Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A few more ramblings

This post is probably going to be a little rambling, so please bear with me. A workmate commented today after reading on Facebook about yet another of my runs that I was a rock star. My response was that I wasn't a rock star so much as someone who was a touch obsessive, stubborn, goal focussed and in possession of an unfortunately high pain tolerance.

The truth is, I do this stuff because I love it. Sure, not every workout is enjoyable. Sometimes I hurt. In fact I often hurt. Sometimes I get injured. Sometimes I get tired or just want to blob out at home in the warm. However the joy I get when the training is going well is worth a bit of discomfort to keep pushing on through.

I've shuffled things around a bit this week, but I'm feeling really great about my training. With the exception of an 8km flat run which I will do on Friday, I've ticked all the boxes on my workout calendar. What's more, every run, if not every workout, has been outstanding. There are times when I feel like such a newbie at all this, like I'm still such a total beginner. Sure, I ran a marathon this year, but I've yet to clock a half marathon in under two hours. I've only ever run that distance that fast in training. My fastest official 10km time is still only a slowpoke 59 minutes, even though I know I'm capable of much better than that and routinely mark 55 minutes over the distance on my Garmin on medium-paced training runs.

I ran the marathon, then immediately understood what I had to do to improve. I'm continuing to open up new doors as I start exploring the opportunities that trail running can provide. There's still so much I want to do, so much I want to achieve. I want to tick off a 24 minute 5km, a half marathon in under 1.55 (preferably closer to 1.50), a marathon in close to four hours. There are so many off road races I could get involved in.

Until this year I've been held back by a succession of injuries. Every time I got close to my desired run fitness something else would go. I'm not sure what's changed now, but I suspect it's partly a matter of accumulated distance. My body's finally catching up with my aspirations. It is finally strong enough and acclimatised enough to cope with everything I want to subject it to. That's not to say that I'm pain free. I will always need to watch my dodgy hip, ensure that I stretch everything that has a tendency towards tightness, monitor my ankles. An important part of staying mobile is being able to recognise, as I did following my peak week of marathon training, when my body needs a break and would benefit from some time out of running shoes. As much as I beat myself up for not completing all of Dave's programme, I know that, had I not taken it easy while in the South Island, I might not have made it to the start line. As it was I turned up feeling slightly undercooked, but in physically better shape than I might otherwise have been. My hip was feeling decidedly grumpy, but I wasn't completely destroyed.

Somehow something seems to be clicking right now. It's not just this sense that my body is finally catching up. It's also that I seem to be in a place right now where I'm prepared to start upping the ante a little. Running with Jo is great. She kicks my butt, keeps me honest and pushes me way past my comfort zone. As a result I'm starting to run my solo runs with her on my shoulder. What does a week with a phantom running companion look like?

Well, the week started a little slowly but gathered momentum. Last week I missed a 7km fast run (doing Dee's Friday RPM instead) and I still had this vague idea that I wanted to make it up. However there was the added issue of a bit of a cold, which was going to my ears and causing me some discomfort. There were also my plans for Saturday night - a Fly My Pretties concert at the St James. Dave had me down to run 3 Peaks on Sunday morning, but I didn't want to go out Saturday night then have to get up at 6.30am on a wintery Sunday to chase Jo on the trails for nearly three hours. Besides, I really couldn't face the idea of a whole weekend without a sleep in, and the cold was getting worse.

I had booked into two RPM classes on Saturday and sweated my way through them next to Julia. The first class was a little lacklustre but my legs loosened up and I was cranking it by the end of the second. Fly My Pretties were excellent, and I slept solidly afterwards, waking on Sunday morning at around the time I should have been setting out from the Harriers clubrooms with two very blocked and sore ears and a running nose.

By mid-afternoon I decided that, if I wasn't in physical shape for a two plus hour run, I could at least do 7km. It wasn't going to be a fast, flat 7km run, not unless I drove into town, but I figured an undulating 7km would do. That resulted in the surprisingly good run described in my last post (and the bloodied, bruised knees).

On Monday the cold had mysteriously vanished, and my ears were clear. I threw myself with gusto into my LBN workout then sat at my desk in my running gear, psyching myself up for the two hour run I should have done the day before. I figured that I needed to throw in at least one decent hill climb, given that I should have been running up Hawkins Hill et al. I wasn't going to be running trails, not in the dark, but I decided to run up Mt Vic and then go from there.

I cruised out to Carlton Gore and then it was just up, up and up again. I'm sure it felt much easier this time than it did a couple of weeks ago. I ran to the bottom of the steps that lead to the lookout, but it was so dark I stopped to walk the steps and path. Falling over the day before had seriously dented my confidence in my ability to stay upright.

It was really, as mentioned, really really dark and the lookout was completely deserted. As I was walking up the path someone came running up behind me. I had brief thoughts about my blatant disregard for personal safety, but I also figured that a guy who could run the path at the speed this one was had better things to do than attack me. We ended up chatting for a few minutes at the top about running the hills of Wellington before we both set off in our respective directions. He liked the fact there was no lighting, which to me marks a major difference between the genders. He didn't need to worry anywhere near as much as I did that someone might jump out of the bushes at him.

The view from the top of Mt Vic was stunning on this clear, cold night. However I didn't want to push my luck and, still completely alone, I ran through the carpark and down the other side of lookout road back to Alexandra. The complete lack of company was eerie. Not one car graced the mountain top. I couldn't even see that clearly as I approached Alexandra Rd, and the first couple of hundred metres of Alexandra Rd itself were decidedly dicey. My lack of confidence in my ability to keep my footing slowed me considerably, and I'm not running that way again without a head lamp.

I had been nursing vague thoughts of running via Hawker Street and then along Austin, but of course I went the wrong way and ended up running back the way I came down Carlton Gore. Undeterred I ran towards the city and up Majoribanks, so got to do Austin after all.

I was still feeling good by this point, not at all tired and in a tranquil zone on what had become a beautiful evening. When I got to the Basin I swung left up Adelaide Rd, then right again and back into town via Wallace and Taranaki. From the bottom of Taranaki I ran back along the waterfront to the railway station then up Bowen and back to the gym. All up just slightly under two hours. A far hillier run than I would have done without Jo on my shoulder, and I still felt good at the end.

I was up early the next morning for Dee's RPM class, and this week it was my quads hurting, not my hamstrings. Once again it took a significant part of the class to loosen up. Undeterred however I was adamant I wanted to fit in another run that day. I knew I was pushing it a bit given the longer run the night before, but I wanted to get it done.

I had planned to do an 8km fast, flat run, though given my quads I wasn't sure how fast I would be going. However the weather conspired against me. A common theme emerged amongst my running friends as the day went on. As the temperatures dropped and the weather stations started reporting a windchill factor of -1 we all started talking about making a rare foray into the world of treadmill running.

I was NOT prepared to do 8km on a treadmill, so intervals it was. That wasn't ideal given the long run the night before, but they were only baby intervals - three sets of two minutes of hard effort, thirty minutes of running all up. I jumped on the treadmill and off I went. My quads were still sore, but they didn't really slow me as much as I'd expected. I was slightly conservative with the first interval but my heartrate didn't even hint at spiking. Castigating myself as I watched my heartrate plunge during the rest period, I cranked it up a bit more for the second block. It lifted a little more but still wasn't where I wanted it. Feeling good I seriously kicked the last interval. As the treadmill belt flashed beneath me my knees lifted, my rear foot shoved off, propelling me forwards. I was finding major air with each stride. I was really running! My heart was thumping but I felt fantastic.

Not wanting to sound repetitive, but the theme continued today. Another hardcore LBN workout, followed by another run. This time it was 50 minutes of hills. My quads were still killing me, but I set off up Grant Rd at a good pace. The first ten minutes were a case of trying to block out the pain of the cold temperatures, but while it was freezing there was no wind, and once I started climbing I warmed up a bit. My arms and legs were bright red by the time I'd finished though.

Up Grant Rd and then, at Sarah's suggestion, I headed right along Barnard Street. I had said that I wanted views and she assured me that I'd get them. She was right - the views were stunning, as were the houses. The traffic hummed past far below me while the harbour reflected a myriad of city lights. This was urban running in Wellington at its absolute best.

Finishing my loop I ran all the way up to the top of Wadestown, then up onto Wadestown Rd. I was still feeling fantastic, so I pumped my arms and floored it down Wadestown Rd, probably scaring the life out of the dozens of pedestrians walking the other direction. What part of 'keep left' do these people not understand? Onto Grant Rd, scenting the end of the run. I got to the bottom of Wadestown Rd in around 42 minutes, so knew I'd be close to 50 by the time I got back to the office. I made myself keep the pressure on up and down all of Grant Rd's undulations, then really floored it up Tinakori. I passed a male runner as we passed Government house, skipped across the pedestrian crossing and redlined it to Bowen. I flew even faster down Bowen and caught the lights onto the Terrace, making myself hold that pace all the way to my building. As I stopped I hit the Garmin. 49:28.

Now, I'm a little puzzled at the time, but I think it gives a true indication of how far I've come with my hill climbing in the last few weeks. I'm fairly certain that a month or two ago it took me 45 minutes to run that route, without the Barnard Street loop thrown in. So I've somehow added quite a long detour and somehow ended up with only an extra four minutes of running time.

Do you see why I think things are clicking right now? I seem to be in a place where I am again physically and mentally ready to push myself and to step it up another level.

Sorry, that was indeed rambling and perhaps a little repetitive. I'll try to think up alternative ways of saying "I had a fantastic run today". Rest day tomorrow, which is probably just as well!


Sass said...

I often sit and wonder when reading your reports "How on earth can I get as fit as Pip?". I don't actually know that there's an answer to that one;p

Sass said...

I realised I should have ended my last comment with "And then I go back to watching clips on youtube and eating chocolate" ;p

I also realised there is an answer but it involves more focus and dedication to cardio type stuff than I have in me methinks:)

Kate said...

Awesome! I think it is the accumulation-it takes longer than we think to actually adjust to endurance sport. You would totally kick my butt now!

runnerinsight said...

Thank you for this post. I think that it is also has something to do with the passion that is inside us. If it is so strong that we are able to overcome every fear then it is sure that we are on the right track. ; )

SUB6 said...

Agree with Kate ... it's that building gradually on your endurance/fitness that I think gets the results. For me staying injury free is THE big thing!