Saturday, May 08, 2010

Well, Well, Well

It has been a while.
Sorry for the lapse.
I have been preoccupied with personal matters and have not had much to say.
Not sure how much I will have to say from here on.
But for now, here I am.

In my new workout program of the last month or so, I have reduced my weight workouts to four per week (down from six) and added three days of walking (again).
This was because I finally became tired - and perhaps over-trained - from the previous plan.
Anyway, in the new setup, Saturday is a walking day.
And today, I was feeling sort of frisky, so I decided to walk up Bankhead parkway.
This route takes me up Bankhead about 3/4 of a mile, along Tollgate Road about 1/4 mile, and then down Mountainwood Drive (about 1/10 mile).
Then turn around and go UP Mountainwood, along Tollgate, and DOWN Bankhead.
Mountainwood is VERY steep.
The bottom half is as steep as a house roof (about 12 degrees).

All of this is part of the Cotton Row course.
It was almost a year ago (11 months and 23 days, to be exact) that I last ran this course.
Anyway, I decided to walk this loop to burn a few extra calories more than my flat course around my neighborhood.
That was the plan.

As soon as I got out on Pratt Avenue (the prelude to Bankhead) I felt like running.
The morning air at 6:11 was cool and there was a nice breeze teasing the fresh, green leaves on the trees.
Great walking weather and even better running weather.

I argued with myself about this.
"It has been a year since you have run," my cautious self said. "You might break something."
"Fine," my old race horse self replied. "If it doesn't feel right we can stop."
I had nothing to prove to anyone; including myself.

To add to my distress, there were several groups of people running the Cotton Row course, no doubt practicing for the big race in three weeks.
I contented myself to walk all the way up Bankhead, along Tollgate, and down Mountainwood.
The urge to break into a jog sat on my shoulder and hissed in my ear the whole way.
It was a good workout.
The trip down would have made it a good 50 minute session.
But as I turned around at the bottom of Mountainwood, I knew what I was about to do.

I walked up the first and steepest portion of Mountainwood, as I have done all the years I have run this course.
But where the pavement changes from concrete to asphalt, I started to run - as I have done all the years I have run this course.
I felt foolish, childish, and quite the daredevil.
I was surprised how easily I finished Mountainwood as I turned onto Tollgate.
It is a quarter mile of down and up of about 20 feet.
I always looked at it as a rest from the steep slog of Mountainwood.
And so it was today.

I was not pushing myself but I was surprised that nothing was complaining.
As I turned on to Bankhead for the long downhill jaunt, I could see some of the runners that had passed me when I was walking down Mountainwood a few minutes before.
And, in spite of my attempt to be cautious, the race horse in me whispered, "Catch them!"
I tried to suppress the urge, but I felt my legs add an additional 1/4 inch to each stride.
We were going see what is left in the old man....

Amazingly, to this point I had managed to keep my breathing in my comfort zone.
Fast, deep, but comfortable.
On the way down Bankhead, the attachment of some quad tendon just above my left knee started to protest it's circumstance.
The announcement was noted by Running Central, but no action was taken due to the minor nature of the signal.
Soon it was gone.
Only to be replaced by a more insistent call from my right ankle.
It wanted to make sure that I set my right foot down in a very precise, linear way.
No flopping or twisting allowed.
I got the message.
When I got the steps correct, right ankle was happy.

Bankhead is almost all downhill except for a couple of small flat or slightly uphill sections near the bottom.
Even so, I found myself pushing my pace, and breathing, to catch the other runners.
And by the time I reached the bottom of Bankhead (which then turns into Pratt) I had cut the distance between myself and the others by about half.

Pratt Avenue at this point is a magical 1/4 mile for me.
It is smooth and transitions from a slight downhill to virtually flat.
Running there has always felt like floating on air.
I have always enjoyed this part of the course, and today was no exception.
Frankly, I was amazed and delighted as how I was doing.
In spite of almost a year off, my breathing was still under control.

I was reminded - again - how much I love running.
Of course, by this time, I was jacked up on a dose of endorphins that I have not experienced in almost a year.
I would have felt great even if I had broken my leg.
I turned off of Pratt and with disappointment saw my car.

It was time to stop.
I did not want to.
The other runners were just a block away and I was reeling them in.
Assuming nothing in me broke, I was thinking I could catch them by the time we got to the Civic Center (their - and my old - starting point).
But caution prevailed.
I stopped running a few dozen yards from my car, walked past my car to the next intersection to cool down, turned around and walked back to my car.
I was a good start to the day.

I had my first physical exam in about 15 years this past week.
The interesting numbers for me was my blood pressure - 121/67.
Not bad for an old guy.

In God we trust.
(... all other ground is sinking sand...)

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