Saturday, December 17, 2011

Getting My Stride Back

A view from last weekend's trail run
Saturday morning workouts. The workouts I live for. It is not atypical for me to crank off a twenty mile (or further) run on a Saturday, and most likely with a smile on my face. Getting back to the swing of things (and increasing my mileage) is always a goal during the winter as I recover from a marathon. But this winter has been different so far.

About two and a half weeks ago I started hitting the weights again. I had been lifting about two or three times a week all year, only taking some time off during the taper for an October marathon. I hit the gym lightly about once a week after the race, with the intent of picking back up the higher intensity work I had been doing. This could only help during the winter base training season. At least that is what I thought.

Incorporating a full body workout, where I rotated muscle groups according to size (quads to pecs to calves to triceps...), my body felt great and I was glad to be back in the weight room. No doubt this would help me build an even stronger base for racing in 2012.

What I hadn't planned on was oversleeping that same morning and logging my fifty-four minute speed workout the evening after my lift. Although I hit every goal split during the workout, I couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong with my legs. The following, I felt as if I had just run a marathon. Walking down stairs was a challenge, and my stiff legs protested every step. My run the next day was slower than 9 minutes a mile, a pace I hadn't seen since first starting running again almost six years ago.

Anyone who read my last running post (Trail Running - A (Rude) Introduction) knows of the utter failure (at least in terms of aerobic training) of my last weekend workout. Hindsight being what it is, this one mistake, of hitting a hard workout a few hours of a hard lift, has influenced my running for the past fourteen days (or more).

Here it is, over two weeks later. I finally have my legs back. My run today was very tentative, and I started even slower than I had planned. This was on purpose. I was going to push myself the second half of the run and wanted to extra energy not in the first few miles, but in the last.

Things didn't go exactly as planned. They went better. My planned route was to take me down to a local trail, through a park, and back up a main artery past the high school near my house. During the winter I have been converting to a "workout by minutes" plan, a change from my usual mileage plan (Post on this conversion coming soon).

The original plan was to run for about fifty-four minutes, which would net me slightly over six miles in training volume. Somehow, somewhere between mile two and three, I convinced myself that seventy-two minutes sounds a little better. I was running on relatively soft trail a lot of the way, so the pounding shouldn't be as bad.

Although I was chagrined to see someone had decided to do some off-roading in their Jeep on one of my favorite trails (motorized vehicles are prohibited), creating very large and deep ruts with their "muddin' tires", the start of the run was fairly uneventful, and slow. I checked my Garmin every few minutes to make sure I didn't break pace. Nine minute miles would be it until the second half.

I came up to a little spur off the trail, about thirty-three minutes into my run. I sometimes take this spur as it leads to a little forested area where wildlife can sometimes be abundant. I've seen everything from a large herd (pack? Cluster? Group?) of deer, birds I'd never seen (including a huge red-headed woodpecker), even an owl taking flight early in the morning. You don't see a lot of this wildlife in the suburban environment where I live, so I sneak down this little rocky and uneven spur when time allows. Since I wasn't doing anything too hard today, seemed like a good idea.

As I approached the bottom of the spur, which usually terminates in a small roundabout next to Indian Creek (which runs through the heart of town and is a small, tranquil creek), I found that the City had been busy building something. ON MY TRAIL! I could feel my ears turn red as I came further down the path and saw the destruction the large earth-movers had sown on what wasn't a real smooth path to start with. But as I came closer, I saw that they were building a bridge across the creek. I hopped on the plank the workers had laid and crossed to the other side.

Ten minutes later, I returned, having scampered up and around a new trail that was being blazed through a wooded area near a residential section of town. I could see that this trail could someday connect to a nature area not more than a few miles from the current trail. I was ecstatic.

Needles to say, this new revelation spurred me on. I live in a small town of about 50,000, and I estimated that I had run on almost every paved sidewalk within the city limits in my first year here. And running the busy streets that lead to Cedar Rapids, the "big" city adjacent to town, can be harrowing when traffic is thick. So anything without cars and away from busy areas is awesome.

I ran such a strong negative split that my average pace dipped sixteen seconds per mile from mile five to my last full mile, mile nine. My last mile was by far the fastest, a full minute faster than my slowest. And I felt like I could have laced my shoes back up and hit it again after my short cooldown.

Great run. Great day for a run. Can't wait to get back out there again. Too bad Sunday is my day off from running. Will be extra cranked up Monday morning.

I don't plan on doing a lot of posting with the holidays approaching. The next posts you can expect will be about my transition to lightweight racing shoes, why I've embraced the barefoot movement with no intention of ever running barefoot, and how I am converting to logging workouts by minutes instead of miles. Shoe reviews coming include the Puma Faas 250 racing flat, Brooke Green Silence (racing flat), and New Balance MT00 (or MR00, a road racing shoe, we'll see). Don't forget to check out my first shoe review, of the New Balance MT20, a great shoe for those new to minimalism.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, or Happy Whatever-Holiday-You-Celebrate!

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