Last weekend really was perfect. I came into the weekend feeling down on my training lateley - thinking I wouldn't hit any of the goals I set for the fall races. What I needed was a solid weekend of training with some friends to recharge my batteries and get some confidence back.
The weekend started like any other weekend, with a Saturday morning MIT training run. The plan was to run 20 miles, running all the way down to campus to circle the Horseshoe on gameday. The atmosphere of a gameday at Ohio State adds a little excitement to long run and it always makes the first half of the run that much easier because I'm excited to get to the stadium and hear the band practicing, see the ROTC doing their morning drills, and see all the fans tailgating. We did a pretty good job of holding our 8:00 pace for the first half, even around campus where we typically get a little amped up and carried away with the pace. It wasn't until mile 15 that the pace quickened and I was happy to tag along. The last 5 miles averaged 6:30 pace, which is really quicker than we should have run but I never felt like I was pushing myself. I felt so relaxed at the end of the run that it boosted my confidence that I would bounce back into shape quickly. I felt so good that I decided I would meet Terri at Mohican the next morning. I hadn't been back to Mohican since the 100 and I was really excited to head up there for a run, although I wasn't sure how I'd do the day after a 20 miler.
When I pulled into the Covered Bridge parking area on Sunday I was really excited to see that not only was Terri there, but so were Rob and Michelle! Mohican is certainly a special place but it's the people you run with that make it extra special. I hadn't run with Terri, Michelle, or Rob since before Mohican 100 and I was excited to be back on the trails with them. I was a little bummed that Mark Carroll didn't show. I've been reading his blog for a few months now (you all know how great a writer he is) and I was really looking forward to logging some miles with him. As we later found out Mark had a run in with a deer just a few miles from Mohican - he was ok but his car wasn't. Mark, I look forward to running with you in the future - glad you're ok.
I hadn't done back to back long runs since May, so I was a little unsure how I'd feel but to my surprise I felt great all day long. We ended up running the Red and Green loops, which is 9.5 miles to Rock Point ant 10.5 back to the Covered Bridge for a total of 20 miles. I always have a blast out at Mohican - it's great to get off of the asphalt bike paths of Columbus and its great to get out there with people who share my passion for running...LONG. It was especially great to see Rob out there, looking great. For him to be out there running 10+ miles at Mohican so soon after his health scare was incredible. The only bummer on the day was seeing what the natural gas companies have done to the South Park to Fire Tower section of the Green Loop. Huge sections of trail have been replaced with gravel road and large section of forest cleared. The Green Loop was my favorite section of trail, so I was really dissapointed to see that section altered so much. I hope that they're done doing whatever they're doing, it would be a shame if they tore up more trail. I had an absolute blast on the run though and it was great to catch up with everyone I hadn't seen in a while.
On Sunday I met up with a couple buddies for what was supposed to be a 45 mile bike ride. I hadn't rode my bike in over two years and I've been meaning to get out and ride so I asked my buddy who just completed Ironman Louisville if he's join me for a ride. I knew the only chance I had of keeping up was to catch him after his race. The skies looked a little ominous and the forcast called for showers so I wasn't sure exactly how long of a ride we'd manage but we headed out as planned at 8am.
I think I underestimated how different bike fitness and running fitness are. The first ten miles were tough. We weren't even keeping up that fast of a pace, maybe 16mph average, but I was feelig it. The great thing about biking though is that you get stretches to recover and I felt much better as the ride wore on. At about mile 15 we missed a turn, I realized it right away but my buddy said we could just continue on and we'd be fine. We ended up cutting a huge section of the route but sure enough we did end up back on the planned route. There was a pretty steady rain coming down at this point but it never got the point where it bothered me that much. At about mile 25 we made a wrong turn and instead of heading south, back towards home, we turned north. The ride was shaping up to be about ten miles short due to the earlier detour but this wrong turn would more than make up for it. We eventually realized we were going the wrong way and took the first main road heading west to head back towards a main road we knew was only a few miles to the west. When we hit the main road we headed south and took the first right to avoid the heavy traffic. What threw me off was due to a curve in the road the right turn had us going north again and not west, like I thought we were going. We took the first left, thinking we were going south at this point (are you confused? now you know how I felt on the ride :). We weren't going south though, we were heading west and before we knew it we hit Hoover Resevoir...oops! The good thing is that we now knew where we were and pretty much how to get home. The bad news is that we added some distance to the ride. With the earlier missed turn taking about 10 miles off the route we ended up only going 5 extra, for a total of 50 miles for the day.
Despite our bad navigation and the crummy weather, I had an absolute blast on the ride. I'm certainly not a gifted rider. I'm a little uneasy on the bike (afraid to go down on the aero bars) and still uncomfortable rideing in a pace line (we tried this for a bit) but my endurance suits the sport. We weren't keeping up a very fast pace but I did get stronger as the ride went on. Including our stops and some sections where we were riding slower and chatting we averaged just over 16mph for the ride - nothing to brag about. I think if we were constantly working we could have pretty easily averaged about 18mph. My buddy's normal riding group averages 20+ mph on their rides and I know I'd get dropped from them immediately if I tried to join them, so I've got a ways to go. With that being said, the ride lit a little fire in me. I forgot how great a bike ride can be and I really think I'll incorperate it in my training more often. It will never replace running for me, but it will be a nice alternative on occasion.
I hope I have a few more weekends like last weekend before the colder fall weather hits us. Besides the Mohican training weekend this was about as much fun as I've ever had with my training. Maybe some sort of mult-day event is in my future, who knows? This weeekend definitely gave my taining the boost it needed to push hard towards my fall marathon. Maybe I will have some good things in store this fall...