Look… If I’m anything in the endurance athletics world, it’s a runner. I don’t pretend to be a bicyclist or swimmer, but I really enjoy those sports as well. But my heart will always be with running. If I’m ever given the choice for which sport to reach for, I inevitably default to running first. Not a bad thing, but it makes it hard to get any better at the other two events…
This Saturday was a good example. The normal ride (the one I crashed on last week) was not going to happen because of a bigger, organized event that I couldn’t afford to go to. So when faced with either riding on my own or running, it was easy for me to decide. One of my favorite group runs happens every Saturday morning and I hadn’t been in a while, so I jumped at the chance. The normal route is 10 miles, which is a stretch for me on my current training plan, but I just really wanted to run.
Unfortunately, the one day I decide to run long… nobody else does…! Due to injuries, training plans, organized events, etc. only 3 other people showed up, and none of them were going the full distance. Still, I felt strangely energetic and upbeat, so I vowed to go the rest of the distance alone. It was a great day for running and I really needed a good one so off I went. The pace, for me, was a talking pace for the first 4 miles. Then everyone else turned and I kept going. I increased the pace a little and chugged along. My legs felt good on the big hills. My legs felt good on the flats. No sense in stopping!
I rambled and rumbled through the city streets and trails of Columbia and just soaked up a wonderful run. In the end, I ended up doing 12 miles at a 9:03 pace. My longest run of the year and very consistent from start to finish. I didn’t want to run hard or fast. I just wanted to run. And it was awesome.
I will admit I paid for it a little bit later that afternoon and the next day with some stiff and sore spots, but I’ll take it. There was also a twinge of the old pain in my pelvis to remind me why I don’t do this much. But I loved it anyway. I spent the rest of the day running cedar through the wood chipper (the entire neighborhood smells like a hamster cage…) and built a bonfire that night so it couldn’t have been that bad. I will admit that a beer and a glass of wine to cap the night off and I slept like a baby.
Sunday I woke up stiff and sore. But oddly, more from all the yardwork (there was much shoveling and raking as well) than the run. Nonetheless, I went back out in the early morning, coffee in hand, re-fired the bonfire and enjoyed a beautiful morning. Then I fired up the chipper again (there was LOTS of cedar) and worked until it was time for the open water swim at the lake.
I have decided to commit myself to training with the wetsuit and just hope it cools off enough in Oklahoma to use it. I really want to focus on my form and techinque and the comfort level the wetsuit gives me is a big help. I got to the lake a few minutes late and I could swear the site of me frightened all the swimmers (nearly 20!) into the water. It seemed like they all turned around to look at me, then took off. Kinda funny. I knew I would be last out of the water anyway so starting last really didn’t make any difference. I got my wetsuit on and hopped in. The course is out and back and about 550 yards, one way. I settled into a pace, breathing every four, and just tried to focus on staying on plane and pulling a little harder than I usually do. I got to the other end in 9:46. Considering my last open water disaster swim was the Kansas Fifty in which I swam the same distance in 13:30!! I will take this time. I know wetsuits make you faster, but… dang. I swam back in about 10:30 and could tell I was getting tired. Still, a good swim and gave me a chance to concentrate on stroke technique. As I got out of the water, one of my workout buddies was standing and waiting on the beach for me, wanting to run. As I smiled weakly (and groaned loudly on the inside) and said “sure”, I wasn’t “sure” at all. My legs were beat. As I gamely attempted something akin to a normal stride, I burst out laughing. When she asked me what was wrong I told her about running my longest distance of the year the day before and that my legs were refusing to cooperate. The kindness in her voice as she offered to back off her pace and mileage (she wanted to do 6, but agreed to 3, bless her…) to accommodate me was angelic. I hobbled/limped/slogged out 3 miles in about 24 minutes. In all, a great effort for the day, considering… Then I went home and set more stuff on fire (did I mention there was a LOT of cedar?).
This morning I went to the pool (yes, I’m sick…). I’m determined to make the most of the next three weeks for training and I need all the swims I can get. I stuck to my plan of only swimming 1000 yards and focusing on technique, but I’m still really tired. My 50 times have dropped 10 seconds in the last month. I’m still really slow (50 seconds), but I can consistently hold this pace for several repeats. Now I just have to stretch it out. The big things I’m focusing on are body position (pushing my chest down in the water, getting on plane, rotating to breathe), stroke strength (pulling harder) and trying to breathe every 4. Progress is slow.
Tonight? MORE FIRE!!! Did I mention there is a HUGE pile of cedar? Run in the morning. Hill repeats in the evening. Only 4 weeks til nationals…