This week ended with a FUN running weekend but I have to do this chronologically for my sanity so hang on.

Monday: 6 miles, 50 min, 139 AHR. Woof. After pacing a friend for a half on Sunday, this was very not pleasant. Taught Pilates in the evening, advanced class which meant I got to throw in some crazy stuff.

Tuesday: 8.5 miles, 63 min, 157 AHR. Speed work day. Coach looked at my notes/updated my schedule on Wednesday and was like, “Oh, we could’ve moved this to Wednesday” since I ran pretty hard Sunday. Whoops. At least that explains why it was so hard. Cutback mile repeats starting at half-marathon pace. 6:40, 6:25, 6:16. Windy outside, too. Had a stitch in my side and a kink in my butt basically the whole run. Had to fight for it. Also in coach’s notes he said it was a strong last mile so hey, that’s good.

Wednesday: 5 miles, 40 min, 145 AHR, with RR. Surprised I was able to go that fast. Ran pretty early, squeezed in my strength session, taught Pilates, went to a networking lunch, taught Pilates. Um yeah 3 1/3 hours of working out on Wednesday. Ouch. Coach adjusted my schedule on Wednesday because, well, we added a half marathon to race and a half marathon to pace, but didn’t change any of the workouts in between. Two hard Tuesdays, two hard Saturdays, plus lifting twice a week … woof.

Thursday: 7 miles, 54 min, 145 AHR. Went while Morgan was at the groomer. Dreary, gray day and I didn’t really feel like running. Good thing coach adjusted it down. Originally it was 8 miles and 3 miles of 30 seconds hard/60 seconds easy; when I logged on Thursday I realized it was 6-8 miles with 2 miles of 30/60s. I took my feeling of relief as a sign I should stick with the 6 mile option, although I went out a little far and ended up rounding up to 7. Taught Pilates in the evening.

Friday: REST DAY. I did the Jasyoga Comprehensive Hip & Hamstring Reset and that was it.

Saturday: 4 miles, 34 min, 140 AHR. I did this run around the NCAA D1 Cross Country Nationals leading up to the women’s race, so this involved: 1) leading the UVa girls to an easy fence-hopping spot; 2) hopping a fence; 3) stopping by a tailgate and talking to people (yes, we tailgate XC Nats); 4) running most of the course; 5) taking photos; 6) spectating the women’s race and running from place-to-place on the course; 7) running back to my car. I used to help with a youth XC team and there were three girls in the national championships I knew from that! So exciting! I ended up leaving before the men’s race because the weather was looking crazy and we had to be somewhere at noon.

Sunday: 10k trail race; 9.2 miles total, 78 min.

Harrods Creek Trail Bash Recap

This was a new event directed by a friend of mine and I was excited about it. I love running and racing on the trails, although I don’t do it often enough. (Logistics — it’s easier to just walk out my door and run 8 min pace than to drive 15 min each way to a trail and run a min/mi slower.) My goal was to win the women’s division and hopefully not work too too hard to do it, since I’ve run pretty hard the past two weekends and am racing again on Thanksgiving. #poorplanning I was hoping I could run around threshold pace and just call it a nice tempo day.

A bunch of my friends were there including another New Balance Louisville teammate who also ran Chicago. I went out comfortably and my HR was right on target after the first hill. I picked off a few people in that first half mile, and then another youngster (I mean, like 8 years old) on the next hill. I was encouraging him and trying to call out the terrain tricks as we went — it was muddy and slick — and he was doing the same for the adult guys behind him. So sweet. My friend, Lowery, was up ahead and he was calling back to me. I love trail running.

I mean, really. Just zipping along at a “comfortably hard” effort through the woods, with hardly anyone around. Over rocks, arounds trees, across wooden bridges. The challenge of going uphill, and the freedom of coming down.

I might love the 10k now. I’ve never run a 10k I liked. We are not friends, that distance and I. But the woods, the woods make everything better. Friends.

The first loop was over before I knew it. I was checking my heart rate occasionally, but trails don’t leave much opportunity for checking. The miles were marked (in a trail race!) and I was surprised by how soon the first lap was over. I sailed back through the start/finish, my friend Lowery ahead. I stole a couple of backward glances during the beginning of the second loop and saw no other girls, so I kept the heart rate and tempo up and lost myself in the trail. A loop course on trails always comes with two things: knowledge of what’s coming; extra muck. I knew the places that were already treacherous and they were even more so the second time.

That’s what I love about trail running. I love the slip-slip-slide, the gluck-gluck of treads sucking into the Kentucky clay, the sheer necessity to run uphill with good form — up up on your toes, dig in, up, always up. The focus, the concentration — watch for roots, watch for rocks, watch for switchbacks, watch for course markers.

Trail running is running with a special clarity.

So often on the roads we look to distract ourselves. Even more so on the treadmill. Think about anything other than what you’re doing. Podcast. Music. Television. To-do list.

Try that on a trail and I’ll come give you a hand to pick yourself up.

On the trail, you must pay attention. Pay attention to what’s ahead, but also to yourself. You can’t fatigue too early for risk of sloppy form and falling.

Back to the race. The second loop.

Fly through the grass path, up the hill. There are a couple of guys behind me and I’m not interested in being passed. A wave and a joke with the volunteer at the top of the hill; zip down. Up again, this time rooty, rocky. Remind myself — again — this is my advantage. I love technical trails. Gritty, nasty, twist-your-ankle-the-second-you-look-away, gnarly trails. Up and away from the men behind.

Past people on their way back in, all encouraging and happy to step out of the way. I say hi, thanks, good job. A man tells me I’m in third, first lady. I expected there to be more guys ahead. I’m not terribly worried about catching Lowery and I don’t know who is in first. Heart rate is staying where it should and I’m clipping along.

Oh. Just 1.5 to go. Oh. Just 1.2 to go. Oh.

It’s so fun. On the second loop, we come back down the first big hill. I have .60 to go, and I’m in the nice flat grassy part. Technically (literally) less fun but much faster. There are people still headed out for their second loop so I’m well-wishing while I feel like I’m flying.

The second loop has a bonus trail bit, so up one more bit at mile 6, rejoin the first loop, over a creek, and a nice downhill finish.

Open the legs up on the pavement downhill, cruise into the finish.

3rd overall, 1st female, 52:06. That’s 8:24 pace and yes, that’s much slower than I’d run on the roads. My HR average was 166, though, which is 85-ish% of max. I topped out at 175-178 on a couple of the hills. Garmin gives it 540’ of elevation gain. Whatever that means. It was not flat.

In addition to all the fun I had, I won a handmade birdhouse made from an ash tree killed by the invasive borers. We also got a t-shirt, a cool coaster made from reharvested wood, and locally-made beer cheese. Plus a fire pit, coffee, and chili at the finish — trail race style.

Before I end this long recap, I’ll share one more story. A story that propelled me along the trail.

My friends RR and HL were both at the race. While I run with RR somewhat often, HL took a break and is just starting to come back. Our lives are all over the place, and I don’t remember the last time we were all together.

Today we were. And it marked just two weeks shy of my first marathon, Memphis 2007, where RR and HL ran the half marathon alongside me until it was time to turn off. My first marathon, which I ran because I had trained all fall with HL who was hoping to BQ (she did). My first marathon, where I BQ’d and ran with HL the next spring (those were the days, when you could BQ in December and run Boston the following April). Where RR got the bug, so HL and I paced her in her first a few weeks after Boston, getting her BQ.

Now, here we were. 10 years later. Almost to the day. Man. What a day.

Totals: 39.7 miles run (dammit), 4 hours strength/Pilates/Jasyoga.