Ever since I lost weight and actually started exercising, I've tried to do something - run, bike, whatever - on the first day of the new year. And in years past, I've usually done a short run, but this year, Jeff and I needed to get in our long run before we spent the next two days driving back to Texas. So, we ran 11 miles on January 1. It started out great - the weather finally cooled down to a perfect 45 degrees, and the rain that had been steadily falling for the previous four days had finally stopped. Once again we drove to the American Tobacco Trail for this run; it seemed the easiest way to get in a lot of miles without getting lost, considering we don't know that area very well (and we actually went to the wrong trailhead at first; yes, even though we'd been there a week prior, we still got confused).
Anyway, we set off to run two miles one way on the trail and then turn around before going a different direction. There weren't many people out yet, which is understandable considering it was just after 8:00 am on New Year's Day. We nearly made it to the two mile point but the trail was completely covered with a giant mud puddle, so we turned sooner, as we didn't want to muck up our shoes so early in the run. We ran back to our starting point and I felt pretty good. We needed to run 3.5 miles in the opposite direction before turning around, but because we were short on the first out-and-back, we decided to go to 3.75 - there is nothing worse than having to run past your intended stopping point at the end of a long run (ask me how I know this, LOL). This part of the trail was interesting - by then, there were more people on it, both runners and walkers. I was supremely jealous of the group who were walking, Starbucks cups in hand...that looked pretty appealing to me as I huffed and puffed past them.
We ran and ran, and discovered a very new trailhead/parking lot, complete with a real bathroom (the trailhead we started at just had pit toilets). There were families with children riding their new bikes and it was very entertaining/distracting, which was a great thing at that point in the run. As we crossed a bridge over Panther Creek (there was a sign posted, otherwise I'd never have known which creek it was), a man was looking over the railing and told us there was a beaver swimming below, so we paused our Garmins and took a look, which was pretty cool considering I'd already seen two dead beavers on the side of the road while we were in NC and I was wondering if they were akin to the armadillos of Texas, where you mostly see the dead ones roadside.
Shortly after that, the run got hard, and not just for me, but for Jeff as well. We struggled from mile 9 on, and I remember thinking that if getting to 11 miles was this challenging, how was I going to make it an additional two miles for my race in Houston? But I decided that even though the trail is soft and supposed to be easier on your joints, that very thing was something that my legs aren't accustomed to, and that's why the run felt so hard toward the latter part. At least, that's what I'm going with, because I can't let my mind go down the path of "I'm not going to make it" for my upcoming half marathon. We finally finished, and somehow, we were half a mile away from the trailhead, so we got a nice cooldown walk on top of the 11 miles.
New Year's Day 11 miler, done!
I only have one more long run remaining before the half marathon - whew! It's been an exceptionally long training season, considering we started in July, and I am ready for my "long runs" to be in the 5 mile range. Still, it's been a good season, and I've enjoyed running with my buddies so much, and we will continue to run together, because that's what we like to do...that's not too weird, is it?