Around and Around

The most psychologically daunting multiloop race I ever did was the 50-miler at Champoeg in October 2007, my first 50-miler. That was 10 times around a five-mile loop, and at the halfway point the knowledge that I had almost run a marathon but still had to go around the course five more times staggered my spirit. Not nearly as far but nearly as bad was the 10k I did on the track a couple of summers ago, essentially as a solo time trial: each of those 25 laps at high effort sure felt like a lot longer than 400 meters.

Today I ran a loop 20 times and the hardest part was making sure to avoid a pile of dog crap that was right in my path. This was at Normandale Park, where I can run the perimeter on mostly grass and soft dirt, with just five or six steps on asphalt where I cross walking paths. My plan—a shift from last night’s assertion that I would run for 90 minutes—was to run just an hour, then head to the pool ahead of the masses and have a relatively comfortable swim. Once I got started, however, it just felt like a day to run long. My legs were good, the day was fine, raining in that way it does in Portland, nonstop, but almost not at all. And though I’ve mostly resisted the urge during this Ironman Coeur d’Alene training season, it never takes too much rationalizing for me to extend a run and shitcan a swim.

So around and around I went. Each lap is .68 miles. I started slow, around 9:15 pace, then worked toward an 8-minute pace as I loosened up and fell into a rhythm. The last mile was done in 7:40, but was still nice and easy; I never felt stressed. Well, actually, there was one time when my stress level rose. That came when I lost track of whether I had safely made it past the pile of dog crap. Nearly every lap I had been prepared and on the lookout as I headed down the long stretch of grass upon which it sat. But on one lap my mind wandered. When I realized my peril, I freaked a bit, shooting my gaze downward and jumping into the air as I ran. Had I stepped in it? Where was it? How could I put myself in such danger?

I wasn’t going to stop and check my shoes. I figured, if I had stepped in it, I would soon enough pick up the odor while continuing my run. Still, it was comforting to see the pooch's work architecturally sound the next time I came around that stretch.

The 20 laps, plus the distance to and from the park and a little addendum, gave me 15 miles for the day. It was good.

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