Saturday, July 7, 2012

Slowly Stirring The Pot

" 'Man, I really regret that run' - Said no one. Ever."
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Sometimes, do you feel like just giving up? Oh, you're not going to really give up and stop running, but clouds of doubt filter through as to why you're really out there. A couple of posts ago, I made the observation that I can't really call my daily runs "training runs". Training runs are done with a purpose to get you further up the road towards a goal race or event. All of my runs are at a pace of whatever the road will give back to me on that day. My very short term goals are to not have a worse run today than I had the day before, but that's a goal that I meet maybe 50.1% of the time. Oh, don't get me wrong, I am tons better than I was two years ago when I thought my running days were very definately numbered. I've managed to chip away at the "hurts" here and there and now I can run down the road or a (mildly technical) trail at a lumbering pace. My ankles are constantly in the back of my mind and I do not think I can do heavy mileages at the moment as much as I would love to. I can only try to establish a pattern that is sustainable and then gradually take it from there. Its not too bad most of the time when I run...I mean things are fine, but I am a bit fed up with listening to my body - I wish it would just shut up for a bit.

But, here I was running this past week and I was not having one of those wonderful runs we always think about when we're sitting at our desks. I was alone at 5:30am, running (?) down the flat Lakeshore Greenway (a paved bikepath) and my legs no more wanted to move forward than a stubborn donkey in one of those old Roy Rogers shows. The more I tried to run at a reasonable pace, the more I seemed to be running through mud and the more puzzled I became. It wasn't my ankles begging for some sympathy. Instead, it was my leg muscles pleading with me for some pity. I think my legs were made of molasses, cold molasses at that! Maybe it's that I run mostly the same routes, at the same protected pace, with the same lack of purpose except to get some miles in. But, that's what I want to to do - get out there and put some miles in. That's me. That's the running I want to do. That's what my mind was trying to dictate this day. But my legs, yes, those pistons of hardened steel, were saying "you know, stopping and sitting down would be nice". AAARRRGGGHHH!! Stop it!

But, and this is a big but, you cannot give up just because you are having a bad day. Maybe I learned a lot of this from running ultramarathons. In just about every ultra, you're going to hit a Dark Place and it is only through experience from past encounters and confidence in your (at the time, crumbling) abilities that you can climb out and finish the daggum race. If you love to run, which I do, the only thing you can do is carry on. So, right there, on the fly, of this very ordinary Sunday run, I changed my attitude, had to say that this was not a race but a long slow Sunday morning run (easy to say because it was both of those things). Instead of just turning around and heading home, I decided as long as I was having such a crappy run, I may as well make it a super-crappy run! At the end of the Greenway is Columbiana Road. It goes steadily up for one mile at an 8% grade and was one of the hills I trained on when I was getting ready for the Pikes Peak Marathon 100 years ago. So, I said "Hey, Molasses Legs, let's see if we can crest the hill without stopping". Why? I don't know, but sometimes you have to stir up the pot. So, up the hill I chugged and noticed I wasn't having any pain, just tired as all getout. Well, for any long-distance athlete, that is what you're looking for. Doesn't matter if I'm pushing my limit up the hill at Grandma speed, the point is I'm pushing. I got to the top, ran along the ridge on the winding and somewhat hilly Shades Crest Road and then took the downhill mile switchback road back to the Greenway...great for those grumpy, molasses legs. A completly lousy run was not only salvaged, but it turned into something I was proud of. Legs still felt like crap, my pace was awful, but it was a glimmer of runs of days gone by.

In answer to the question do you feel like giving up? No, I'll never give up. I'm not even close to that. What I really feel like doing is changing things once in a while to get better, but my only objective at the moment is just 4 (maybe an occasional 5) running sessions a week. 3 of them can be anything but the long (or longish) run is fixed. I love running long.

And I want to feel good running long. If I do this, I will be able to congratulate myself on some consistency and although "fast" is MUCH slower, and "long" is MUCH shorter, that bungee cord between yesterday and today may be stretched, but I'll do all I can to keep it from snapping. As the guy in the Dos Equis Beer ad says "Stay thirsty my friends".

This heat will keep you thirsty, so be sure to stay on top of it. Along the way, I'll see you on the roads - AL

PS - In my other blog, TRAINING WITH AL, this month I explored a new study that shows when is the best time to run your last long run during marathon training. Seems I've been doing right all these years! Imagine that!!

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"


Christy said...

Hey Al...this post describes my thoughts to a T this week!!!!!! It's amazing how an ordinary 5 mile run can turn into something terrible....those voices in my head that tell me to stop are annoying!! :)

Yo Momma Runs said...

I've been feeling like this pretty much all summer because I've been runnin without a plan. Hopefully when my fall training starts next week I'll regain inspiration!