Yesterday morning was a surprise for me. The weather was beautiful and I was sporting a pair of new running shoes. Life is good. Right? But four days off of running can either be a good thing or a bad thing, as can running in a new pair of shoes. So I was a bit cautious.
I love the energy our group gets in the summer runs. There are new people just about every week and our numbers swell to well over 100 (at 5:30am!!). As a side note, even with these numbers, I still manage to end up running alone…! Thursday was no different. Close to, if not over, 100 runners, a half dozen newbies and a familiar route. It actually took us a while to get up to speed because there were so many of us. If you are looking for another reason to run with groups, doing mass starts is a good one. Getting comfortable with “the shuffle” at the start of a race and the occasional elbow rubbing is all a part of running organized races. Group runs really help with this.
I noticed immediately that my legs wanted to go. My lungs, after a mild protest, gave in and followed along nicely. My shoes felt like I had been wearing them for months and gave me no problems at all. I found myself steadily pushing to the front and hanging on after the warmup mile much better than usual. I knew I was running faster because I usually lose site of the lead group well before the routes split, but this time I ran with them until about a half mile before the split and then had to let them go. Also on this route the pace groups join up again (the “A” group runs an extra mile) and there is a point where I am (I usually run the “B” route which is a bit shorter) overtaken by the fastest A group runners. I kept waiting for this to happen and if finally did but at a point much further down the route than usual. I was moving pretty good! Once I got back and checked my watch, it confirmed that I was much faster. I’m inching closer to that 7:30 average for longer runs. This is a goal that I really want to achieve before nationals. To run under a 7:30 average for a run over 6 miles. I think this will give me a huge confidence boost for the 3 mile run there.
I spent the rest of the day debating whether or not to go to the Thursday evening bike ride/hammerfest known as interval night. I always get killed/dropped/chicked/etc. on this ride and have as yet to find anyone to ride with. Even though I usually get pounded, I know it’s good for me because it pushes me and I really need that on the bike. I need to be uncomfortable and pushing harder or I’m not going to get any faster.
I jumped in with the so called “B” group for this one (SUPPOSED to be 18-20mph) and settled in to wait for the inevitable break. As predicted, right at about the two mile mark the pace quickened and we were off. I sat in my usual position as “clingon” (sic) at the back of the break and held on. Our six person break quickly dwindled to 4 and then 3. Myself and two fast women. I just stared at their wheels and tried not to think about anything other than bike stuff. My mind wanders to projects, chores, etc. when I am bicycling and I find that the lack of concentration slows me down. So I really tried to focus on sticking with them, bike position, technique, shifting, etc. This decision to make bicycling a conscious effort does pay off, but I hope eventually I can ride without thinking so much.
I made the break stick all the way to the turnaround point (about 13 miles) and felt pretty good. The rider who had been doing all the pulling commented that we had averaged 23mph for that leg. Fast… Perhaps a bit too fast. We all knew that there would be a headwind (albeit mild) on the way back. We turned around and charged back. I could feel that I was tiring. The hard run in the morning was catching up to me. I felt like I could ride tired though, so I stuck with them. We made a hard turn with about 5 miles to go and my calves seized up completely. I was done. All I could do was weakly watch them ride off into the distance.
I shook off the first round of cramps and slowly picked up the pace again. I had to stop at a stop sign and when I pushed off to start up again, the really bad cramps started. I nearly fell off the bike just trying to get clipped back in to my pedals. Game over.
But you know? Even with the leg cramps, I still managed to average just over 20mph for the ride so we must have continued that faster pace on the way back. And this is still much faster than I usually ride. My new goal with this group now is to actually finish the WHOLE ride at pace without bonking. But I’m afraid it’s going to take some work…!