I wanted to go for a proper long run yesterday morning, and I did. I could have given up but I didn't. I was determined to see it through.
It's not a secret that I'm not in as good a shape as I was around this time last year. In fact, it is the exact weekend that Ultra Intervals took place. Back then, I was able to run a grand total of 80 km in the course of one day. You can read about it here. But that was then. This year around, 20 km leaves me tired in my bones. And that's ok. That's the life of a runner with an ambition to run an ultra again some day. I have to accept that injuries and setbacks will be my constant companions on this particular path. I will have to celebrate the victories, no matter how small they are.
20 km was such a small victory. A good thing about injuries is that you get a chance to set a new PIPR (Post Injury Personal Record) pretty much every month. And you're just as happy each time.
AIK's Saturday long runs take place on trails. I wasn't sure what to expect, as trails for me usually mean uneven breathing, intense concentration on the ground, hard work. The environment more than makes up for it, of course, but I must admit that I like the steady rhythm of road running.
The two guys behind me bringing up the rear were very cheerful, chatting and laughing, and I admired their ability to do all that and breathe at the same time. It was hard enough to watch where I was going, what with the single track being littered by stones and roots and ice patches, but they didn't seem to have a problem with it. I was struggling, and we'd only covered a kilometre or two. I need to work on my trail running skills.
But my body takes a while before it wakes up. I've gotten to know its idiosyncrasies after all these years of running and I know that the first 5 kilometres are the hardest. Then it finally gets what it is I'm asking it to do and -usually- obliges. So it was this time too. Small, frequent steps, lifting my knees high, wiping the wind-induced tears away from my eyes did the trick and I managed to not stumble a single time. I even chatted a little with my fellow runners.
Once we got back to the start, my Garmin showed an underwhelming 12 km. It felt like more, because it had been so intense, but it wasn't. I asked if anyone wanted to run further, and one of them did. We headed up to Vitberget, picking up some speed. This higher speed revealed the truth about how tired I really was. My Body Combat-battered legs felt more like two particularly large anchors rather than motors that propelled me forwards, yet the fact that I had asked for this myself meant that I couldn't quit. I couldn't let my club friend down. Plus, I don't quit. Not unless I'm injured. Maybe that's why I get injured.
When we got back to the parking lot, I had another 5 km in the pot, and was still short 3 km. I looked around me. My running companion had said goodbye and was now driving away. The roads and pavements were covered in slushy ice. The sky was grey. I couldn't see a reason to run in this particular place any more, so I drove home, parked the car and ran the remaining 3 km around our neighbourhood, on pavements and roads that were just as grey and frozen. But at least I was almost home. My legs appreciated the lower speed that I had to keep so as not to slip and fall, and they started sending me signals that they were willing to take me as far as I asked them to. My tiredness was almost forgotten. Still, after 20 km I was back home and satisfied. The test had gone well, I had survived the technical trail and I had set a new PIPR - yet again.