My support team (above) for the 18-miler met me at the parking lot. It was cold, about 30 degrees with gusty winds, but they were die-hard. You can see the yellow sign pointing toward the bridge to the trail entrance in the background.
Paint Creek is a rail trail, a recreation path along a former railroad line. It rolls out in front of you until it disappears into trees. Beautiful. Although there’s no one in the picture to the right, joggers, cyclists and people walking dogs were out in force despite the weather.
I planned initially to go all the way to Lake Orion, which is shy of 9 miles, then double back, but around 7 miles I realized I’d dropped a glove. I had taken off the wool fingerless gloves I put over my running gloves, and apparently dropped on, so I turned around shortly after this archery range. I figured I’d dropped it between miles 4 and 6. This also kept me on the trail, rather than veer off for hill work as suggested by one of my Twitter peeps. Thanks, anyway.
Two miles after turning back, I came to a pair of women with a pair of dogs. They had my glove, thankfully. I hate losing kit.
I pressed on, heading all the way back to Tienken Road, about a mile short of where I started. There’s a stop light and pedestrian crosswalk for the trail, so I figured it was a good time to turn around again — midway through mile 12 and feeling strong.
The winds picked up. I think the gusts hit 20-25 mph, and they cut right through my clothes. But I pressed on. I savored the sunny spots and moments of low wind, an took comfort in a half-marathon time in the 1:44 range. Not my fastest effort, but respectable given the rough conditions.
I made it to about mile 16 before the suffering began: A “what the hell am I doing out here breaking myself in this freezing cold” attitude set in and I couldn’t shake it. I turned around knowing I was several miles from the car back in Rochester. Then, I got a strange tightness in my left calf. It wasn’t a cramp, but wasn’t helping either.
After about 10 minutes, my attitude improved and I felt pretty good so I took off. Only 4-something miles to the car. Well, about a mile later, my calf issue returned. I took a walk break, tried again, and took another walk break. It just wasn’t working itself out. Major suckage.
I stopped my Forerunner at 18.2 miles, 2:32 minutes. The slow last few miles brought my average pace down to about 8:45. The problem: I was more than 3 miles from the car. I sucked it up and kept walking. The only way to keep warm was to keep moving, even if I couldn’t run. At least the scenery inspired my feet to keep going.
Like 45 minutes later, I crossed the bridge back to the parking lot. The ducks greeted me as I shivered myself into the car. I started the ignition and turned the seat warmer on bake. Fifteen minutes later, I was waiting in line at Chipotle after burning about 2,000 calories and salivating at the thought of a giant burrito to replace some of them.
In the back of my mind, I had wanted to do full 26.2 Saturday. Getting a first marathon of the year out of the way, even an informal one, had a lot of appeal. Plus, I had a great window with the wife and child out of town. But whatever. I made it 18 miles, had a great time and explored a cool new-to-me trail. I’ll tackle that one again soon.