The Tough Mudder team has been visiting Umstead Park ever Sunday morning for a 6-mile run along the Loblolly trail. Three miles out. Three miles back. The monotony of the return trip was hard on the peeps, and many branched out to other trails so they wouldn't have to turn around. The repetition was never a bother for me because I rarely see much of the trail. Running is a moving meditation for me, and while I tend to mind where I step, especially on a trail riddled with root, rocks, and other ankle-breaking meanies, I really don't pay that much attention, preferring instead to stay inside my head for the duration.
So I'm up, doing laundry, having breakfast, and otherwise coasting through Sunday morning when in comes an email from a team member. He and a few others, those hardcore souls who run at 8 A.M., had decided to do the horse trail at Umstead for about 12 miles. We're two weeks out from the Mudder, and they wanted to take our last Sunday in training to see if they could do 12 miles, which is the distance we'll run at the event.
Bastards! Offering up this manly morning before I'd even finished my mint tea. I hate a good idea... especially when I don't have it first, and so I altered my plans. No, I didn't offer to run at 8 A.M., but I did decide to run farther this morning. Specifically, I decided to repeat the Loblolly trail as feet permitted.
At 10, still early enough to be in bed, I engage the trail. Tum had long since settled its Clif Bar. There was even a PowerBar gel pack going down. Three more gel packs were in my pocket. I wanted to try one at the turn-around to see how they'd do without water. At the second mile, I was finally warm enough to start sweating. The next four miles went off without a hitch. I didn't even stumble over a root, though I did dance around several walkers who had the unmitigated gall to use my trail.
A half-liter of water, a visit to the bathroom to not pee because I was a little dehydrated, a gel pack for the sport, a taste more water, and I'm off on the second trip. Not as fast as earlier, but a lot looser. Already soaked top to bottom in sweat. It took some doing, but I pushed out the thought that I might turn around at the 1-mile mark, and soon I was turning around at the park boundary, just as I'd done an hour before.
I really don't recall much of either trip, but the second is particularly foggy, probably because I needed to carry a little more water than I did. Grandpa needs a CamelBak if he's going to keep up with mess like this. Tough Mudder will have five water stations over 12 miles, far better than my one station over six miles.
The important thing here is that it happened. It has been well over 15 years since I knocked out 12 miles, and if the creek don't rise, it won't be that long before the next one. I'm thinking about two weeks to be precise. Oddly, I can walk this morning. The medical support team is probably a bit surprised there. No, I didn't go to the podiatrist as advised.
Wait! Jim ignored advice? Say it ain't so!
Instead, I bought minimalist shoes with metatarsal protection. I still prefer my Five Fingers, especially the KSOs, and I look forward to being in them again, but for now and in the new shoes, I can run without making the tendinitis worse. No, I will not complain.
And so our last training Sunday was a welcome surprise. We are ready.