Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Difficult Day

This was suck it up day.
I am speaking of my morning run.
The weather was nice - about 65 though a bit humid.
I have been busy all week with Vacation Bible School and have not exercised like I would desire.
Thus, I was a bit concerned that my Saturday run would be more of a challenge.
This, after my surprising (to me) progress thus far.

And it turned out as I had feared.
From the first steps there were complaints from various locations - lower back, left hip left hamstring and left knee.
But after a few hundred feet, everyone seemed to settle down to muted mumblings.
It was clear to me after the first eighth of a mile that I was tired.
I did not feel strong and I dreaded how my body would react to the two small hills yet ahead.
I did okay going up the first one and did not go into faster breathing until I reached the top (a common point for the extra effort to manifest itself).
It took more time than I wished for my breathing to settle down again as I went down the first hill, but I did regain my usual composure - such as it is on a run.

Halfway up the next hill - almost a quarter mile long - my breathing kicked into three-step mode again.
I was working and I felt it.
But by this time, I had resigned myself to a test of my will over my aging body.
I had a plan for victory - run, no matter how I feel.
No stopping for ANYTHING short of impending injury.
Topping hill two, I expected my breathing to remain faster than my preferred rate, and it was so.

(I learned in racing that if I was to do well - decrease my race times - I would have to push myself into the three-steps-per-breath rate in the first five minutes of the race (for a 5K race) and maintain that rate for the WHOLE race. It worked.)

So, today, I just accepted that I was in race mode and was going to have to dig in and go for the finish line, like in the racing days.
Strangely, I accepted the challenge with surprising ease.
(I do not consider myself a person who seeks or enjoys challenges - in spite of what I have learned about myself from racing, so I am still surprised when I catch myself pursuing a difficult goal.)
This was not a "fun" run (like last week); this was work.
But it was the "no pain- no gain" thing.
Do it and get better, or wimp out and pay the price of diminished strength and rebuilding later.
Fortunately, all of the whiners stayed relatively silent for the duration.

I spent much of my time working to make sure that my left foot pushed off the same spot on the balls of my foot behind my second and third toes, just like my right foot does with no effort.
(My left foot likes to flop around if I do not force it to behave.
If not made to obey proper form, it likes to push off of the end of the big toe.
I am not sure why.)

When I reached Governors Drive West, I had to stop for a poorly timed car to pass.
Sometimes, having to stop is the death knell for a difficult run because it is so difficult to get going again.
Not today.
I just dug in and started again.
It was hard, but by this time (about a tenth of a mile from my finish point) I was pushing myself to see just how much mojo I had in me.
I was tired but that was part of the point of the whole session.

As I approached the end, my mind - no doubt in response to my tired body - suggested that I stop at the first corner of the building I was approaching.
The Run Command Center immediately rejected the suggestion and decreed another stopping point closer to my car - and farther away from my then current location (at the FAR end of the building).
And that is were the run ended.
I was too tired to do any sprinting at the end.
It took extra effort just to maintain my pace at that stage.


As usual, I felt the dichotometric feelings of tiredness and exhilaration from the endorphin rush.
Run duration: 34 minutes 21 seconds.
I later verified that this course is indeed 3.2 miles long.
It is good to be running again.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Busy Week

This past week has been quite busy.

THE CAR

I was having a problem with my car.
The check engine light came on last week and my mechanic was bothered by the reason (computer code).
It indicated a more serious problem or it could be a bad sensor.
Anyway, he ordered a new sensor and I took the car in this week to have it installed.
But another problem developed and it took him three days to get it fixed.
I won't go into all the details.
Needless to say, (but not needless enough not to say it) I hate being without my little car.
Timothy was picking me up and taking me to work.
One of the guys at work was taking me to the mechanic shop each afternoon to see how my car was doing.
The mechanic was taking me home each evening when my car was not fixed.

THE EYE EXAM

Thursday I had an appointment with the eye doctor for my annual checkup.
I had to borrow the car of one of the guys at work to get there kuz my kar was broken.
anyway, one of the benefits of going to the eye doctor is I get to see what my blood pressure is.
This year it was 115/65.
My resting heart rate was 50.
Those are good numbers.
I am pleased.
The $400+ for the new glasses was not a good number.
But my eyes have not changed very much.
That is good.

THE FRIDAY LUNCH

I had lunch with the guys from work.
This is a custom we have developed over the years - lunch out on Friday.
Interestingly, we went to a new restaurant called the Red Robin.
They make hamburgers, primarily.
The place was busy, crowded and noisy.
And seated at the table next to us was my former wife, and all of my children celebrating my daughter's 32nd birthday.
(why I was not invited, I do not know)
If this was deliberate, I hope they were embarrassed.
Anyway, it was good to see all of my chillins.

THE RUN

The Saturday run was productive.
After the rather difficult time I had last week, I was hoping to build on that effort and get a little stronger, and that proved to be the case.

As before, half way up the second hill my breathing became more rapid, but once I reached the top and started down the quarter-mile down-hill, it settled back to the more comfortable rate.
I was able to keep my breathing at this rate until the very end.
But I was feeling quite good toward the end and so the last several hundred feet I pushed my speed and let my breathing go where it wished.
It was a good run.
There was some minor whining from my left leg, particularly from my left hamstring about mid-way up my thigh.
It never became bad enough to bother the festivities.
The complaint was duly noted and ignored.

JOSH

Saturday, Josh came over for a visit.
It was sort of his Fathers Day present.
We went to lunch at Cracker Barrel and chatted about many things.
It was a pleasant time.
I always enjoy visiting with my children.
Getting their perspective on life is usually interesting.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Run And Learn

Well, I received additional education about myself this past Saturday.
I decided to forsake my uphill course for a "flat" one.
The idea was to run a course of which I knew the distance, rather than guess.
So I went to my old course in Research Park.
If you were to see this portion from the air, it would look like the number 9.
The loop is exactly one mile with two hills on it.
So I started at the bottom of the nine, ran up to the loop, turned left, ran around the loop and back to the start point.
Just short of three miles.
But as I was coming up the second hill at the top of the nine (about a quarter mile long), I had to kick my breathing into the "one and a half" mode.

Some explanation - my usual "comfortable" breathing rate while running is one breath every four steps.
When I work harder, my breathing rate increases to one breath every three steps.
There is a fourth breathing rate that is reserved for the end of races where I sprint as fast as I can and breathe as fast as required.
I do not pay much attention to my breathing rate vs. my steps during this time.
It seldom lasts longer that about thirty seconds.

Anyway, if my breathing increases to the "one and a half" rate too early in a run, I try to slow down to allow my breathing rate to drop back to my comfort pace.
Well, Saturday I could not get my breathing back down to my comfort rate so I ran the last mile or so under some duress.
This surprised me.

I thought that my uphill Bankhead course was a tougher course even though the second half is all down hill.
Not.
Flat with two smaller hills is harder, it seems.
So, rather than run my beloved Bankhead course for a few weeks, I will run the Research Park course until I am strong enough to handle the "flat" course.

The workout Saturday was substantial.
Fortunately, nothing broke.
In fact, nothing even whined.
No knee problems, no hip problems, no connection problems.
Just general tiredness.
I was very tired afterward.
It was a familiar feeling - tired yet still feeling the high from the endorphins generated by the session - from my racing days.

I did my usual two-mile walk this morning and could feel several complaints from stiff hams and calves.
Pain is good.
No pain, no gain.
So pain = gain.
Ergo, I gained this weekend.
Woohoo.

It is good to be running again.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Another Good Run

As both of you can see, my Saturday morning runs have become the milestones of my week.

This is because my weekdays are mostly the same (get up at 5 AM, shower n shave, dress, cook breakfast, make lunch, do the dishes/pans, go to work, work, come home, change clothes, do house chores if needed, cook dinner, watch the news while eating, do the dishes/pans, check my investments/email, goof off, read my Bible, go to sleep.

Sundays are taken up with church activities which sort of mirror the weekday schedule.

So Saturdays are special to me.
And running again is really special to me.
I love running.
I am not sure why.
The exercise is good for me, but there are other ways to exercise (which I do).
The burning of calories is good for me, but there are other ways to burn calories (which I do).
The endorphin high is fun, but one has to work pretty hard to get it (no other form of exercise gives me the same rush that running produces).
[And running six miles - about an hour - produces a stronger, longer-lasting high than running three miles - about thirty minutes.]
I suspect that it is all of the above.

Anyway, this morning I was late getting to my course - 6:08 AM.
I parked even farther away from my first location a few weeks ago.
I ran all of this part of Pratt Avenue - almost 1/4 of a mile I would guess - then up Bankhead Parkway.
I was concerned that the slight incline of Pratt would cost me some strength on the steeper Bankhead.
But I was, again, cautious and did not push my pace as I started out.
To my surprise, I did not even break into my more rapid breathing as I have before going up Bankhead.

I was expecting to have to work harder on this more extended course, but the extra distance and starting incline seemed to be easily offset by my increasing endurance.
This is a surprise to me.
I did not think that I could improve this easily/quickly after not running for over a year.
Anyway, I ran all the way up Bankhead with no major problems.
The outside of my left calf did some minor whining off and on the whole run but never threatened to shut me down.

At mid-point, as I was walking up The Hill, my glutes and hammys - especially on my left side - announced their mild displeasure with the task at hand.
This was not unexpected as I treated them to two sets of twenty lunges on Thursday.
Sometimes my body takes two days to respond to an exercise session.
Two days from Thursday would be (duh) Saturday. (!)
Running down Bankhead there were only slight mumblings from some attachment where my left hamstring attaches to my hip/glute area.
Again, nothing to stop the parade.

As I was running down Bankhead, I met three or four small groups of runners coming up.
We greeted each other as we approached/passed, as is the custom with most runners in this area.
Most of them were women and all looked very nice.
Of course, as with most groups of people, they were younger than myself - young enough to be my kids, in fact.
The good news is, by this time my endorphin rush was on the rise, so it is hard to feel bad about myself (old, skinny, alone, etc.).

When I got to the bottom of Bankhead, I continued onto Pratt, which was now a nice slight downhill grade, and I enjoyed the gravity-boosted easy run down the middle of the street - a privilege of we early runners.
Near the end of the course, I was feeling so good, I increased my speed to nearly a sprint to wring out the last of my strength.
I stopped running near my car and walked for a couple of minutes to cool down and allow my heart to come off of its peak rate.
This session had taken just over thirty minutes.
It was a good run.