Winter Miseries

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My legs finally felt good for the whole run this morning. I ran a trail in Carolina north that I haven’t run since fall of 2010 and it was great. It felt totally new and I had forgotten how soft it was. Plus the sun was shining and it was incredible seeing the light float through the trees as I moved effortlessly along. I hope this is a turning point for my legs and being able to handle the high mileage I’ve been throwing at them. We’ll see in the next couple of days. But I have a good feeling about it.


Friday, January 20, 2012

I went out to the track yesterday and ran a 5 mile tempo. After the fatigue I’ve been feeling recently, I was hoping that Wednesday’s change would prove to be more than just an anomaly. It was. At least for another day. The warm up felt good, although it was quite cold, and my splits were: 5:06 5:05, 5:07, 5:09, 5:01 for 25:29. It wasn’t quite as fast as I ran last season, but that was much, much later in the year, so I know I’m in great shape. I think it’s just the speed that is tough right now, as the cold makes it hard to go faster and the stopping/starting of interval work, despite being for rest, can make things difficult as well. In a tempo, I can just go. It might take me a mile or so to get locked into a pace, but once I’m there, it’s much easier to maintain it.

                I was worried about my 3rd and 4th miles being a bit slower, but I think I might have been subconsciously saving myself. Monk wanted me to help pace him to a mile PR so our plan was for him to jump in with me at the start of my 5th mile and I would run 2 72-73 second laps to bring him through in 2:24-25 and then I would either keep going if I felt ok, or he would do the rest on his own. We came through the first lap in about 72 and then I slowed a bit and we hit 74 (for a 2:26 800), which was a bit slower than I had hoped, but he didn’t bat an eye and moved past me. He went on to run a 71 and a 69 to PR in the mile (4:49 – his first time under 4:50) and I slowed further to close my final 800 in 2:35 for a 5:01 last mile.

                Not only did helping Monk bring my last mile split down (although, as I said before, I may have been subconsciously slowing myself to save up for the work I knew I had coming in mile 5), but it put me at the pace where I had run my 800s on Monday, at the end of a tempo. That made me really feel good about the workout since it told me I’ve got plenty of strength and that it’s just a matter of coaxing that speed out of my legs over the coming weeks. I think it goes back to the new season mindset that I have to have. Coming out of base, I should be very strong but not necessarily fast. That’s a hard thing to adjust to when my last memories of workouts are of running very fast on the track and it feeling almost effortless. I have to remind myself that it’s early. Constantly. Almost every run. I have to forget what I did at the end of last season because I physically can’t do it right now. No matter how much I want to, it’s not there. That speed and spring has been pounded out of my legs by the mileage required for a base. Inevitably, I worry that I won’t get it back or that it won’t come back. But those fears are unfounded (or at least I have to convince myself that they are otherwise it will be a long, dark winter). I’ve got plenty of time to get that speed back. Right now, I need to build strength. Strength that will make it possible for me to get to the point in the season where I can work on that speed without breaking down. I think I’ve got that mindset now. But it always takes a while to get back there. It’s hard to convince yourself that steps back are sometimes a necessity. You can’t just push and push and push and expect to stay healthy and happy. Eventually, you’ll go right over the edge that every serious runner out there flirts with on a daily basis.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

It’s 2am and I can’t sleep. I’ve got to be up at 6:30 to drive to the Orange County Speedway for a cross country race/run at 8:30 and it’s been raining all night. I hope it stops so that it’s nice and sloppy but not actually raining. I have a very strong love/hate relationship with the rain. Sometimes I really like running in it. I see it as something that separates me from the people I view as “less serious” runners. I know this sounds slightly condescending, and that is probably putting it mildly, but it always makes me smile when people ask: “You’re going running outside? But it’s raining…” My reply is: “Of course I am.” Those who consider themselves true runners don’t consider not running in the rain. Sure, some may opt for the treadmill occasionally, but there is very little that will keep us inside. Personally, I hate the treadmill. I cannot even stand the thought of running on it. Basically the only thing that will convince me to run on a treadmill is some sort of natural event that renders the roads impassable. Barring something of that nature, however, I’m outside, regardless of the state of the elements.

                But getting back to the rain itself… The only time I ever enjoy rain is when I’m running in it. Even then, I have to be in a certain mood to enjoy it. I’ve laughed in an absolute downpour and glowered in a light drizzle. I’m not sure what triggers my mood regarding the rain. It’s a mystery even to me. Today, for example, it rained some during my run. It wasn’t too hard or even steady, but I found myself bargaining with Mother Nature. I told her that it could rain all it wants now (that is, during my run at the time), as long as it didn’t rain tomorrow morning. Or, if it was going to rain tomorrow morning, it had to stop now. But rain in both instances was an unacceptable proposition to me. It sounds strange I know, but for someone who loves the sun as much as I do, I’m not surprised that I feel the way I do about water falling from the sky. Maybe it’s because cloud cover (even if it’s just partial) is a necessary part of rain, but whatever the reason, I don’t like it.

                When I am in that negative mindset, all I can think about when starting out on a rainy run is how I will slowly get wet and how much I would rather be inside doing something warm and dry. No matter how I layer, I generally end up completely soaked. Part of that is due to a severe lack of a rain jacket (which has hopefully been rectified this season, but we’ll see…), but it’s really hard to find a good running jacket that truly keeps the water out. Anyways, the problem with the rain is that you start out dry but then you get wet from both the inside out and the outside in. The rain makes its way through my outer layer. I first notice it on my sleeves and then my shoulders and finally my chest. By that point, it’s usually hard to tell whether I’m wet from rain or from sweat, but it’s always an unpleasant sensation of total dampness that I cannot stand and by the end of a wet run, I am soaked to the core.

                Another thing I’ve noticed when running in an urban area in the rain is that people are unbelievably unaware of just how big their umbrellas are. Their sense of the amount of space they inhabit is completely flawed. They don’t realize that their umbrella is 3-4 times as big as they are and when they hold it down tight over their head like a hat, it’s dangerous for eyes everywhere. I have gotten in the habit of simply putting my hand up or even pushing an umbrella when I am forced to pass close to someone. I find it aggravating that I have to compensate for their lack of awareness and it causes me to dislike pedestrians and rain even more.

                On the runs when I do enjoy the rain, it’s usually because… well I don’t know why, frankly. There’s something intoxicatingly powerful about knowing that I am one of the few people willing to brave the elements and put my body through whatever is necessary to get faster. I’ve found that most people are simply unwilling to run outside when it’s too cold or wet. This is what separates us from them and it has propelled me through countless inclement runs. I will not allow myself to become someone who allows the weather to dictate when I will run. And as long as that is the case, I know I’ll have the world to myself when it rains.

                All of this being said, I admit that the rain is capable of providing some of the most beautiful settings for a run. Running just after the rain is great. Everything smells new and fresh, almost as if the world has been restarted. The roads are clean and the trails are tacky, assuming they’re not treacherously slippery. And sometimes the rain plays with the light in spectacular ways, creating fleeting rainbows in between trees or making forests seem rise up out of the mist to meet me. But mostly I just wish it would let me run in peace.


Monday, January 23, 2012

This morning I awoke to a cold, grey fog. I woke up for a minute at 3:45am and when my alarm sounded at 7:25, it felt like I had just fallen back asleep. The last thing I wanted to do was get out of my warm bed and run. However, as I said before, it’s not really a choice. It’s something that is going to happen whether I like it or not. That and I wanted to try to get my run in before the rain was supposed to start. I headed off into the forest and was quickly aware of the fact that my legs felt great. Rested, finally.  Recovered. Springy. Responsive. All adjectives that a week ago weren’t in my vocabulary. How time can work wonders.

                The trail was soft from the weekend’s rains and rather slick and muddy in places, but the natural cushioning provided by the pine needles was remarkable. It’s something I noticed last week running on a similar trail, but this morning was different. Maybe it’s because my legs finally felt good. It never ceases to amaze me how smooth I feel running on a trail covered in pine needles. I feel as though I am loping along, effortless, free of the ties that bind me to the rest of my life. Being alone in the forest, feeling totally isolated, is comforting. I smiled uncontrollably several times, didn’t mind at all when the mud made me lose my footing and ended up back at my car totally refreshed. I felt like a different person than the one who had started the run 14 miles before, cold and dreading what was to come. Some runs serve just that purpose. You don’t necessarily get a lot of benefit. At least not physically. But mentally, they transform you. It’s as if your cares disappear. I came back sated. A good run has a restorative effect on me. It puts things in perspective. Even bad ones, where I feel dead and my legs drag, leave me feeling at the very least, relieved and if nothing else, slightly buzzed from the endorphins or fatigue. What I felt today doesn’t happen often, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a run where I finished and I was miserable. Relieved maybe, but not miserable. It’s like a treatment. The prospect of returning to the world with an infinitely improved outlook and attitude is too tempting to pass up and if that’s not the case, I know I’ll just be too tired to care, which is more than enough sometimes.

About afvarner

Runner. Donuts. Sneakerhead. Not necessarily in that order. Nike Trail Elite. Picky Bars. Gu. Vicory Sportdesign.
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