Monday, April 04, 2011

A Different Kind of Training

Flower photos are from Saturday's walk through the Ruby M. Mize Azalea Gardens in Nacogdoches. They have nothing to do with this post about Sunday's long run.
I just thought they were pretty. :) 

Yesterday was our first bout of truly hot and humid weather. At 1pm the sun was high in the sky, it was 86 degrees, the humidity was thick and their was a yellow low hanging cloud of pollen in the air. These were definitely not ideal conditions for a long run. So what did I do?

I headed out for a ten mile run. Naturally.

I warned Nathan and Amy, my running partners, that I planned to run slow and easy for a few reasons. I hadn't run anything over eight miles since the marathon in January. I'm a morning runner and always suffer when I start a run past noon. And my main concern was time on my feet - I wanted to be on the trail for close to two hours so that the half marathon next weekend wouldn't seem quite so long. We started out at a ten minute per mile pace on the road, a little slower on the hills. Nathan and Amy, both faster than me, stayed a few feet ahead but we were close enough to hold a conversation.

Then we got on the trail. At mile five I hit a wall, which felt a little ridiculous. During marathon training I could hold a sub ten minute pace for 16 miles and here I was at five, barely able to hold on to an eleven minute pace. Nathan and Amy got further and further away and I took a walking break. I alternated running and walking for most of mile five. I considered stopping and going home. I considered cutting the run short and only doing nine miles, or eight. Nathan and Amy disappeared around a bend and once I couldn't see them any more a weight lifted off my shoulders. Running with people is nice but it can also be stressful - I often feel like I'm holding my friends back, ruining someone's run, or compromising myself so my partner is comfortable. I don't always want to feel responsible for somebody else when I'm running. Often, the best runs happen when I'm free to focus on myself.

During mile six I came upon a water fountain and promptly dumped my water bottle on my head, refilled it and dumped it again. The cool water was exactly what I needed - I continued running, even picking up the pace. When I got to the loop that circles the soccer field I saw some sprinklers and ran through them. Amazing! And on the way back I ran a little faster, walked up the hills, dunked my head one more time in the fountain and made it to the end of my ten miles. My final time: one hour, 48 minutes, 55 seconds. Average pace: 10:54 minutes per mile.

While this was a slow (for me) training run, I was really proud of it. I felt like I got through some tough mental blocks during the run. Sometimes we train for speed, sometimes we train for other things - will power, emotional strength, independence, learning to let go and trusting your body. This was a tough run for a lot of reasons and I'm proud of how I did.

My next race is Saturday, April 9th. I'm running the Davy Crockett Bear Chase Half Marathon. Last year, I earned my half marathon PR at this race. I wanted to beat that time this year but I don't think it's going to happen. I've missed the majority of my long runs (mostly due to being out of town every. single. weekend.) and, despite the ten miler, I'm not as prepared as I'd like to be. Last year the weather was cool at the start - I remember shivering! - but this year the forecast is predicting temperatures in the 80's and humidity. Humidity is my running kryptonite. So instead of shooting for a PR, I'm going to aim for a solid race. My goal is to run smart, run steady and finish with a smile on my face. As for time goals, I'd like to finish in under 2:10. The run starts at 7:00am so that will surely help, and I always run faster in an actual race due to adrenaline and excitement. Anything is possible but no matter what, I'm looking forward to a fun race with lots of familiar faces and a great course.

Sometimes we run to break records, and sometimes we run simply because we love it. Both reasons are good enough for me.

 This photo of Nathan biking through the azaleas and drinking a beer also has nothing to do with Sunday's long run. However, I didn't feel right keeping it to myself.