Running: Love it or Hate it?? I ask myself this question on a daily basis. And anyone that knows me knows that running will be the most difficult part of the race for me. Ironically, I got started doing triathlons through running. Some people seem to be natural runners… It doesn’t appear I am one of these people though! (Yet…)
I hate running is a comment that has come out of my mouth many, many times in the past. I’m happy to report that I am currently at a point where I wouldn’t say I hate running, it just wouldn’t be my first choice of activity. I’m learning to love it… well to at least like it 🙂
I had to take almost two months off from running at the beginning of the year. It’s possible this was the best thing that could have happened for my running. Granted, I feel like I’m starting from scratch again and building up mileage can be frustrating. But, I’ve taken the approach of looking at it as a blank slate. My running form changed A LOT during my two month break from running. I still get frustrated that just a few miles is difficult for me some days, but I can also see a lot of progress right now and that makes me excited.
I’ve been doing some speed work on the treadmill over the last month or so. Zeus has had me doing run/walk intervals where I’m running faster than my normal pace, but only 2-3 minutes at a time. It has really been interesting for me to push myself at different paces. I have found that a faster pace is actually more comfortable for me in terms of my form and cadence, but now I need to work on maintaining that pace over longer distances.
I did a one-on-one run evaluation with Zeus last weekend. It was the first since my back injury and I wanted him to first see if I was crazy or if my run form did change dramatically. If my run form did change, I also wanted to make sure it changed for the better. Although I have been “running” for a number of years now, working with Zeus was the first time I’ve had someone evaluate my form and talk about ways to change it to make me more efficient and eventually faster. I had been running the same way and at the same pace for the past four or five years. I’m still not exactly sure how it seemed to happen overnight, but even Zeus said my form is looking a lot better.
I scheduled the run evaluation with him after our cycling class last Saturday, thinking it would just be a meeting for him to watch me run for a few minutes and talk about my stride and cadence. I didn’t expect to do another whole speed workout 🙂 He started by watching me run at a nice, easy pace – a pace a little faster than my old average pace. He could definitely see a change in my form too. We ended up doing some hard speed and hill intervals. Yowzers! It was right after our cycling class so Chris, Cheryl, Laura, Luke and PJ were all there to
watch me suffer to provide encouragement. Well, Luke was doing his core workout and PJ and Laura decided to do that with him. And Cheryl was helping my not fly off the back of the treadmill and giving me a lot of encouragement as Zeus kept increasing the speed or incline. Have I mentioned how awesome my teammates are!! It was great having the core workout group as a distraction behind me and Cheryl and Zeus next to me telling me not to stop. I know I have never worked so hard during a run workout before! I stopped looking at the incline and speed as Zeus kept bumping them up, but apparently at one point I was running at a pace that is three full minutes faster than my average pace last year! It is possible that Zeus may make a runner out of me yet! (I also came home and passed out on the couch after that workout)!!
Now finally getting to the run that prompted this whole post… I had what I’m referring to as a character-building run this morning. Friday I did a two-hour swim/run brick, Saturday I did a two-hour bike/run brick (with speed and hill intervals on the treadmill and an outside cool down with Laura) and today was a 40-min run. First, I have never in my life run three days in a row, and especially not when two of those days were brick workouts. My legs were pretty sore after yesterday’s muscle endurance cycling class followed by speed work for my run so I had a really, really hard time talking my legs into taking me outside for yet another run this morning. I kept telling myself that it was only 40-min, my pace wasn’t important for this run and it would be over before I knew it.
Once I was finally on the road and moving I started out feeling ok. My quads were sore and my calves were tight, but I kept moving. My first mile was about a minute and a half faster than what it would have been last year so that made me feel really good. But things kind of went downhill after that first mile. I had to do some walking and some stretching and talking myself back in to actually running. I finally told myself that my legs would be a lot more tired at mile 20 of Ironman so I better get used to it now.
I spent a lot of time focusing on my form and cadence and thinking about anything but the fact that my legs wanted to stop moving. I thought about my friend Katie and how she did her first 16-mile run yesterday; about Cindy who is just starting to get moving again after ankle surgery; about Cheryl and Zeus standing next to me while I was on the treadmill the weekend before telling me to just keep moving; and I thought a lot about that Ironman finish line. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I’m sure it wasn’t pretty in the end, but I’m proud of myself for running as much as I did despite my protesting legs. At about the 35-minute mark some old man pulled up next to me in his car and asked me for directions to the police station (which is about 1/4 mile from my house). I was so tempted to hop in the car and tell him I would navigate! But, I gave him directions and kept going for the last 5 minutes.
There have been plenty of runs in the past that have ended early out of frustration – frustration with my pace, my lack of progress, or just because my legs were too tired. And I hate to admit it, but I’m sure there will probably be more runs in my future that end that way. Hopefully, there will be fewer of those runs and more like the run I had today though. It was not pretty, it was really painful and my legs really wanted to stop but I didn’t let them! I think I am finally starting to see some changes over the past few weeks. I’ve had some pretty great swim and bike workouts and I can see myself getting faster during my runs.
Mentally I’m making some changes too. I said “I can’t do it” a lot to Zeus last week on the treadmill and to myself during my run this afternoon. Instead of stopping when I said it, though, I pushed through and finished the workouts and that feels good. It feels good to get through the really hard workouts even when your body and mind are trying to talk you out of doing them. I was tempted to text Zeus today and ask him if I could swim or bike instead of run this morning, but I finally got out the door and trusted the plan. I’m sure I’ll say “I can’t” about a billion more times during this training, but as long as the “I can’t” is immediately followed by a “shut up and do it” I’m okay with that for now – and eventually the “I can’t” will just go away.
After my run this morning I stood at the bottom of the stairs and took a few minutes to talk myself into getting up them, but as soon as I did, I walked right into the bathroom and filled up the tub with ice cold water and it felt so good! As I was sitting in freezing cold water I realized that those of us training for endurance races are just a little bit crazy… And I wouldn’t have it any other way! I’m loving it 🙂