2 Weeks to Boston …. Bluebonnets, Turkeys and the Return of our Gnats

Posted: April 5, 2010 in Training
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You know those mornings when you wake up and you can’t wait to get the day started?  You feel great, you have something on your to do list that you are really looking forward to, and pretty much – all is more or less right in the world.  Well for me on Easter Sunday – it was one of those mornings.  I felt like I had finally shaken off the effects of last week’s travel, gotten a good night’s sleep and was ready for my last tough training run leading up to the Boston Marathon in two weeks.

12-Mile Long Run

12-miles on the schedule on Sunday which doesn’t seem like a lot compared to last week’s 20-miler, but distance is only one variable when it comes to training runs.  Intensity as well as terrain make quite a difference as well.  It can make a 10 or 12 mile training run feel just as depleting as an evenly paced 18 or 20 miles over flat terrain.  I don’t like to have too many really tough workouts in the two weeks leading up to race day.  Maybe a quick tempo run or two, but for the most part the really “heavy lifting” is completed before the second week of the taper.  Sunday was my last chance to really “run hard” – and I wanted to take advantage of it.  For me it is a confidence workout.

If I can run at a fast pace, sustain effort up and down hills and finish strong while running somewhere between :15 and :20 seconds faster than race pace for 12-miles, I feel “Race Ready”.  I chose a hilly 12-mile course that I had run just two weeks ago for my workout.  This course is much hillier than my final 12-miler last year preparing to race at Pittsburgh.  All in all it was going to be a good test to see where we are in our race preparations.

Of course life has a way of “complicating” things and this morning’s temperature was 65 degrees with a light rain falling.  Don’t get me wrong, 65 is a pretty nice temperature for most things.  But for long-distance running you are starting to push the temperature threshold where you have to slow down.  Coupled with 100% humidity, the conditions were not optimum for a “Ricky Bobby” kind of workout.  I felt good however and went about my business.  If I started to struggle mid-run with the fast pace I could always turn the run into a “race-pace” run and practice running my 7:22 – 7:25 minute miles that I will need to turn in on “auto-pilot” in two weeks.

Surprisingly the miles ticked by quickly and I felt very strong throughout the run.  I finished the run in 1:25:01 (7:05/mile pace) – which was :11 seconds per mile faster over the identical course just two weeks before.  When I compared this run to last year’s tune-up for Pittsburgh it was virtually identical 1:24:57, although last year’s route was much, much flatter. 

My individual mile splits on Sunday were 7:13, 6:56, 7:13, 7:05, 7:13, 7:16, 7:04, 6:51, 7:00, 7:11, 7:00 and 6:54.  Good stuff, very consistent and most importantly I feel very healthy as I move into the final two weeks leading up to Marathon #1.

One of the things that I really like about distance running, especially being an early morning runner is that there is always the chance for a surprise or two along the way.  Sometimes the surprises are welcomed, such as a group of deer on the trail in silhouette against a distant street lamp like last weekend, sometimes not so much like the return of our Texas sized Gnats this morning.

Black Gnat

At mile 9 which was still pre-dawn for me this morning I began noticing that the rain I was feeling on my face was becoming much more frequent and “larger”.  

As I ran my fingers over my forehead and glanced down under a street lamp I saw what I had feared.  The return of our Gnats here in Austin. 

Now you hear about how “everything is bigger in Texas”.  Some of that is absolutely true – we have mighty big trucks, big ranches, big chicken fried steak, big Longhorn cattle – and most definitely BIG Gnats.  I really would have to recruit Superwife Dawn to do this justice – but needless to say that when I return from a run during “Gnat season” I must have 100 of those smushed critters on my face, neck, arms, chest etc. – and this is after several wipes from face to shorts.  It’s very distracting as they tend to seek out nostrils and eyes – and can make the latter portions of a training run not so fun.

On Sunday they were back for the first time this year.  The combination of rain, increased temperatures and the start of spring led to a lethal combination – and they were happy to see me.  The Gnats tend to dissipate as I leave the Brushy Creek Trail system and finish up my runs over the final .68 miles to our home.  As I crossed the final footbridge and knew I only had another 2 minutes of “gnat fun” to deal with I received surprise number two this morning.

A female wild turkey hen was just a few feet off of the running trail and we got a good long look at each other this morning.  Now in your mind you may be thinking of the beautiful plumage, long beard and the full tail of a wild Turkey.  That is indeed what they look like, however not the female birds.  The females are smaller, sleeker and do not feature as large a beard and colorful tail feathers that the Tom’s do.  Nonetheless they are beautiful and was a great surprise.  That was the first Turkey I had come across on Brushy Creek Trail in the last three years – so that is something special.

First Bluebonnets of Spring

As I was still thinking about my fine feathered friend and if there would be more Turkeys up ahead as I rounded the final curve of the trail surprise number three greeted me full on.  The first patch of Texas Bluebonnets were coming into bloom on my right as I was entering the last half-mile of my run.  Bluebonnets are really beautiful wildflowers as are my favorite Indian Paint Brush.  We are very fortunate to have such a beautiful natural landscape here in Austin and we see both groups of these spring wildflowers each year.  But there is still something special about seeing them for the first time each spring.  Very fitting for an Easter Sunday.

By the time I had gotten back to the house I had forgotten all about those giant Gnats who greeted me this morning.  I wonder what will be out there next week as we wrap up our training for Boston.  Only 14 days left, 7 more training runs remain covering the final 34 miles and it will be time to make the trip East to Hopkinton, MA and take on “The Boston”.  http://wp.me/PHGel-2n

As you know I’ve never run the storied Boston Marathon before and in my mind I already know I’m in store for quite an experience.  I’m pretty sure April 19th will be full of plenty of surprises.  I can hardly wait.  I could do without the Gnats though.  Definitely without the Gnats.


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