, we stopped our watches. 21.07 miles completed in 4:01:50. Happy sigh. :)
I enjoy post-run, a lot. I love the stiff walk back to my apartment, the first glass of water or gatorade, my post-run-smoothie, stretching, showering, being in pain for the next three days, and having to eat back the 2500ish calories burned. Mmmmmmmm exercise!