Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Magical Running

There are some runs that you just want to last forever. And when they are over you wish you could bottle the essence of them to be used on those low motivational or low energy days. They are the ones that happen when you least expect them and are over almost before you realize how magical they are! I experienced one of those runs the other day. The funny thing is that the run almost didn't happen.

I live in a part of the US where it seldom snows during winter. Maybe every four years, but there is often not enough snow that sticks to offer the white blanketing. There have been some freakish weather patterns of late, and low and behold snow was on the cards and four inches and a terrible storm was predicted. It did snow on and off, but no white blanketing in the area where I live. The Saturday Club run was still going ahead the next morning – 10 miles – so I googled the weather. Outlook was cold, cold cold! 25 – 29F!

It would have been so easy to not set an alarm. Once set it would have been so easy to switch it off, roll over and go back to sleep. I am unsure how I managed to get up at 5am on that freezing Saturday morning, but I did. I double checked the weather, and then re-read the clothing guide for running in cold weather. Deciding not make the common rookie mistake of overheating, I decided to keep it light with my new 2XU full length running tights and a t-shirt under my winter running fleece. Gloves, ear warmers and a beanie for good measure. I was ready. Since we were running 10 miles, I filled four of the bottles in my fuel belt – just because it was cold didn't mean that hydration wouldn't be an issue.

I headed outside the house to find that the door was frozen on the car. A few jugs of warm water later I was able to get the door open and clear the ice of the windscreen. Brrrr, it was cold!! Drove to the meeting point and waited patiently in the heated car. Other cars joined mine in the lot and slowly we go out of the car to be briefed on the route. 27F and there were around ten girls out in all – no boys, where were they all?

We kicked off the run and it didn't take long for me to warm up and feel comfortable in the temperature. When someone's Garmin beeped the first mile I looked at my watch for the first and last time of the run – 10.38. I ran with two of the faster girls for the first mile and a half and we caught up on race gossip and exchanged news. After that I sort of just pulled away and kept running taking in the morning and the cold weather. By the fourth mile I had lost visual completely with the other runners. I kept waiting for the coach to cycle up for a chat. He never did and in a way I was sort of glad as the run was magical.

From the fourth mile the course traversed some beautiful forested areas that included serene still ponds iced around the outer edges with motionless mist atop. All of a sudden I became lost in that moment. Although I continued running I felt as though I was floating above the road. My senses were sharpened by the silence of the morning and the fragrance of the trees. My footfall served as my only companion as I passed through the streets.

I conducted a mental check of my vitals – all limbs appeared to be intact. I could feel the cold through my body but it was minimal and seemed secondary to the thrill of the run. Six miles quickly passed and I felt completely energized. I took some water to find that the water was ice cold. Hardly surprising since the sun had barely come out and it was only 27F. By the eighth mile the water in my bottles froze over and I couldn't sip it through the water spout. Nine miles and then ten – no fatigue, no aches and no pains. Heading up the crest of the hill to the finish I look down at my watch for the second time during the run and click the stop button at 1.38.34. Average pace over the mileage being 9.33 min per mile and only 3 seconds off my PR at the 10 for Texas!

I waited around in the cold for a few minutes waiting for the other runners to come in. My butt felt numb and the temperature had not yet risen. When no one appeared, I headed to the car to start it up and wait for a bit in the heating. After ten minutes I decided to head home to get into the warm house and stretch.

Later reflecting on the run I decided that it was effortless - that it was magical. Who would believe that I headed out in the early hours of the morning – on a weekend - to run 10 miles in sub-freezing temperatures and not only enjoyed it but thought that it was effortless? And to run an easy 1hr38min? If I could, I would bottle the essence of that magical run and sprinkle a little bit on my shoes every time I head out!!

(Photo: Misty Pond by Simone Wunderlich)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Thanksgiving 5mi Run Thru the Woods

It was a chilly morning in Texas on Thanksgiving. We got up early to head to the event as I had been able to pick up two of the race packets needed. Registering my 2 year old for the Kid's 1 mile event was a last minute decision. The 6 year old was primed and ready for his 1 mile, as I was for the 5 mile.

Over 5,000 people had registered for the run and walk. The first event was the kids' race and I barely had enough time to walk around the traffic island with the stroller and our cold weather gear to the finish line before the first runners were returning. Wow! Some of these kids were fast!! The 6 year old finished with an awesome time of 11.34 min. This was his first "race" ever. If I was to ask him what he would put in his race report he would probably say "I ran really really fast, then got puffed and sat down for a while. Then I saw some kids I knew from school and we ran to the finish line together!" His conclusion would be "The medal is really cool and I loved the pancake breakfast afterwards!"

The coordinators had started calling for the 5 mile runners to start lining up and I was still standing at the finish line wondering where my husband and the 2 year old were. The finish line photographers had long gone and I was starting to get worried. I was worried that something had happened to them. I was also concerned that I was going to miss the start of the 5 mile race – there were still some competitors on the track and it looked like they were going ahead with the start. I started stripping down the layers in preparation for a quick transition from the finish line around to the starting line. Just as I was thinking that I would have to throw in the towel, the 2 year old rounded the corner being carried by dad. He saw me at the finish line and got down and ran / walked it in to finish in a respectable 24 min!! (Apparently he was having fun on the course and then took a tumble. Getting a bit sooky, dad had to carry him for most of the way)

I didn't waste a second. After ensuring that dad and the kids were reunited I took off to make it to the start line (the final call had already been made). I ducked under some barricades and took a bit of an illegal short cut through some brush to end up in the starting line mix - just in time for the Star Spangled Banner. Excellent!

Mile 1 – 8.34

Mile 2 – 8.01

Mile 3 – 8.32

Mile 4 – 8.43

Mile 5 – not sure of lap time (watch malfunction), overall chip time 43.34 min

It was an awesome race. It also was an awesome time for me – PR!! I tried hard to keep it slow and steady in the first mile and then to sustain the 8.30 pace. I lost that a bit in the final mile as we headed up and over the Interstate (hills, ahhhh). Picked up the pace in the final quarter of the mile, but it just wasn't enough to get it down below the 43 minute mark. Overall I placed 863rd, and was 26th (out of 162) in my age group!

We went home and everyone except for me headed to bed for a nap… tidied the house, prepped the veggies and cooked the turkey! It was an awesome Thanksgiving!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Training Schedule

Monday 30 November – Easy Run: 4 miles @ 9.35

Tuesday 1 December – Cross Training

Wednesday 2 December – 5 mile Tempo Run: 3 miles @ 8.20

Thursday 3 December – Easy Run: 4 miles @ 9.35

Friday 4 December – Rest

Saturday 5 December – Long Run: 10 miles @ 9.50

Sunday 6 December – Rest

Monday 7 December – Easy Run: 5 miles @ 9.35

Tuesday 8 December – Rest

Wednesday 9 December – Speedwork: 5 miles with 2 x 1600m @ 7.50, 800m jogs between

Thursday 10 December – Easy Run: 5 miles @ 9.35

Friday 11 December – Rest

Saturday 12 December – Long Run: 10 miles @ 9.50

Sunday 13 December – Rest