Sometimes there are specific runs that I can point to and say "this is why I run" - this is why I want to keep my mileage up so I can do these runs, this is what's special about running. From last year, the first one that comes to mind was a long run with friends on the Voyageur course sometime in late June/early July. My friends were doing 26 miles and I jumped in for 16. It was raining for much of it and we had a blast. There were some accidental somersaults down the Powerlines (not me!) and some mud puddle jumping (definitely me!). We got lost a bit and added a mile to the original intentions but it wasn't a big deal. I'm not saying there's only one run a year like this, this is just the first one that came to mind - some runs just stick out and often, they aren't races and they seem to usually involve trails.
One of my first ones (chronologically) I can remember right now is from high school but not until my senior year. It was the Monday after State and none of us were really ready for the season to be done so about half the State team took off down a trail that our coach tried to take us on earlier in the year. That time, we refused to follow since we were already a ways out and no-one knew where it went or how long it was. Smart move on our part - it ended up being a something just over 10 mile loop (long for us!) and we had to cross several creeks (very new for us!) and one of us (not me!) ended up wet up to her neck from slipping in the middle of a creek. By the end of the run, it was snowing and then the trail kicked us out onto highway 2 and we had several miles of headwind on roads to get back to the high school. It was fabulous, though! We ran together the whole way and just had fun with running - something we didn't do very often.
I had another one of these runs a couple Sundays ago. I woke up needing to do 13ish miles after doing 13 on Saturday (the last weekend was a crash and burn for mileage so I was going for the back to backs again). I was tired from the accidental fast pace from the day before (oops . . . but in my defense, lots of it was downhill!) and I just didn't feel like running on roads again. I wanted trail. And I wanted company. So I decided to wait for a friend to get off of work.
It wasn't raining at the start, though it had been on and off all day. We went out to Hartley and the trails weren't quite as bad as I was worried about - the snow was soft but had grip so we weren't slip sliding around too badly. We headed in something like the right direction for the guard rail loop but 20 minutes later, we ended up on a road that neither of us had seen before. Oh, look! There's a trail head map! Unfortunately, there was no 'you are here' sticker. Not helpful, Hartely. So we ran up the road until we found a mailbox with the road name on it, ran back to the sign, figured out where we were and got back to the trails. Only to be sidetracked when we crossed the Superior Hiking Trail and decided to just take that through Hartley, through Bagley and down Chester . . .
By the time we got back, it was dark and it was definitely raining. But it was beautiful out. There's something special about running trails as the light is disappearing. When we got back, I didn't want to go inside. In fact, if I had brought a headlamp with and didn't have a hungry husband waiting at home, I probably would have worked on convincing Marcus that more miles are better.
Runs like that make me very excited for running this year! I'm already registered for two 50ks, a marathon and a 50 mile and that's just the first half of the year! Though, I am definitely not solidly planning on anything after Voyageur, so my body can relax if it needs it. Very little sounds more fun right now then spending all day out on the trails with friends. The race I'm most unsure about? My road marathon! Right now I'm craving all trails but I know if I don't do Grandma's, I'll probably regret it, so I signed on up :) The problem is going to be making sure I do enough long runs on pavement. And last week's long run probably didn't count since even though it was all roads - I spent a large amount of time running on the nice dirt shoulder . . . It's kind of strange to have Grandma's as a secondary race, though. I know I'll want to taper for it but, like Leslie said today, that would be happening during the time I should be getting longer runs in for Voyageur. I'll figure it out, though. I'm only very loosely following any sort of plan which is also strange if I think about it but I think I'm doing smart things.
Next up is the Chippewa Moraine 50K in three weeks. That is another race I was on the fence about (though with Grandma's, I don't know that I was ever seriously considering not doing it for more than a couple hours). I knew I wanted to do another 50K before doing Voyageur but TWO 50ks? And a marathon? In the space of a couple months? Maybe that's just asking to burn out or injure myself. But then I was thinking (and it was pointed out to me) that I'll be doing over 30 mile training runs for Voyageur anyway - I might as well have a couple of those been supported runs where I can practice eating and such. Right? So I'm not planning on any sort of taper for Chippewa (well, I might take it a little easy the week before) in the hopes that it will keep me from trying to run it too hard and I'll be trying to treat it as a training run rather than a race. Though, honestly, it kind of seems as though there wouldn't be much difference between the two paces for me, right now at this distance! I'll be going slowly either way, I think. But I still need to think 'training' and not 'race' in my head. Then I need to figure out my plans for the Superior Spring 50K and Grandma's. Plenty of time for that, though!