I'm still not in 'long run' shape - I can do a comfortable 3 or 4 miles, but beyond that, I struggle during it and hobble for days afterwards. Basically my knees are both adjusting to the fact that my right calf is still fairly flabby from three months in a cast. My knees are never great, but when I'm favoring that leg (which I almost certainly do, without realizing it), it throws everything off.
So I'm trying to be smart and hold back from really hammering away. This week's "long" run was to be a comfortable 4 miler; shortish, so no water belt or pre-run oatmeal. Once I got to John Ball Zoo (my normal Saturday spot), I felt good, with a little spring in my step, which hasn't happened since my surgery.
A mile in, there's a fork, and I always go left. It stays tight to the river and leads to an old train bridge that's been converted to pedestrian traffic. It's one of my favorite spots on this or any route. I always spit into the river. The right fork goes wide away from the river but, according to one of the few maps in the area, ends up coming back to the main drag at the bridge. So on a whim, and feeling good and saucy, I figured it was time to see a new route. I wasn't adding miles, after all.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood. I took the one less traveled by, and that made all the difference. Because I got lost.
Well, sorta. I've been down most of the trails out there, but this time I missed the second fork, and before I knew it my watch said I'd gone 2 1/2 miles, and still no sign of the main drag or the bridge. By the time I saw another map, I was over 3 miles and well past the bridge turnaround. So I hopped a gravel road (new for me), slogged back to the main trail, and made it back.
A shade under six miles when I planned a bit over four, despite no pre-run oatmeal or water on the trail. I'm still slow, but I'm getting there.
An aside - dear Kent County, please please please put some maps up. You've got a labyrinth of trails out there, help a body out. Maybe someday I'll organize the Grand Rapids Running Club and RunGR groups and we can get a donation campaign going. Or not. Sure would be nice, though.