Saturday. Just came back from my 2 hour run with about 20 people! To the average onlooker it may have looked like I was running in the snow/rain all by myself along a river trail but inside my head it was crowded!
First person who came along with me was my friend Amy. As I was getting dressed to go out I had taken the time to charge my garmin, charge my cell phone, download a playlist to said cellphone. I was ready to rock n roll when I realized I had forgotten to bring my headphones with me to CT. Arggh, this was going to be painful without music and then my friend Amy’s face popped into my head “I don’t run with music.” Hmm, could I do a long run, gasp, running to my own heart beat? It had been a long time, I wasn’t sure.
As I was about to don my garmin 301xt which would happily tell me when to take my walk breaks and how far I will have run and how slow I would be running, another face popped up in my head. Coach Lisa. “Dump the watch!” What? Why? “Stop timing everything you do. Stop worrying about how fast or slow you are going, just go enjoy your run.” Sacrilege! Actually, it’s not that Lisa always wanted me to run without a watch, it was just one race in particular a long time ago. I had gotten to the point where I was so obsessed with how fast/slow I was going I was living my my watch and it was driving me (and her) crazy. She made me run a 10k race without my watch. It had been liberating and scary at the same time. Acknowledging my obsession compulsive nature, I gingerly placed my garmin 310xt on my dresser and headed out the door. Could I do this? No cell phone/camera/mp3 player? No watch beeping and buzzing to tell me when to stop and go? No pace calculator reminding me when to pick it up? No Rock Mafia? Could I actually run for 2 hours 100% unplugged?
Well the answer is yes. I had an awesome run. I felt good. I felt blessed. It was snowing when I started, turned into a kind of snowy/sleet and finally a snowy rain. I had my old trilife cycling jacket. That thing is indestructible. No force of nature gets through it. Running hat with buff over it kept my head dry. Running tights over trishorts was just the right amount of warm with wool knee socks. I had two light zippered layers underneath and felt 100% comfy the entire run. Last day of march and it was 37 degrees and snowing…(in CT).
I could hear my feet stomping the ground. “Run quietly.” Ah there was Coach Shifu making a quick appearance. I tried to get my feet to be quiet. I admit I looked over my shoulder for a second to make sure he wasn’t sneaking up on me. He always had a great talent for sneaking up on me because I couldn’t hear him running. There was some noise due to the rain but I was able to soften my foot strike to make it less loud. Another thing music had been drowning out.
The next person who joined me on my run was my friend Belladonna. She had been telling me how she had run a lower loop of the park the night before. Without stopping? I asked. Without stopping she said. First run she had done in a long time and that was a very good start. Hmmm. When was the last time I ran a mile or mile and half without stopping? It had been a long time and I am so used to my 2/1 or 3/1 that I wasn’t sure I could do it. But I thought maybe I could pick a mile in my run today and see if I could do it.
I thought for sure I would be bored with no music. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I found it freeing. I had time to really think out some issues in my head. I found I thought about the running LESS than I normally did. Coach Hola’s face popped up and ran with me for a bit. “Don’t run with music, you change your pace to the music and you don’t learn to pace yourself.” Yeah, yeah, you told me that back in 2005 and I didn’t listen to you then but I could give it a try. Do you know what I discovered? I run too fast! (I know the irony is not lost on me.) The reason I need to keep taking these walk breaks is I’m legitimately out of breath at the end of two minutes. I start out slow and then I just keep my feet counting faster and faster until I’m out of breath and have to stop to catch my breath. When did this start happening? I don’t know, it was being covered up by the music I had been listening to and my watch beeping every two minutes or three minutes for me to walk. I listen to really fast paced music and my feet want to go fast but my conditioning is not there yet.
I decided to do a test. Slow wayyy down and see how long you can go before you have to stop. Turns out I could go 9 minutes and then I had to stop. Why did I have to stop? Because I started running too fast again! Wow, what a revelation. All of my pacing skills that I used to be so proud of were gone, gone, gone.
Then Arnold Schwarzenegger joined me for a bit. (This was Arnold pre-cheating on Maria.) There is some movie (comedy) where he plays a cop. He’s running after a criminal and he catches up to the criminal who is running his absolute hardest but is losing steam. Arnold is pumping his arms easily and kind of jogging next to the crook and says “I could do this all day.” I don’t remember the name of the movie but I remember watching him and thinking “yeah, that’s how I want to run, easy but strong and I can do it all day.” I have to get my pre-cheating Schwarzenegger swagger back.
That’s when Matt Damon showed up. When I’m trying to slow my cadence down I think of Matt Damon in the movie Invictus. They are a bunch of soccer players in South Africa and they have all these scenes where they are warming up as a group and running easy but faster than I’ll ever run. They have a much longer stride length than I have but they make it look so easy. So I try to slow down and run like them, less cadence, a longer more loping stride.
That’s when Coach Jay showed up. He’s telling me to stop worrying about speed. “Imprint that cadence. The speed will come later. I don’t care if everyone laughs at me and passes me in the park, I’m just imprinting that cadence, later on the stride will come.” Sorry Matt, gotta let you go and I’m back to turnover, turnover, turnover. All that thinking about turnovers made me realize I didn’t eat breakfast and I start thinking about what I’m going to eat afterwards.
I was at mile marker 6.5 and decided to just see how long it would take me to run slowly to mile marker 7. Ugh 7 minutes exactly. Yes I could have done it faster, but I also could have kept going. That’s a 14 minute mile. I was running faster last week with a walk break in there. I can run faster but I can’t keep it up. As I was debating which was better — faster with the walk breaks or slower with none, that’s when Coach Scott showed up. For a moment I was transported back to Lake Placid Memorial Day camp 2007. I’m pedaling my bike from Wilmington back to the Bears (hills in Lake Placid). I was pedaling against a head wind and feeling quite deflated. Coach Scott pedals up to me and asks how I’m doing. “I feel like a turtle” I said. “A happy turtle?” he asks. I laugh and said “yes, a happy turtle.” “Well that’s what counts.” And that’s when I realized what is different over the last couple of weeks. Yes I’m slower than a molasses/honey drip race. But I don’t care. I’m happy. I’m a turtle but I’m a happy turtle. Every day that I get out there I’m seeing small improvements. I’m feeling my endurance return. I’m feeling my recovery return. That makes me happy.
That’s when I saw Marlie, my tennis coach, pop up for a little bit. “Fitness is not demonstrated in your workout, it’s demonstrated in your recovery.” And that’s what I am feeling. It’s not that I am doing such a great job during any of my workouts or races so far. Believe me, I’m slower than I’ve ever been, but I’m not wiped out for five days. I was able to train for an Ironman in 2010. But every time I had one good workout I had five days of being wiped out. I never felt like I could rebound. I would feel good and try to push and then I would get sick again. But now I feel like I can push and run for 2 hours, come home, take a shower and my day is not over, it’s just getting started. That’s the difference. And that makes me happy.
Tomorrow we have a long team ride somewhere out in New Jersey. My first project will be to not get lost getting there. Second project will be to try to keep up. Third project will be to not get lost while riding. That may not be so easy. But I’m feeling optimistic. I’ll ready for the challenge. I’m ready to get my turtle on.