I never really run with a time or distance in mind these days. I just try to run connected loops of trails in Umstead State Park. I chain the loops together in random ways so that when I feel like ending the run, I'm only one loop away from my car. Usually, this works out nicely. Usually.
With the great weather today, I felt like I was running very well and covered a lot of ground in about 2 hours. In fact, I ran just about 13 miles in a bit over two hours. Not bad for hilly Umstead, especially since I'm not a great runner. Ok, I'm not even a good runner! Feeling a bit cocky, I blazed past the turn which would have taken me back to my car and headed out into the unknown.
I've never ran farther than half marathon distance. Ever. So I really should have been thinking more realistically when I made the turn onto another 3 mile loop after finishing 13 miles at a good pace. But, in my mind, I was confident that I could have finished another 3 miles. I was feeling good. The weather was great. The trails were calling! It was only THREE miles!
I made it to the turn around point in the loop after about a mile, and my legs began to feel... weird. Sort of tight and constricted in my hamstrings and calves. That's strange, I thought to myself. Never felt that before. I ignored the strange tightness and pounded back towards my car. Only TWO more miles!
Suddenly, something grabbed me from behind! Something squeezed my calves with a hot steely grip, and plucked my hamstrings like the banjo player in "Deliverance". I was caught by Krampus!
Krampus gleefully dragged me to a hobbling shuffle. "Hubris.." Krampus sneered. "The most wicked of sins!"
"I thought you only visited during the winter holiday season!" I whined.
"You deserved it!" Krampus hissed. "No water. No food. 16 miles! You're lucky I'm not breaking your legs and leaving you for dead in the woods for my friend the Sasquatch! He loves ham, and you have been a greedy little piggy."
I couldn't argue with him. I accepted my punishment and shuffled slowly to my car, dragging Krampus along, his cloven hooves leaving long ruts in the trail. The more I walked, the harder Krampus squeezed. I stopped several times, only to have Krampus mock me by dancing rudely around me in circles while making sarcastic, whiney baby noises.
I covered the last two miles in just under one hour. 3 hours 22 minutes after I started, I slumped into my car. Looking in my rear view mirror, I saw Krampus trotting back into Umstead, on the tail of another unsuspecting runner who was obviously fueled only by good weather, and blinded by hubris.