Slowing down, and still moving

The winter in the northeast sucked if you have to and want to run. I’m not one of those hardy souls who can run in single-digit weather and ice on the road, so I’m familiar with the treadmills in my gym–when they’re working. But when they are, they’re good for regulating speed. Which is important for a slug like me. But sometime in late January, I became more of a slug than usual. I ran my short runs faster at the start of the year, and I felt confident about my speed, and my state after the run. Then came snowstorms, ice, a pile of work and staying in the city a couple of overnights. It was a perfect storm of ryhthm-destruction. I tried to do some core work, but that’s no sub for cardio. At the start of February, trying to recapture that pace. And…it was a struggle. Getting through four miles was an awful slog, so much so that I felt light-headed, a rarity  for me–and a warning sign. What’s wrong? What’s happening here? Was it the food I was eating? Was it my health? The self-diagnosis was terrible; I had to look back at what I was doing, and not doing, and figure out how to fix this. It looked dark for a while, as I’m preparing for a 20k and a 21k–would I have to abandon the first run? (I’m not abandoning the second–too much money sunk into it, plus timme is on my side there). Then, the thought quietly came–slow down a little. Ego says you need to be building, building, building, faster, faster, faster. But even getting through a 5k on the treadmill was a struggle. It wasn’t fun, but a chore. One evening run, I slowed the treadmill down just a little bit. And it made all the difference. I was happy going slower. Speed and times are fine, but with running, the experience for me is paramount. I want to finish in decent  shape, feel the relief of hitting the finish, listen to strangers cheer me on. I can always look up the times I finished, but the memories of races–the snow, the sun, the signs–mean more to me.

Back on the good foot

Yep, it’s been a while, so it’s time to get back at. 
 
I feel guilty about not doing it (like I do now). It continues to occupy my head in a way that, frankly shocks me. I don’t thing I’ve ever done anything that hurts so much while I’m doing it, and feels so good after I’m done.
 
I’m still running. As much as it can hurt, I’m still on the treadmill and the road. All winter, I ran at least twice a week, prepping for a stretch of runs in the spring and hoping that I could improve on the slack-ass run I had on New Year’s Day. A 5k, an 8k and a 5k later, I’d say it’s mission accomplished. The first run, on a cold and damp day, saw me finish about a minute faster than my very first run last summer. Given that I hate running in that stuff (it’s chilly, and cold weather make strenuous activity that much harder for me), I was pleasantly surprised. 
 
Next up was the 8k, a distance I’d only completed in practice runs–a couple of weeks before. Race weather was a little bit of a shock–nippy 50s at the start, but 60s at the finish. And this was the best race I’ve been so far–6,000 or so at the start. With these runs, I try to run the first mile completely, then run-walk the rest of the way. Imagine my surprise when I felt fresh enough to go almost a mile and a half without stopping. Don’t knock it–I was still moving. 
 
I was slogging toward the finish as the two top finishers in the half-marathon blew past me (I know one of those guys). As cresting the hill toward the line, I could hear the crowd, and that gave me a little boost to make it. I have to say, it felt great to hear my name from the MC as I crossed the finish–in under an hour. As with many of these runs, you get a medal. It makes me glad to have run the 8 and not the half–the 8K medal was a helluva lot better.
 
On to the next run, this time, in my hometown. It felt wonderful to walk back in to my hometown school, see folks I hadn’t seen in decades, and run a 5k for the school’s bands. The one advantage I had over the other races was that I grew up in this place and knew the roads and streets. 
 
The morning was sunny and warmer that I thought–I didn’t need the running tights I had on. The run started, and I slogged to the first mile. It was a small field (lots of little kids, though), so the runners were strung out a bit, a little more alone on the course than I’ve been used to. But rounding a corner and hitting one of the main streets, the energy came back. My strategy was to run two blocks and walk one. And it worked–I hit a PR. Home cooking tastes good.
 
And so, this Sunday, on a bit of a lark, I’m running another 5k. The races help me train toward a goal–like being part of a triathlon relay team in mid-July. Running feels like jazz felt when I was in my early 20s–something I can do and keep up with for a very long time. I’ll have about two months between races, so I have to–sorry, want to–keep training, eventually hitting a duathlon and then, by this time next year…a half-marathon. That’s my moonshot–that’s the one I want to complete. 

 

Back on the good foot

Most sensible people would spend New Year’s morning nursing a well-earned hangover. I was suiting up to run a 5K in the cold. It was the fourth run I’ve done, and the worst one, in terms of the weather (below freezing) and time (a shade over 40 minutes). But the sweatshirt you get for registering was worth it. 

This running thing is becoming a test of will now. Running is not comfortable for me–I can run a mile nonstop, but it can be a struggle, especially in the winter. It can be painful for my knees. It can get boring–there’s no way I can run more than five miles, lest I lose interest. If I were faster, I wouldn’t worry about my attention being held. 

It’s a struggle–getting up, getting dressed, huffing and puffing, wondering why I do this. 

Why I’m doing this, isn’t just for the physical payoff. It seems like the mental challenge is the biggest hill to climb. I told a friend that I want to be an “international man of leisure.” This running is as far away from that as you can get from that. While I like being on my bike, that takes little effort–it’s natural. The running isn’t; it feels like a Rube Goldberg-like process to get out the door. 

And yet…I got out of the bed and out the door this morning. What running is doing is pushing me to be in places in my head that I haven’t been before. Even though my time on New Year’s wasn’t great, the sense of accomplishment was still there. 

There’s always a lesson to be learned, and it’s  to prepare. I wasn’t ready to run the last one (six miles on the bike the week before doesn’t count). So this winter, I’ll be on the treadmill, running twice a week. It’s not much, but it’s a restart. I’ve got runs coming in the spring–I want to run a little better for those.